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A balanced diet contains the six(6) classes of food in their right proportion. The six classes of food of which vegetables are a major constituent of Vitamins. Vegetables are usually very low in fat, high in vitamins as mentioned before, minerals, and also dietary fiber. It has high nutritional value and plays a core role in human nutrition.
Nutritionists advise that more vegetables should be eaten, five(5) or more portions daily.
However, when planning your meals, it could be a hassle trying to incorporate all of the classes of food and eat a well-balanced diet. Or you may also be at a loss on the different ways you can eat your vegetables while still being creative with your dishes.
It could get boring eating the same pattern of food all the time, so it’s okay to want to try out different methods and styles of cooking and at the same time get the taste and diet you want.
In this article, you will be taken through the different methods and ways you can use vegetables in your daily meals. Your eyes would also be open to several other vegetables you may have been neglecting all this while.
Just sit tight, and read through till the end.
Firstly, the importance and specific roles that vegetables play in your system will be well explained.
1. Vegetables play a role in the prevention of some cardiovascular diseases. This is because they are rich in bioactive compounds like flavonoids, soluble dietary fibers, and sterols. They are also very low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat.
2. Blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction, are also reduced by more intake of vegetables.
3. Vegetables have antioxidants that help to reduce the risk of cancer due to their minerals and phytochemical content.
4. These same photochemical compounds also help to reduce diabetes mellitus and obesity.
Having a sneak peek of just how important and the roles vegetables can play in the body, you should then learn how to eat more vegetables every day.
Various groups of vegetables exist depending on which part of the plant is eaten. They include;
Types of vegetables
This has to do with the green leafy parts of plants. Some of the vegetables belonging to this group include Spinach, lettuce, cabbage, etc. They are good sources of fibre and the fresher ones are rich in vitamin C than mature and almost stale ones.
These types of vegetables are usually rich in vitamins and minerals and also contain folic acid. Examples include asparagus.
Examples include broccoli and cauliflower. They contain glucosinolates and indole-3-carbinol which makes them protective against some diseases.
14 best vegetables you can use to increase the vegetable intake of your family.
To learn how to start eating more vegetables, knowledge of the various available vegetables should be common to you. Here is a list of vegetables that you should incorporate into your family’s diet.
- Efo Yanrin (Wild lettuce)
- Bitter leaf
- Efo Tete (African Spinach)
- Efo Shoko (Lagos Spinach)
- Water Leaves
- Efo Igbo(Garden Eggplant leaves)
- Amunututu(Malabar Spinach)
- Nchanwu (Scent leaves/African Basil)
- Afang leaf/ Okasi
- Ugu(Fluted Pumpkin leaf)
- Uziza leaf
How to Incorporate more vegetables into your daily meal.
Eating vegetables daily should be a routine or major part of your diet. You can always get creative with this and be open to trying out different methods and dishes. Using the above-named vegetables, you will be shown the different health benefits of each one and the other fun ways you can add them to your diet.
Efo Yanrin(Wild Lettuce)
The english name for this vegetable is called dandelion greens. It is commonly found in West Africa and popular amongst the Yoruba people. This leafy vegetable is very effective in managing diseases such as cardiovascular, respiratory, and endocrine problems. It can be eaten fresh by incorporating it In yot salad or cooked with soups and sauces.
In cooking your efo yanrin with soups, you can combine it with other vegetables like waterleaf, etc. including;
- Extracting the juice and drinking it. By doing this you also get maximum health benefits from efo yanrin. The juice can help diabetes patients in keeping their blood sugar low.
- You can also chew it raw occasionally during the day.
- If you do not want to chew it like that, you can slice it and add it to your salad.
The only time you eat efo yanrin does not have to be only when you make a soup. Considering the health benefits, you should eat more veggies like efo yanrin.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and has a lot of health benefits. It is a vegetable worth making space for on your plate. Cabbage can help protect against cancer, radiation, and heart diseases. Cabbage can have colors ranging from green to red to purple. It can be eaten in various ways, the most common being a salad.
Others include; You can eat raw cabbage, that is just slicing and chewing it. You can add it to your salad as previously mentioned. Cabbage can also be roasted or steamed before eating. You can also add your shredded cabbage to your stew, spaghetti, or rice towards the end of cooking.
This is a very bitter vegetable as the name implies. It usually grows in the wild and has many therapeutic effects. For example, it can be used to cure stomach aches, manage malaria, treat skin diseases such as ringworm. It can also be used for detoxification. Bitter leaf juice when taken helps to clean important organs like the liver and kidney. While making smoothies, a few bitter leaves can be added to them.
Extracting the juice and taking it is also another way of adding it to your diet. To preserve the taste, honey can be dropped into a cup of stored bitter leaf juice.
Bitter leaves can be added to a wide variety of soups. For example, egusi soup. Due to the sweet taste of egusi, some people prefer to use the bitter leaf in place of the pumpkin leaf because of the slightly bitter taste it gives to the soup.
There is no complex process involved in making egusi soup with bitter leaves. Following the normal process for cooking egusi soup, the only change is the vegetable because now the Ugu leaf is being substituted for bitter leaf.
