Ploughing the fields – first step for health!

All roads lead to Ratheniska, County Laois, for the 84th National Ploughing Championship. It is a great chance to celebrate the hard work of our Irish farmers, and most would say they are the backbone of the economic recovery.

When we think of ploughing, getting the field ready for planting crops, it should be highlighted that any field earmarked for growing vegetables should be designated as a healthy zone. This is because of all the good stuff included in vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of fibre. Higher fibre diets are linked to a reduced risk of bowel cancers.

Vegetables also contain vitamin C. This is good for boosting the immune system which should mean fewer colds and flus. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant; this will help prevent cancer and heart disease. Although the iron in green veggies is difficult for our bodies to absorb, it is helped by the presence of vitamin C. Watch out for cooking vegetables too much as you will lose vitamin C. Steaming is better; the idea is learn to love the crunch!

Other goodies found in veggies

Beta-carotene: Also known as vitamin A, beta-carotene is an antioxidant that protects your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. It improves your immune system and is also good for your reproductive system.

Folic acid: This is one of the B vitamins that helps prevent neural tube defects in babies. (Although it is recommended that if you are planning to have a baby you should take a folic acid supplement 12 weeks before and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy ). It has also been linked to lowering heart disease risk and may prevent some forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s.

Fibre: All vegetables contain loads of soluble fibre which not only prevents constipation in the short term but also lowers our risk of bowel cancer. In some people it can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS ).

Carotenoids: These are substances which gives fruit and vegetables colour. Dark green vegetables are high in carotenoids but the chlorophyll they also contain means that they appear green in colour. Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and spinach are packed full of carotenoids, and the good news is that these are great at keeping our bodies healthy.

Like the beta carotene, they act as an antioxidant mopping up any damage to cells. Ultimately, they have been linked to lower risk of cancer and health benefits including protection against heart disease, cataracts, and some forms of blindness in older people.

We are lucky in Ireland to have the best farmers in the world producing top quality vegetables, so make sure to include an extra veg at mealtime. It is good for you and good for the economy!

For more information on this topic or for more information on diet and nutrition, contact The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster, on (044 ) 9395518 or email [email protected].

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