Vegetable - history, production, trade
The word vegetables is a gastronomic-nutritional word, which usually is referred to different part of a plant, such as leaves, fruits, roots, sprouts, young trunks, used in human diet. By the way, vegetables are traditionally considered a light , tasty food, rich in water and nutrients, that are able to fill with few calories and to provide our body with all the protective substances contained in them: therefore it is widely recommended to use vegetables in low calorie diets.
Vegetables are composed by a high quantity of water: according to the type of vegetables consumed, they usually contain 90-95% of their weight in water and high quantities of food fibres, which fill, slow down the gastric evacuation and improve the intestinal functions. Furthermore in vegetables there are a lot of vitamins (C, A, B1, B2), mineral salts (magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper), phytochemicals (organic compounds of vegetable origins) or phytocompunds: these substances male vegetables fundamental in human diet, as vitamins are necessary to keep the structure of tissues and organs.
Vegetablesare considered good antioxidants, helping against free radicals. They contain few proteins and sugars in different quantities.
More and more researches tend to confirm that the consumption of fruit and vegetables play an important part in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes) and cancer: in order to obtain and exploit at best all the benefits of vegetables, it is recommended to consume fruit and vegetables every day (at least 5 portions) trying not to add too much salt and too many fats in the case of vegetables.
Buying and consuming seasonal vegetables means to eat in a healthy, correct and natural way.
Some people make a difference between vegetables: in fact, talking about vegetables, some people refer to the different parts of a plant (such as leaves, root, trunk…) that can be eaten raw or cooked and that are used in human diet. In this category there are vegetables that are usually cultivated, but also wild vegetables (such as wild radicchio, arugola, etc.), while legumes, grains and some spices and kind of fruits are excluded. Other people talking about vegetables refer to all vegetables coming from the vegetable garden, that is a very large and heterogeneous group of vegetables, including plants, leaves, roots, fruits, flowers, seeds that have common nutritional characteristics, such as the fact of being very digestive and low-calorie.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in Europe the presence of vegetables in diets (excluding potatoes and legumes) increased in the last 4 decades: European families consume on average 386 g of fruit and vegetables per day, with 166 g of fruit and 220g of vegetables consumed daily.
However, the Italian fruit and vegetable sector is still European leader and at the world top for the production of vegetables, with a production value of about 12 billion.
In Europe, the Netherlands are an important business partner for fruit and vegetable companies: in fact, the Netherlands as are at the world top together with China and Belgium as to the exports of vegetables and processed vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables represent, together with other groups of food, the essence of the Mediterranean diet. Phytochemicals, non-nutritious elements contained in plants of vegetables are particularly interesting because they are responsible for the colour of fruit and vegetables: vegetables, and in particular those cultivated in our gardens, form a rainbow of different colours and benefits linked to their colour.
Therefore, we can divide vegetables, as fruit, according to 5 colours: white vegetables , yellow-orange vegetables , red vegetables, green vegetables and violet-blue vegetables.
White vegetables include vegetables such as garlic, cauliflower, onion, fennels, mushrooms, papotatoes (even though it cannot be considered a vegetable from a nutritional point of view), leek, white turnip and shallot.
Yellow-orange vegetables include type of vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and pumpkins,
rich in carotenoids. These substances have part in the growth, reproduction and preserving of tissues, helping to keep healthy eyes and mucous membranes.
Red vegetables include vegetables such as red cabbages, red onions, red peppers, tomatoes, rhubarbs, red turnips; these vegetables reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases protecting blood vessels and improving also memory.
Green vegetables are the most numerous in nature and include vegetables such as, asparagus, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, green cabbages, Chinese cabbages, cucumbers, watercress, endive, lettuce, , green peppers, peas, arugula, spinach, savoy cabbage and zucchini. Furthermore, leaves of green vegetables have a high content of magnesium, iron and folic acid, and ascorbic acid or vitamin C which help the absorption of iron.
Violet/blue vegetables include vegetables such as violet carrots, eggplants, radicchio and violet potatoes. These vegetables are violet or blue because they contain natural pigments called anthocyanins: they act as powerful antioxidants towards cells of our body and defend us from the risk of cancer, strokes and cardiac pathologies.