By Contributing Author: Sharon A. See
Here’s my list of go-to fresh foods to be found at the Monroe Farmers Market. The choices are so abundant this time of year that it was really hard to pick only ten. So I went with some of the ones that I eat most often and believe to have the most profound nutritional benefits. You’ll also find they are simple to prepare and some of the easiest to serve. Enjoy!
Beets are little powerhouses of daily essential nutrients and minerals like B vitamins, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and iron. They are also rich in nitrates which convert to circulation increasing compounds that can have a positive impact on blood pressure and heart health. And you can ditch that cleanse and instead make beets a staple in your diet. Compounds found in beets have been found to reduce accumulated fat in the liver which is your body's primary detoxifying organ. This can help improve liver function and increase detoxifying enzymes in the bloodstream.
Tomatoes are great cancer-fighting vegetables and contain all four major carotenoids which are antioxidant agents that have been shown to fight free radicals. Tomatoes are a prime example of the benefits of eating whole foods in their naturally occurring state. On their own, each of these carotenoids has proven health benefits. But the synergistic relationship between these compounds enhances the individual health benefit of each. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium which is a very important mineral that aids in fluid regulation in the body and can help keep you hydrated on hot summer days.
Spinach is one of the dark leafy greens full of essential minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. “Popeye the Sailor Man’s” go-to veggie contains muscle strengthening factor CO-Q10. CO-Q10 is often recommended for the health of the most important muscle in your body, your heart. Spinach is one of the most powerful vegetables for reducing inflammation throughout the body. Rich in folate and vitamin A it’s recommended to pregnant women to aid in the healthy development of both the lungs and nervous system of the growing fetus. Unlike many other summer vegetables, lightly cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits. This is because the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach.
Potatoes are relatively high in protein and prepared in a healthful way (not as French fries), are not the starchy demons that many fad diets make them out to be. In fact, the resistant starch found in potatoes boosts colon health due to its prebiotic properties. Potatoes, as are many other root vegetables, a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber. The potassium found in potatoes is more than you’d find in a banana and may help in preventing high blood pressure and stroke.
Garlic is known to be nature’s antibiotic. Raw garlic is rich in a sulfur compound called allicin. Allicin is a powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral agent that also is effective in eradicating parasites. Garlic’s health benefits have also been linked to improved cardiovascular and heart function and lower cholesterol. To take full advantage of all the health benefits of garlic consume both raw and cooked garlic. And garlic has some beauty benefits too! Garlic protects the skin from free radicals and slows down the depletion of collagen which leads to loss of elasticity in aging skin.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and a great source of roughage. The standard American diet of processed foods is sorely lacking fiber, the main benefit of roughage. High fiber foods like cabbage help the body retain beneficial fluids and can stave off constipation, stomach ulcers, and gastrointestinal cancers. Roughage deficiency may have a role in skin disease, eczema, and premature aging. As all cruciferous vegetables are, cabbage is a great source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These three minerals are essential to bone health. And the potassium in cabbage is also helpful in regulating blood pressure. Let's not forget about the "forgotten vitamin", Vitamin K. Vitamin K along with the anthocyanins found in cabbage is powerful brain food!
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet containing a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. Most notably they are a complete protein and an excellent source of healthy fats. There was a time when eggs were vilified and said to cause high cholesterol and be a leading contributor to heart disease. We now know better and understand that eggs are a simple, inexpensive and low-calorie way to get high-quality protein and some really important good fats into your diet. And it's worth noting that research has shown the good fats found in eggs can actually help to eliminate or lower levels of bad cholesterol in the body. At around 60-75 calories each with 6-7 grams of protein (depending on the size of the egg) a hard boiled or poached egg is hands down the best way to get a good dose of hunger-satisfying protein and other important vitamins and minerals.
Kale has rightfully earned the ‘super food’ distinction. It’s one of the most nutrient dense foods you can find. Kale is absolutely loaded with powerful antioxidants, it’s an excellent source of vitamin C, is the best source of vitamin K, is high in beta-carotene, and has been shown to contain substances that work with the digestive system to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol. It’s a member of the cabbage family and has many of the same digestive health benefits of cabbage. Pound for pound kale is more nutrient dense and low in fat and calories than most any other food. Adding more kale to your diet is a great way to crowd out nutrient poor, high-calorie foods.
Watermelon and summer just go together, and for good reason. Watermelon can help you stay hydrated on hot summer days. Watermelon has a high water content combined with fiber which helps to regulate body fluids. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium and many of the B vitamins. It's also rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. Watermelon contains the amino acid citrulline. The body converts citrulline into a compound that helps to lower blood pressure. And, new studies have shown that other compounds in watermelon can aid in relieving muscle soreness.
Berries are so versatile and great sources of nutrition. One of the best things about berries is their natural sweetness which means you don’t need to add much sugar or other sweeteners to make them taste good. You can have berries at just about every meal and snack. In your morning smoothie, yogurt or cereal, add them to your salad at lunch, snack on them in the afternoon, and then serve a bowl of berries with a dollop of whipped cream for a dinner time dessert. Berries are loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory compounds, and antibacterial compounds. Raw berries are much more beneficial than cooked as heat damages some of these compounds.
This list is just a small sample of the abundance of nutrient-rich foods to be found this time of year at the Monroe Farmers Market. If you live outside the Monroe area, visit a farmers market in your area and get to know your local farmers and what they have for you.
About Sharon A. See
I welcome your feedback. If you have a farmers market or healthy eating related topic you'd like to hear more about or questions you'd like answered, please feel free to let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon A. See
Certified Holistic Health Coach
You can find me and other interesting articles, resources, and recipes on my website at www.vitalizedwellness.com.
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The Monroe Farmers' Market is open June–October and offers fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and hand-crafted specialty foods to Connecticut locals.