To do this the washed bitter leaf is added when your soup is boiling and is almost done. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes and your soup will be ready.
However, some people might think of the bitter taste and refuse to use it. But you can avoid this by washing the bitter leaf over and over then boiling it later. This reduces a great deal of bitterness.
Another method is the popular bitter leaf soup. This soup is popular in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Judging from the name, the thought that the soup will be better is not far-fetched but it is not bitter. As long as you wash the bitter leaf thoroughly and also boil it if you wish, you won’t get any bitter taste. The thickener used for the soup is cocoyam, you either buy your raw cocoyam and pound yourself or you buy grounded cocoyam. Either way, your bitter leaf soup will be enjoyable.
Efo Tete(African Spinach)
African Spinach is a perennial vegetable grown in all parts of Nigeria. It is usually available during the rainy season and is scarce during the dry season. Only a few farmers, who must be extremely hardworking can have Spinach in abundance during the dry seasons. Just like other vegetables mentioned above, they have a lot of health benefits.
So apart from the popular Spinach stew, here are other fun ways to eat vegetables(Spinach);
- Add it to your smoothie. A few leaves of Spinach in your smoothie will not affect the taste or flavor but it can add extra nutrients to it.
- Few leaves of Spinach in your rice or pasta. This is a great way to ensure your family eats more vegetables.
- Add it to your fried eggs. Spinach and eggs are great companions. Adding fresh spinach to your breakfast omelet is a good way to eat more veggies.
- Use Spinach as your pizza toppings.
Efo Shoko (Amaranth Greens)
This is a popular vegetable common among the Lagos people. It is held in very high esteem, the flavor is slightly bitter and the leaves are slightly diuretic. These are generally known as greens in Nigeria. It is also highly nutritious even more than the normal Spinach. It contains some key enzymes that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the body. They are helpful in one development. Amaranth leaves can be eaten in the following ways;
Before using it in cooking, they are first blanched as it helps to retain the green color.
- Amaranth greens can be added directly to cooking after slicing it. For example, you can add it to your yam pottage, your stew, your stir-fries, soup, etc.
- You can also saute it and use it as a sauce for your rice. Just add a small amount of oil, onion, and salt as desired to make it tasty.
- Just like other vegetables, they can be added to smoothies.
- It can also be used to garnish your meals like your jollof rice, pasta, white rice, etc.
During the rainy season, the waterleaf vegetable is generally abundant. It has a short life cycle and also grows fast. However, scientifically, it is regarded as a weed. It has many nutritional benefits just like other vegetables. It helps in bone development as it is a good source of calcium and phosphorus. It is also a good source of vitamin A and helps to maintain good eye health.
Apart from cooking Edikang Ikong soup, and Gbure Elegusi, you can cook roasted waterleaf with yam, and/or potatoes.
They can also be made into a stew with chicken, tomatoes, and onions.
Garden Egg Plant leaves
This is a vegetable used in food preparation. Most times it is used as condiments. It contains enough vitamins and minerals. Some other health benefits of garden egg leave popularly called ‘akwukwo anyara’ in the Igbo language include detoxification, clearing of vision, lowering blood sugar, and using it as a blood tonic for people.
- It can be used in preparing Abacha(tapioca), ugba or other local delicacies.
- Another way to take it is to boil it and drink the water.
- Garden egg leaf can be added to any type of soup including your okra soup, vegetable soup, efo riro soup, etc.
Amunututuis a vegetable that does well in fertile and moist lands. It is popular in Nigeria and has a lot of nutritional content. It is translated by the Yoruba people as the vegetable ‘which calms your stomach’.
Some nutritional content on these leaves include;
- Protein 2.0 g
- Sugar 2.9g
- Mineral salt 1.7g
- Niacin 0.5Mg
- Vitamin C 28 Mg
- Water content 92.1g
- Fiber 0.6g
- Calories 27g
Amunututu can be eaten in combination with other vegetables such as bitter leaves, uziza leaves, etc. While cooking amunututu soup, water is not added as it already has enough water content.
Scent leaf is also known as Efirin by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is a tropical plant and can be used for medicinal purposes or cooking. It is preferred due to its flavor and the taste it adds to food. Some illnesses like cough, fever, body pain, etc can be cured using scent leaves.
Some of the nutritional content of scent leaves include;
- Potassium 295 mg
- Calories 22
- Carbs 2.7g
- Fat 0.6g
- Protein 3.2 g
Some other contents of scent leaf include magnesium, boron, etc. Scent leaves can be used to cook black soup or added to the sauce and other local dishes.
Here are other ways you can incorporate more veggies like scent leaf in your diet;
- Extracting the juice. A mixture of scent leaf and bitter leaf juice is a good medicinal substance. It is used in the treatment of coughs and some other diseases. If you are looking for how to eat more veggies, it doesn’t have to be taken raw, a twist can be to get the same nutrients while taking it as a juice.
- Scent leaves can be used in making dishes like black soup.
