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The Goodness of Greens

Importance of green leafy vegetables

green leafy vegetables
  • Green leafy vegetables are vital for growth and good health as they contain all important nutrients.
  • In India, a wide range of greens are consumed. The most popular ones being Spinach, Amaranth, Gogu, Fenugreek, Drumstick leaves, Mint etc.,
  • Leafy vegetables are particularly rich in mineral nutrient and iron. Iron deficiency leads to anaemia, a common health problem among pregnant and lactating women and also children.
  • Inclusion of greens in daily diet would help prevent anaemia and promote good health.
  • Green leafy vegetables are also a rich source of Calcium, Beta carotene and Vitamin C.
  • In India, nearly 30,000 children under five years of age go blind every year due to  Vitamin A deficiency. Carotene in greens gets converted in the body to form Vitamin A which prevents blindness.
  • To preserve Vitamin C content in greens, prolonged cooking should be avoided, as this nutrient, which keeps gums in good condition is lost on overcooking.
  • Greens also contain some of the B-Complex Vitamins.

The recommended dietary allowance of green leafy vegetables for an adult women is 100g/day, adult man 40g/day, preschool children (4-6 yrs) and for boys and girls beyond 10 yrs of age it is 50g/day.

Nutritive value of some of the commonly eaten greens

Nutrients

Mint

Amaranth

Spinach

Drumstick

Leaves

Coriander

leaves

Gogu

Calories

48

45

26

92

 

44

 

56

 

Protein (g)

4.8

4.0

2.0

6.7

3.3

1.7

Calcium (mg)

200

397

73

440

184

1720

Iron (mg)

15.6

25.5

10.9

7.0

18.5

2.28

Carotene (microg)

1620

5520

5580

6780

6918

2898

Thiamine (mg)

0.05

0.03

0.03

0.06

0.05

0.07

Riboflavin (mg)

0.26

0.30

0.26

0.06

0.06

0.39

Vitamin C (mg)

27.0

99

28

220

135

20.2


  • It is generally believed that greens cause diarrhea in children. So most mothers abstain from giving this nutritious food stuff to their children. Several bacteria/germs/insects and other extraneous matter contaminate greens through water and soil. And if not washed properly, they may cause diarrhea on consumption. All greens must be washed thoroughly under running water to eradicate such contaminants  and thereby prevent diarrhea.
  • Infants should be served greens only after they have been cooked, mashed and sieved so as to remove the fibrous part. To retain the nutritive value of greens, excessive or overcooking must be avoided; also the water obtained from the greens on cooking must not be thrown away. Always ensure the vessel in which greens are cooked is covered with a lid. Do not dry the leaves in the sun as carotene will be lost. Avoid frying greens.
  • The nutritive value of greens should not be judged by its cost, which most people wrongly do and discard them as inferior foodstuff. For although inexpensive, greens are highly nutritious and required by all.
  • Cultivation of green leafy vegetables should be encouraged, so that, they will be available all through the year. Kitchen gardens, roof gardens, school gardens etc., are ideal for growing green leafy vegetables. Use of green leaves from trees like drumstick, agathi etc., helps to obtain them regularly without much effort, once a tree is planted in the backyard.

Source: National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad

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