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VEGGIE MIGHT

Giving broccoli the finger

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A study shows the bhindi packs a bigger anti-oxidant punch than most other commonly eaten vegetables.

The humble bhindi as a power vegetable? Unlikely isn't it. But a first of its kind scientific analysis of the anti-oxidant activity of commonly consumed vegetables, roots and tubers by Hyderabad's National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has thrown up some really interesting insights. Okra or lady's finger is packed with antioxidant while bitter gourd or karela - touted till now for its immense health benefits - contains among the least amounts of anti-oxidant. Scientists looked at 19 vegetables of which lady's finger (466 mg/100 grams), red cabbage (405), broad beans (333), raw mango (276) and brinjal (150) contained the highest amount of anti-oxidants.

The vegetables with the least amount were ridge gourd (12 mg/100 grams), karela (18), green plantain (34), bottle gourd (36) and pumpkin (38). The study published in the Food Research International journal says plant foods contain a variety of biologically active, non-nutritive compounds known as phytochemicals, which impart health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Yet, in India, plant foods have received much less attention in terms of quantifying their anti-oxidant activity (AOA).

According to Dr D Sreeramulu, lead author of the NIN study, the present study has determined for the first time the anti-oxidant activity of roots, tubers and vegetables commonly consumed in India and correlated it with their total phenolic content.

Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage, the common reason for cancer and degenerative diseases. "Robust epidemiological evidence suggests the crucial role of diets in preventing chronic degenerative diseases. Plant derived phenolic compounds are reported to have multiple biological effects including anti-oxidant activity. To derive maximum health benefits, intake of sufficient amounts of phytochemicals from a variety of plant sources such as fruits and vegetables are recommended, " says Sreeramulu.

Ritika Samadar, chief nutritionist, Max Hospitals, says the study is useful for the common man as vegetables like bhindi are affordable as compared to the more exotic broccoli. "Till now, we knew bhindi had a huge amount of fibre as the skin isn't scraped off while cooking. It was, therefore, recommended for diabetics and heart patients as fibre helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. But it wasn't known for its anti-oxidant properties. It was believed that brocolli, cabbage and green leafy vegetables are the ones containing anti-oxidants. Now, the common man too can afford veggies that are rich in anti-oxidants, like bhindi and brinjal. Ideally, a person must take 4-9 servings of vegetables a day with one serving being 150 grams."

Scientists also looked at the health benefits of roots and tubers and found beetroot (125 mg/100 grams) to have the highest amount of anti-oxidants followed by yam (74). Carrots have as little of anti-oxidants as 11 mg/100 grams, spring onions 12, potato 16, onions 23, sweet potato 25 and radish 20 mg/100 grams.

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