Fresh vegetables enhance summer dining

It’s that wonderful time of the year, summer! Time to take advantage of those fantastic fresh fruits and vegetables. They taste great and they are good for you too.

Let’s talk vegetables. Why should you eat them? Eating vegetables provides many health benefits. They are low in calories, high in fibre, high in antioxidants and loaded with vitamins. They are also very colorful.  Did you know the different colors provide different antioxidants? (Antioxidants are chemicals that defend healthy cells in your body from damage caused by destructive free radicals.)

Red gives you: Lycopene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk for several different types of cancer and anthocyanins, an anti-inflammatory that helps protect blood health and nervous system health.

Yellow/Orange gives you: Beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease; maintains eye health; and helps boost the immune system.  Bioflavonoids, which work with vitamin C to help reduce the risk of cancer, strengthen the bones, keep skin healthy; and lower the risk of heart attacks.

Green gives you Alicin which helps control your blood pressure, cholesterol and helps your body fight infection; and Lutein an antioxidant that helps keep your eyes healthy

Vegetables and fruit make up the largest arc of Canada’s Food Guide Rainbow, which recommends at least one dark green, and one orange vegetable each day.  Dark green vegetables include broccoli, romaine lettuce, kale and spinach, while carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are great orange vegetables.

Here are some tips to help you eat more vegetables. Buy fresh vegetables in season.  They cost less and are likely to be at their best flavor. Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as vegetable stir-fry or soup. Try a main dish salad for lunch. Include a green salad with your dinner every night. Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads and muffins.  Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.   Use pureed, cooked vegetables such as potatoes to thicken stews, soups and gravies.  These add flavor, nutrients and texture. Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal try tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions.  Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator.  Carrots and celery sticks are the usual but try red, green or yellow pepper strips, broccoli flowerets, cauliflower or cucumber slices.

Make a point of storing vegetables properly to keep them fresh and safe to eat. Most fresh vegetables need to be stored in the refrigerator. Mushrooms Onions, potatoes, shallots, and hard-shelled winter squash don’t need to be refrigerated. They stay good for several weeks to a month when you store them in a cool, dry, dark drawer or bin. Garlic lasts longer in the refrigerator, so if you don’t use it often, keep it chilled.

Knowing how to wash different types of vegetables properly will keep food tasting great and safe to eat.  Before you start – wash your hands! Wash fresh vegetables under running water just before you are ready to eat or cook them.  

Now, you are ready to eat those fantastic vegetables.  Great places to go for fresh vegetables are our local farmers markets in Minto, Wellington North, Elora and Guelph.  Another great idea for fresh vegetables from September to June is the Good Food Box.  This program is organized by the Seniors’ Center for Excellence, 519-638-1000.

For more information about any of the free services offered by your local Family Health Team ask your doctor or nurse practitioner during your next visit, visit the website or google ‘family health team locations’.