- It can be used dry or fresh by adding it to your jollof rice, pasta even, yam postage, etc.
Afang leaf is particular to Africa. It is popular in Nigeria specifically the southern part of the country and can be found in the market places. Another common name for the Afang leaf is Okazi. To the Efik, it is known as Afang leaf. There are two species of Afang available in most African countries. However, it is difficult to differentiate between the two. The two species include; Gnetum Africanum and Gnetum bucholzianum. Afang leaf can be harvested all year round so it is readily available, therefore if you are looking for how to get more vegetables in your diet, you should try Afang leaf.
If you are looking to eat vegetables as much as you can, you should try using fresh Afang leaves for your Afang soup.
Other soup that can go well with Afang leaf is egusi and okra soup.
Afang leaf makes a very good combination with oha leaf in making soup. Being creative with your mixture of vegetables helps you get most of the important nutrients and other interesting flavors you will get to love.
This is one of the most commonly used green leafy vegetables in Nigeria. It has great health benefits which many people may have been ignorant of. Some of them include the following;
- Ugu can boost fertility in males.
- It has a reasonable amount of Vitamins and lowers cholesterol in the body.
- Ugu also has a high protein content and increases blood volume.
To get more of this nutritional content and benefits that fluted pumpkin offers, more effort should be done to incorporate the vegetables into your daily routine.
They include the following;
- Use ugu in your noodles. Instead of taking just noodles, it can be spiced up by adding Ugu leaves to it.
- Ugu leaves can also be added to your pasta.
- Another way to eat more vegetables daily is by sauteing the ugu leaves and garnishing your Jollof or white rice with it.
- Ugu leaves can also be used to make the sauce for your rice.
- How about adding Ugu leaves to your smoothie? This is also another way to eat your vegetables apart from the normal way.
- Ugu leaves in your Abacha meal is not a bad idea.
- Porridge yam and pumpkin leaves are a very good combination. Porridge beans and vegetables too are also a good combination.
- Vegetable soup is also a good way to maximize the use of Ugu leaves. Here it is combined with waterleaf which is also another nutritious vegetable. Ugu can also be used for egusi, okra, ogbono soup, and other local dishes.
Fluted pumpkin leaf is one of the commonest leaves that can blend well with almost all kinds of dishes and can be used daily in your diet.
Oha plant is a medicinal plant commonly known to the Igbos, the Eastern part of Nigeria. Its English name is called the African Rosewood plant. Just like other vegetables mentioned earlier, it has high nutritional content. A few of its nutritional content include the following;
- Magnesium 28mg
- Fat 1g
- Calcium 72mg
- Iron 5 my
- Vitamin C
The above are just a few of the many nutritional contents of the oha leaf.
To incorporate more vegetables in your diet, you can increase your Oha consumption and variety of vegetables by eating oha soup and its various recipes.
For the Oha soup, the major thickener is cocoyam, then your stock or additional vegetables like afang leaf for improved taste and nutrition.
Another way is to make tea. To do this, just add 4-7leaves of Oha to boiled water, allowing it to cool before you drink.
Ewedu is also called Jute leaves. It is one of the on vegetables particular to the western part of Nigeria. It is a green least vegetable that has high vitamin content, minerals, contains iron, calcium, antioxidants, etc.
Various ways of eating Ewedu vegetables include;
Making smoothies out of it. Ewedu smoothies are another diverse way to eat jute leaves. It can be taken any time of the day after preparation. To make the smoothies, the most important ingredients are the ewedu itself, water, and honey if you prefer. Then blender is an important tool.
The next way to eat Ewedu is by making ewedu soup. Ewedu has many health benefits like preventing aging, strengthening bones and teeth, etc.
Uziza leaf is a green vegetable with a peppery taste that is usually dark green when it is dried. It can be used in different kinds of meals. It has a lot of health benefits including postnatal health.
Uziza leaf can be used for cooking okra soup, egusi soup, oha soup(combination of Uziza and oha leaf), etc.
It can also be used in spicing your roasted yam according to your preference.
How about the popular Ofe nsala in Nigeria and pepper soup. The great taste which the Uziza leaf offers is one not to miss.
Uziza seeds are a great way of getting the nutrients and cleansing the body, this is particularly for women in their postnatal period.
Vegetables are very nutritious and play a vital role in human health. Having seen above, the health benefits of vegetables, seeking more easy ways to eat vegetables should be part of your diet goals. Some of these vegetables have substances that help to prevent ageing and other kinds of illnesses. Therefore, the need to incorporate them into your daily diet. With the above information, you can now try to find out which of the vegetables are readily available to you and be creative while using them.
Also, check out these vegetable related articles on our site:
- Vegetables, Cooked vs Raw
- Fish and Vegetable Couscous
- Why Vegetables Is So Important For A Growing Child
- This Is The Perfect Cooking Time For Vegetables
- Is It Bad To Reuse Vegetable Oil?
- Fried Smoked Fish With Gari & Vegetables (Atsieke)
- Chicken & Vegetable Soup
- Edikang Ikong (Vegetable Soup)