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Spring Fruits and Veggies from A to Z

Monday, May 20th, 2013 @ 10:52 AM

We all know spring brings us some of the best tasting fruits and veggies, but it's also fun to learn why they're so great for you! Check out what Dr. Liz has to say about some of our favorite spring fruits and veggies.

Arugula – One cup contains only five calories but packs an array of phytonutrients called indoles that help lower risk for both stomach and colon cancers. With its peppery taste, arugula is a great addition to salads or served wilted with grilled fish.

Artichoke –This flower bud from the thistle family supplies a wealth of nutrients such as magnesium and potassium, that help fight high blood pressure.  Also, one artichoke supplies more than the 25% of the Daily Value for fiber and vitamin C.

Asparagus –One cup of asparagus has a staggering 110% of vitamin K needs vital for bone health as well as more than 60% of folate needs, a B vitamin that's key in a healthy pregnancy.

Avocado– Studies show that despite their high fat content, avocadoes help lower artery-clogging LDL cholesterol levels. Avocadoes also supply folate and vitamin E, two vitamins that both lower heart disease risk.

Beets and beet greens –Beets owe their bright red color to betacyanin, which also acts as a potent cancer fighter. Also, beet greens are loaded with folate for hearth health along with carotenes known to protect eyesight.

Blood oranges- Their rich red-orange color comes from cancer-fighting compounds like lycopene and cryptoxanthin. And one medium-size blood orange contains about 60% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.

Blueberries –Anthocyanidins, a powerful group of antioxidants that abound in blueberries, give this lusciously rich fruit their reputation for warding off many age-related diseases that are connected to oxidative damage such as cancer and heart disease.

Chards, including Swiss and rainbow– In a mere 35 calories per cup, chard supplies a staggering 700% of vitamin K needs and a wealth of carotenes that protect your eyes from age-related loss of vision.

Cherries– These sweet orbs contain the same anthocyanidin compounds as blueberries giving this fruit its strong antioxidant capacity helpful in fending of age-related diseases like cancer.

Chervil –As a salad green, chervil adds a tangy taste along with magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Citrus fruit –Oranges, tangerines, pomelos, grapefruit, kumquat and other citrus fruits bring sunshine to our spring and a wealth of health-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, fiber and potent cancer-fighting compounds such as limonene.

Cucumbers– This vegetable is more than 90% water and has only 10 calories per one cup sliced. Make sure to keep the skin on as it’s rich in fiber and other healthy compounds that help fight high blood pressure.

Dandelion greens– These peppery tasting salad greens are packed with folate, a B vitamin needed for heart health and protection from cancer. One cup has only 15 calories, but supplies 70 % of vitamin A needs as carotenes, also know for their eye sight protection qualities.

English peas –Say “please pass the peas” for better bone health as this fresh vegetable supplies more than 50% of the Daily Value for vitamin K along with more than 30% of fiber and vitamin C needs.

Fava beans– Eaten fresh (after removing the pods and “skin” on the beans by parboiling), these beans come bursting with nutrients including 20% or more of protein, folate, zinc and fiber needs per one cup. Fava beans also contain proanthocyanidins, compounds that protect you from disease such as cancer and heart disease.  

Figs –This lusciously sweet fruit contains water-soluble fiber, the type that helps curb appetite aiding in weight loss along with lowering circulating cholesterol levels.

Frisée– Also known as curly endive, these pleasantly bitter salad greens add carotenes to your salad bowl that may help fend off various cancers and protect eye health.

Garlic– A member of the onion or allium family, garlic contains ajoene, a pungent compound which research suggests protects against heart disease.

Green garlic –A baby version of the white globes, this mildly garlic green shoot contains the same heart-healthy compounds as its more mature parent. Use the stems in fresh salads and the petite bulbs raw or sautéed with vegetables and meat.

Honeydew melons– This melon is more than 85% water, and one cup cubed has only 60 calories, but more than 70% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.

Mint– Add to iced tea, green salad or fruit salad for a refreshing taste and as a good dose of phytonutrients called monterpenes that studies show help ward off various types of cancer.

Mizuna– This tangy green  jazzes up any salad and comes packed with indoles, known to help inhibit tumor growth.

Morel mushrooms – Glucans, group of compounds found in many mushrooms,  have been shown to stimulate the immune system. Morels also supply a good amount of B vitamins and potassium.

Nettles –A type of herbal plant with leaves that cause irritation and stinging on contact, nettle leaves may have some anti-inflammatory actions when taken as a tea helping to relieve intestinal trouble.

Papayas– These tropical wonders are loaded with vitamin C – a staggering 300% of the Daily Value in just one serving, not to mention a wealth of other antioxidants including carotenes and vitamin E.

Potatoes, new– Boiled with their with their skins, a ½ cup mashed has only 60 calories with a good kick of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Radishes– A tangy addition to green salads and cold pasta dishes, radishes contain a good dose of vitamin C. Their bright red “skin” is a sign of anthocyanidins – potent health-boosting antioxidants.

Raspberries– A wonderfully sweet berry with more than 50% of the Daily Value of vitamin C per cup, raspberries also contain ellagic acid and quercetin, two phytochemicals that help fend off various types of cancer.

Rhubarb– With only 11 calories per stalk, rhubarb packs a tart taste and a dose of fiber and vitamin C as well. Cook up in a pie or tart, or use like cranberries to accompany cooked poultry or pork.

Scallions– A direct cousin of onions, scallions make a great fresh addition to salads of any type while adding vitamin C and the mineral chromium, which helps indirectly regulate blood sugar levels.

Shallots –In between an onion and garlic in flavor, shallots sauté nicely into vegetable and meat dishes providing an array of phytochemicals such as quercitin that helps inhibit growth of cancer cells.

Snow peas –In just one cup of these crispy veggies, you get almost 50% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, which is vital for the growth of new skin cells and may help fight the signs of aging.

Sorrel –Known for its somewhat sour taste, this green has an array of carotenes that studies show act as antioxidants helping to protect cells from aging.

Strawberries –One cup has only 45 calories but supplies 130% of the Daily Value for vitamin C and the phytochemical ellagic acid known for its cancer-fighting power.

Squash blossoms – What used to be a delicacy for home gardeners only, these flowers make a great addition to salads, sautéed vegetables and pasta dishes. Their rich yellow and orange colors are a sign of carotene content such as lutein, important for eye health and warding of cancers.

Sugar snap peas– Eat these sweet vegetables, pod and all, for a good dose of insoluble fiber that helps keep your intestinal tract in working order and more than 20% of vitamin C needs for healthy skin and a strong immune system. 

Vanilla –The most widely used aromatic and flavoring agent used in foods, beverages, cosmetics and other consumer products has been shown to have anti-cancer properties due to is phenolic content – a group of disease fighting chemicals found in plants.

Water chestnuts –This water vegetable, which resembles chestnuts in appearance, is rich in potassium - a mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining health blood pressure.

Watercress –These spicy greens add a kick of flavor to any salad or sandwich along with supplying vitamin C, folate, potassium and magnesium – a quartet of nutrients that protect heart health.

Zucchini –This summer squash supplies about 20% of manganese needs, a trace mineral that works inside body cells to protect them from oxidative damage caused by aging and environmental contaminants. One cup steamed also supplies a good dose of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

Dr. Liz Applegate Ph.D.

Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis

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