Fresh Vegetables: Add color for your health

BY BARBARA STORZ

Adding fresh vegetables to our diet is important in preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Research shows the more color and variety we add, the more health protection we include in our diet.

If you are not in the habit of eating vegetables, try adding them to salads, juices, stir fry dishes or throw them on the grill. The full flavor of fresh vegetables can often be enjoyed with minimum cooking.

One of the best vegetable families supporting our health is the cabbage Family (also called Brassica). This is a large family of vegetables, including cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi and Bok Choy. All are a good source of nutrients, including high amounts of Vitamins K, C, B1 and B6.

These vegetables are also generous in providing copper, potassium, manganese, fiber and folate. Research shows that green leafy vegetables are associated with a lower risk of diabetes, reduced blood pressure, protection against several types of cancer and support our brain health.

Other greens, including Swiss chard, spinach and lettuce also offer protection against diabetes and eye disease and help to improve digestion and lower blood pressure.

Squashes offer high nutrition and few calories. Butternut squash packs the full daily recommended amount of Vitamin A and more potassium than a banana with only 82 calories in one cup of squash.

Winter squash (with hard outer shells) can be grilled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika or baked and mashed as a substitute for potatoes. It also pairs well with a range of flavors like balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and maple syrup. And, summer squash (thin-skinned squash) can be cut and partnered with onion and bell peppers in foil wrap and placed on the grill for an easy way to cook vegetables outdoors.

The root vegetables are also packed with nutrients, fiber and folate. Radishes, colorful carrots and beets are all excellent sources of potassium, complex carbohydrates and antioxidants. Golden beets are high in Vitamins A, the B-complex and contain lycopene, zeaxanthin and flavonoids. These work to clean the blood, lower blood pressure, prevent cancers, protect our hearts and supports healthy skin and hair. Beets, along with carrots, radishes, and turnips are very low in calories and offer excellent sources of folates.

Explore these colorful vegetable choices this weekend at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, where you will find purple, red, green, orange and yellow locally grown vegetables packed with a healthy dose of nutrients. The market is open from 9 .am. to noon every Saturday in Firemen’s Park on the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen. Pick up free recipes at the welcome desk.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her gardening program every at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio. E-mail her at bstorz@rcommunications.com.