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Refresh mind and body

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in harvest season and each offers a distinct lineup of nutrients

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in harvest season and each offers a distinct lineup of nutrients

August 15, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

Ahh, August. The harvest month.

From now until September, family gardens and farmers markets will brim with fresh fruits and vegetables begging to be eaten.

Tomatoes beckon with an unmistakably sweet, yet slightly tart smell, and green beans promise a crunchy, snappy texture. But it's not just the super fresh tastes and smells that make harvest vegetables so wonderful. They are packed with vitamins and nutrients that can fight disease, cleanse body systems and restore memory functions.

Scientists are undertaking studies constantly to investigate and understand the properties found in foods like melons, corn and apples. Still, doctors and nutritionists have long concluded that almost all fruit, vegetable and grain foods are good for you in some way.

"We call them medicine foods," says Tammy Thornton, a registered dietitian and nutrition/wellness services coordinator with the Washington County Health Department. "We're finding more and more out about the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables."

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Here are some of the harvest foods in season right now listed with what they offer in terms of nutrition.

Dietary information about the nutrients found in each food is compiled from The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org); and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the "American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide."

Watermelon


Calories per 1-cup serving: 48

Number of significant nutrients per serving: 6 - including vitamin C, 24.3 percent of daily value; vitamin A, 11.1 percent of daily value; vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 11 percent of daily value; vitamin B1 (thiamine), 8 percent of daily value

One cup of watermelon has lots of antioxidants in the form of lycopene and vitamins A and C.

All of those elements are used by the body to neutralize free radicals that can harm body cells.

Watermelons also contain substances called phytonutrients, explains Thornton.

"Phytonutrients are substances that plants produce to protect themselves against diseases," she says. The plant nutrients "produce the flavor and aroma and color of fruits and vegetables."

It is unclear how phytonutrients work in the human body once consumed, however research suggests that these nutrients "promote health by sparking body processes that fight or slow the development of some diseases," Thornton says.

Green beans


Calories per 1-cup, boiled serving: 43

Number of significant nutrients per serving: 18 - including vitamin K, 122 percent of daily value; vitamin C, 20.2 percent of daily value; manganese, 18.5 percent of daily value; vitamin A, 16.6 percent of daily value; dietary fiber, 16 percent of daily value; potassium, 10.7 percent of daily value; folate, 10.4 percent of daily value

Eating green beans, a significant source of vitamin K, helps maintain strong bones.

"Vitamin K makes proteins that cause your blood to clot," explains Thornton. "It helps your body make other proteins for your blood, bones and kidneys."

Green beans are also a strong source of iron. With 8.9 percent of the recommended daily value per serving, green beans have twice as much iron as spinach, according to The World's Healthiest Foods Web site at whfoods.org.

Tomatoes


Calories per 1-cup serving: 37

Total number of significant nutrients in one serving: 21 - including vitamin C, 57.3 percent of daily value; vitamin A, 22.4 percent daily value; vitamin K, 13.5 percent daily value; molybdenum, 12 percent daily value; potassium, 11.4 percent daily value; manganese, 9.5 percent daily value; dietary fiber, 7.9 percent daily value

One buzz word in the world of nutrition is lycopene, a pigment that gives red coloring to tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon. It is being studied as a super antioxidant that might help prevent prostate, lung, bladder, cervix and skin cancers, according to lycopene.org.

Once lycopene is in the human body, it is deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and in the skin.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, explains Tim Higgins, registered dietitian and clinical manager of nutrition for Washington County Hospital. Free radicals are charged atoms that can make cholesterol stick to blood vessel walls. The properties of free radicals are also associated with more severe asthma attacks and making arthritic joints more inflamed.

Antioxidants, found in lycopene and vitamins A, C and E, disarm these free radicals.

"Antioxidants are helpful against certain diseases," Thornton says.

Summer squash


Calories per 1-cup serving: 36

Total number of significant nutrients in one serving: 19 - including manganese, 19 percent daily value; vitamin C, 16.5 percent daily value; magnesium, 10.8 percent daily value; vitamin A, 10.3 percent daily value; dietary fiber, 10.1 percent daily value; potassium, 9.9 percent daily value; copper, 9.5 percent daily value; folate, 9 percent daily value

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