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2017-09-05 17:52
By Lee Sun-ho



Although I eat fruits and vegetables (veggies) often, I have to admit that I do not know much about them for as much they are consumed in my house. Since I made a small veggie garden on the rooftop of my residential terrace apartment several years ago, I have paid more attention to how fruits and veggies can be distinguishable from one other. Moreover, I discovered a lot about their nutritional values, health benefits and medical applications.

A fruit is, as far as I have heard from botanists, the part of the plant that develops from a flower. It is also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. To me, the other parts of a plant are considered veggies, such as the stems, leaves, roots and even flower buds. A fruit can be a veggie, but a veggie cannot be a fruit, as exemplified by tomatoes.

Technically, beans, walnuts, grains, nuts, pineapples, sunflower seeds, plums and apricots are fruits. On the other hand, celery (stem); lettuce (leaves); cauliflower and broccoli (buds); beets, carrots and potatoes (roots); and corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, watermelons and strawberries (berries) are veggies.

In terms of taste, fruits are sweeter and tarter, and thus, are most often served as dessert and snack, while veggies are less sweet and are more savory, and thus, are often served as part of a main dish. However, both fruits and veggies can be turned into a refreshing beverage. Some fruits, like grains, nuts and seeds, are served on their own. One serving (half a cup) of most fruits has more calories than one serving of veggies, with the  exception of dense, starchy veggies, such as beets and tomatoes.

Fruits and veggies are similar, nutritionally speaking. Compared with animal products, they are generally lower in calories and fat, but higher in fiber. They also contain health-enhancing plant compounds, such as antioxidants, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Dishes that include more veggies, like salads and stir fry, are recommended. I learned that it is vital to give one’s body the mix of nutrients it needs, by eating a variety of food types with different colors. Humans need to try dark leafy greens; bright red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies; and cooked tomatoes.

I understand that both fruits and veggies are an important part of a healthy diet, and variety is as important as quality. No single fruit or veggie can provide all the nutrients people need to be healthy. I have learned from various sources that there are many different ways to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Eating more fruits and veggies, along with grains, nuts and beans, is a safe and healthy option.

A diet rich in fruits and veggies can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower the risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.

The simple fact is that I should eat more types of fruits and veggies, since no single fruit or veggie provides all the nutrients needed to be healthy. However, doing so does not seem easy. What are my challenges and practices hereafter? That is a question that only time will answer.

The writer is an ombudsman columnist for The Korea Times in Seoul. You can reach him at kexim2@unitel.co.kr.

 

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