Submitted to: Encyclopedia on Health United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Org
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Early in the 20th century vitamin A was the first vitamin discovered and soon after its discovery, animal feeding trials comparing pigmented and unpigmented vegetables demonstrated its ultimate origins in plants. The fact that all vitamin A is derived from provitamin A carotenoids, those orange, red, and yellow pigments in plants, points to significant role vegetables and fruits play in human health. Some dietary B vitamins, most vitamin C, and much vitamin E also come from vegetables, fruits, grains, and staple root and tuber crops. Consequently, vegetable research has focused on improving the quantity, quality, preservation, and availability of vitamin and provitamins. Carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and melons are excellent sources of vitamins among vegetables. Classical plant breeding methods are used to improve vegetable vitamin levels. This information will be of interest to general readers interested in learning about the challenges and successes that vegetable breeders have had in improving vitamin content of vegetables.
Technical Abstract: Vegetables provide significant dietary vitamin A and C and lesser amounts of B and E vitamins. Progress has been made in applying plant breeding techniques to further increase provitamin A levels, with less effort for vitamins B, C, and E. Most breeding and genetic effort has been directed to crops which already are relatively rich vitamin sources. Efforts to continue and expand this research in the future will likely result from greater demands for more nutritious produce by consumers.