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Treat your veggies right!
Vegetables are indispensable for a healthy diet. However, growing them under dubious conditions, mishandling and improper storage not only nullifies their goodness but also makes them harmful and toxic. Here's how you should treat and handle them with proper care.
Dr B Sesikeran, MD, director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, maintains that oxytocin hormone injected in veggies does not really have any immediate harmful effects, as it is digested in the stomach. However, many other experts fear that accumulating levels of other hormones and residues of heavy metals such as mercury and lead from vegetables grown in industrial areas could cause nervous disorders, sterility and other complications if ingested over a period.
Prevention spoke to experts to understand how to stay safe under the given circumstances.
Buy organic, buy reliable
Even if you need to pay more, source the organic produce or buy from retail outlets where the source is known. Well-known nutritionist Ishi Khosla maintains that it is best to buy fruits and vegetables from a qualified retailer to make sure they are sold in hygienic conditions. Also avoid juices, salads and cut fruits/vegetables from street vendors. Additionally, always stick to seasonal produce. It is important to remember that no vegetable is essentially harmful unless it is grown that way, says Dr Kamala Krishnaswamy, Prevention advisor. It is always better to go for organic produce, she adds
Store your vegetables in appropriate conditions to prevent the formation of poisonous alkaloids; keep potatoes in cool places away from light; beans, eggplant and tomatoes at about 10ÃÂ°C and most other vegetables at 7-8ÃÂ°C. Never leave chopped fruits/vegetables out for long durations. If anything tastes or looks weird, discard immediately.
Always wash them well
Dr Anoop Misra, leading endocrinologist and chairman, Fortis C-DOC, stresses the importance of washing fruits and vegetables in saline water before consuming to remove dirt and harmful pesticides. Be sure to always wash your vegetables or fruits before cutting. Avoid consuming leafy vegetables during the monsoons as these are soiled and may have worms.
Cooked is safer than raw Cooking often lowers the toxin content of vegetables, so avoid raw if you are not choosing or handling your own veggies. Several mushrooms, for example, can be toxic. However, cooking inactivates these toxins. "If you want to avoid uncooked vegetables, blanching and boiling may also help, but not for too long as it leads to loss of nutrients," advises Krishnaswamy. Steaming is a good option.
Remove the bitter parts
Certain vegetables such as gourds, eggplants, fenugreek, melon, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers contain compounds known as tetracyclic triterpenoid cucurbitacins, which gives them their bitter taste. Misra stresses, Though these vegetables are healthy and not harmful in the right quantities, it is essential to remove the bitter parts before eating to eliminate the hazards. Never combine juices of naturally bitter vegetables together.
Check with your doc under special conditions.
Consult him on which vegetables to eat and what to avoid, if you have a medical condition and/or under medication. "Those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors for treatment of depression should avoid fava beans as the combination actually increases blood pressure," says Khosla. Also cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts harbour goitrogens which suppress the function of the thyroid gland and interfere with iodine metabolism and must be avoided by thyroid patients, according to her. Many herbal remedies may have contraindications too: it is always best to read labels carefully and consult your doctor before taking any. For instance, aloe vera juice, while generally considered healthy, is not suitable for pregnant women as it causes light cramps.
Remember there are no substitutes for veggies.
Do not let your fear get the better of you. Whole fruits are bestÃ¢â¬âsupplements can't take their place. Misra explains: "There are several components in fruits that are not present in manufactured vitamin supplements. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-oxidants which make them potent fighters against certain types of cancers and other diseases. They are the foundation of a healthy diet."
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