Vegetables have many benefits

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It’s summertime, and the living is … delicious and nutritious especially in LA (Lower Alabama) where I live. It seems like just about every person I have talked to lately have either a little patch, big garden or a big flower pot with one or more types of vegetables growing in it. So I’m happy to be on the receiving side when someone shares their fresh produce with me. It’s nothing like eating a fresh sliced tomato between two slices of bread. Hmmm! Hmmm! Growing your own vegetables is a great way to improve the quality of your diet. Involving children in the garden will encourage them to try new, nutritious foods. Vegetables are low in saturated fat and have zero cholesterol. Most contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Here are some hidden benefits of some of the vegetables you may be considering for your garden. Tomatoes: There is nothing like a fresh Alabama grown tomato in the summertime. Although technically a fruit, most consider the tomato a vegetable. It is believed that the tomato is native to the America’s. Its origins trace back to the early Aztecs in South America around 700 A.D. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene which has been shown to help fight some cancers, heart disease, and macular degenerative disease (a cause of blindness in the elderly). Tomatoes also contain vitamin C and vitamin A. Tomatoes that are vine-ripened are higher in vitamin C than greenhouse tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes contain more vitamin C than those that are processed or cooked. Greens: Collard greens are thought to be relatives of the ancient vegetable, wild cabbage, which was consumed in prehistoric times. Originating in Asia Minor, collard greens spread to Europe and then to the United States in the 17th century. Turnips are one of the most commonly grown and widely adapted root crops. They are members of the mustard family, but unlike many other vegetables, produce a plant that is desired for both their leaves and their roots. This feature is especially desirable for many southerners, because we tend to be thrifty and want to use every part of everything. Perhaps the best quality of greens is that they contain rich amounts of nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, which are all powerful antioxidants. Studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants can help fight off diseases such as atherosclerosis, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Greens are also an excellent source of folate and vitamin B6. These vitamins help keep blood homocysteine levels low. Studies have shown that high levels of homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls, leading to increased risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. Squash: Squash has an ancient history originating back to 3000 BCE, where the Ancient American Indians commonly consumed what they called “the apple of God”. There are two main types of squash: summer and winter. Winter squash varieties — such as acorn, butternut, and buttercup — are picked at the mature stage. They have hard shells with firm flesh and seeds. Zucchini and other summer squash varieties, which are harvested at the immature stage, have soft shells and tender, light-colored flesh. Other varieties of summer squash include patty pan, yellow crookneck, and yellow straightneck. Summer squash are 95 percent water. The high water content makes summer squash a low-calorie food. A cup of raw zucchini contains only 20 calories. Summer squash are generally a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Source: Kristin Woods, REA Tips for getting kids to eat vegetables 1. Give children experiences with vegetables. Savvy adults know kids won’t eat what they aren’t familiar with. So make it an adventure to pick out a new vegetable to taste. Look for a new green vegetable or red vegetable at the store. Read books about vegetables, let kids scrub vegetables, or pick vegetables from the garden or grow a vegetable. Any experience increases their interest in tasting a vegetable. 2. Cut raw vegetables up for meals and snacks. Children usually prefer the taste and texture of raw vegetables over cooked ones. Make a plate of small bite-sized veggies (broccoli trees, baby carrots, celery stick, cucumber slides, sugar snap pea pods, red-green or yellow pepper strips, etc. Add a little dip—a standard offering at every meal. Kids like choices, so let them choose from a constantly changing variety at each meal. 3. Serve bright, colorful cooked vegetables with texture. Everyone eats with their eyes first. When veggies are bright and colorful they are more appealing. Overcooked mushy veggies turn everyone off. When cooking veggies keep they brightly colored and crunchy in texture by steaming or microwaving for just a few minutes. 4. Be adventurous with veggies. When children see veggies as fun, they are more likely to eat them. Visit sponsored by Produce for Better Health for games, coloring sheets, new recipes and more. 5. The secret of what not to do. Never, ever bribe children to eat veggies, or threaten them with a punishment if they don’t eat their veggies. While these tactics may work in the short term, research shows that in the long run children will avoid foods they have been made to eat with bribes or threats. Give children experiences with vegetables. Here are some delicious yet simple ways to use fresh garden vegetables. USING GARDEN VEGETABLES Great Easy Ideas: Grate raw carrots and mix with apple chunks, raisins, and plain yogurt. -or- Slice or cube tomatoes and mix with cucumber slices and cauliflowerettes. Marinate in French Dressing. -or- Mix together grated carrots, chopped green pepper, grated parsnips,and orange sections. -or- Cut an ‘X’ on the top of a tomato and carefully scoop out the insides. Add a mixture of cottage cheese, nuts, and raisins. -or- Add chopped cucumbers and green or red peppers to cottage cheese. -or- Add scoops of tuna salad or chicken salad.