Editor’s note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life.
Seasonal produce doesn’t get much sweeter than during August. Some of the seasonal produce picks for August are oh-so flavorful and pack a nutritional punch. You want to include these fruits and vegetables in your next snack, meal or even drink.
Swiss chard is one of the green and leafiest of the leafy greens. One leaf, and it’s a big leaf, provides half of your daily vitamin A, a quarter of your vitamin C, five times your vitamin K and is also a good source of vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Try replacing the greens in your next salad with Swiss chard. Just remove the fibrous stem in the middle (save it to cook up later because it’s still very nutritious) and wash, chop, and toss the remainder of the leaf as you would other greens. Swiss chard is also great tossed into a green smoothie.
Bell peppers come in green, yellow, orange, and red. Did you know they’re all from the same plant? There is no red bell pepper plant or green bell pepper plant. Green is just the unripe pepper and red is fully ripe, with yellow and orange at intermediate stages.
Since they’re not ripe, green peppers have an earthier and slightly spicier flavor compared with red, orange, and yellow, which are comparatively sweeter. Less time on the vine also means lower cost but also fewer nutrients. Red peppers have eight times the vitamin A and twice the vitamin C of green peppers. In fact, red peppers have as roughly the same vitamin A content as a carrot and vitamin C as an orange.
This year we grew a special purple bell pepper plant at the community garden, but unlike green, yellow, orange and red, they are their own plant and are also very yummy.
Garlic has a more subtle approach to health than Swiss chard or bell peppers, though its flavor is anything but subtle. You won’t find a boast-worthy amount of essential vitamins and minerals in garlic, but you will find sulfur, the reason for its pungent flavor and odor.
While not essential nutrients, the sulfur compounds in garlic, allicin being the most well-known, have been associated with a host of benefits from cardiovascular health to improved attractiveness.
Peaches actually pair wonderfully with garlic as a savory chutney served over pork chops or even marinated in a garlic marinade and grilled. Venture outside your cobbler and pie comfort zone and experiment with this versatile fruit while it lasts.
Why eat peaches? Peaches contain a modest amount of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, but most importantly, they’re a rich source of antioxidant flavonoid, which may help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as support brain health. Plus, they’re soft, juicy, and delicious. I like fresh peaches sliced into homemade lemonade. Yum!
Like peaches, it’s the antioxidants in apples that likely provide the most benefit, rather than the vitamins and minerals. Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C, but the health benefits of apples are attributed primarily to polyphenols.
Benefits of eating apples include a reduced risk of cancer (esophageal, lung, larynx and colorectal) as well as the cardio-protective and even cognitive benefits (there’s promising evidence that apples might help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s). Most of the polyphenols are in the skin so include the skin and opt for the whole fruit (raw or cooked) rather than juice (cloudy juice may still offer benefits, though less than the whole fruit).
Apricots are on their way out of season but I thought I’d highlight them, too. Apricots are beautifully orange colored fruits full of beta-carotene and fiber that are one of the first signs of summer. Although dried and canned apricots are available year-round, fresh apricots with a plentiful supply of vitamin C and are in season in North America from May through August. Any fresh fruit you see during the winter months have been imported from either South America or New Zealand.
Relatives to peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavor as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum. Apricots are also a great source of many antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E. What’s more, they’re high in a group of polyphenol antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to protect against illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Which one is best? That’s easy. They’re all good. If you eat many different types of fruits and veggies, you’re sure to get all the different types of nutrients you need.
Sarah Patino is the Certified Nutrition Educator for Food Sense at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-277-2408 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.