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In what location of the grocery store should you spend the most time? No, not the wine and spirits department : ) It’s the Produce Department! On a nutrient density-to-calorie ratio, nothing beats fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce contains all of nature’s vitamins and nutrients, and on any given day there are literally hundreds of items from which to choose. Let’s take a little stroll down the aisle…

Fresh Vegetables- a Few of Our Faves (Notice the deep colors!)

Broccoli

Broccoli was first cultivated in Rome and was brought to America by Italian immigrants during the 16th century

Health Benefits of Broccoli

  • Broccoli is effective in preventing various types of cancers including breast cancer, uterus cancer and cancer of the lungs, colon, kidneys, liver, etc.
  • Broccoli is known for its detoxification properties because it is packed with sulphur, amino acids, and vitamin C.
  • The presence of Beta Carotene, Zeaxanthin, phosphorus, and Vitamins A, E & C in broccoli makes it excellent for eye health.
  • Broccoli should be included in the diet for building strong bones and for boosting immunity.

Spinach

We all know that Popeye made himself super strong by eating spinach, but you may be surprised to learn that he may also have been helping to protect himself against inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, bone problems, and cancers at the same time.

Popeye popularized spinach, but it’s too bad he ate it out of a can. Fresh spinach retains the delicacy of texture and green color that is lost when spinach is processed. Raw spinach has a mild, slightly sweet taste that can be refreshing in salads, while its flavor becomes more acidic and robust when it is cooked.

Among the world’s healthiest vegetables, spinach comes out at the top of the  list for nutrient content. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also concentrated in health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection.

Beets

Although typically a beautiful reddish-purple hue, beets also come in varieties that feature white, golden/yellow or even rainbow color roots. Beets’ sweet taste reflects their high sugar content, which makes beets an important source for the production of refined sugar ( the beets that are used for sugar consumption are of a different type than the beets that you purchase in the store). Raw beet roots have a crunchy texture that turns soft and buttery when they are cooked. Beet leaves have a lively, bitter taste similar to chard. The main ingredient in the traditional eastern European soup, borscht, beets are delicious eaten raw, but are more typically cooked or pickled

Ever consider why it seems Eastern Europe and Russia have so many citizens who live to over 100 years of age? Maybe it’s the borscht!

Borscht Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups steamed cubed beets, 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Preparation

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add broth, potato, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the potato is just tender, about 8 minutes. Add beets and vinegar; return to a boil. Cover and continue cooking until the broth is deep red and the potato is very soft, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  2. Combine sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl. Serve the soup with a dollop of the horseradish sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley.

Kale

Kale belongs to the cabbage family. It is purple or green in color and consists of central leaves that are not a part of the head. It is available in different leaf colors, including pale green, green, violet green, dark green, and a shade of violet brown.

Health Benefits of Kale

  • Similar to any other super food, kale is loaded with vitamin A, B complex, and C. It is also a powerful antioxidant.
  • One portion of kale is equal to just about 36 calories and can fulfill your Vitamin A needs for the entire day. It is also rich in beta carotene and enhances vision.
  • It is a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, iron, and manganese.
  • It is rich in dietary fiber and contributes to effective weight loss.
  • Kale is anti-inflammatory and prevents skin diseases.

Swiss Chard

Recent research has shown that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including kaempferol, the cardioprotective flavonoid that’s also found in broccoli, kale, strawberries, and other foods

The amazing variety of phytonutrients in chard is quickly recognizable in its vibrant colors, including the rich, dark greens in its leaves and the rainbow of reds, purples, and yellows in its stalks and veins. Virtually all of these phytonutrients provide antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits, or both

Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean but it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around and ranks second only to spinach. Slice leaves 1-inch wide and the stems 1/2-inch wide and boil for just 3 minutes. We only recommend eating the stems of varieties with white stems; colored stems are very tough.

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Orange

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard (large stems removed), leaves cut into 1-inch strips
  • Zest from 1 orange, cut into wide strips, plus juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

 

 

Directions

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add Swiss chard and orange zest. Cook, tossing frequently, until chard wilts, about 4 minutes. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper, then add juice of the orange; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Recipe credit : marthastewart.com

Carrots

Carrots are available throughout the year, although locally grown carrots in season in the summer and fall are the freshest and most flavorful. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple.

Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients.

In a recent study from the Netherlands, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow have emerged as the most protective against cardiovascular disease. And even more striking, carrots were determined to be the most prominent member of this dark orange/yellow food category.

Our favorite preparation method for carrot is oven roasting, which brings out the natural sweetness. We like this recipe:

Ginger-Roasted Carrots

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh carrots, trimmed and peeled – or 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small saucepan, or in microwave, melt butter and add brown sugar and ginger, stirring to blend.
  3. Combine the sauce and carrots and stir to coat. Pour coated carrots on a sheet pan.
  4. Place the pan in the oven and roast the carrots for 20 minutes or until fork tender.