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Beets nutrition information and benefits

Mighty Beets are Back…

Have you ever bought fresh beets? Beets are back ‘in-style’ and add much more to your plate than vivid color. If you have not heard about the health benefits of beets, keep reading…not a fan? Well, maybe that’s because you’ve never tried this hearty root vegetable FRESH. Try ’em the grown-up way (uncanned) and get ready to love a food you never thought you’d like. It’s easy to love fresh beets, and not just for their nutritional advantages. While we often think of beets having a reddish-purple hue, some varieties are white, golden-yellow or even rainbow colored. The sweet, buttery taste of beets reflects their high sugar content making them an important raw material for the production of refined sugar. In fact, they have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, yet are very low in calories.

Peak season for beets is June – October (when they are most tender) and are easy to prepare at home. Pass by blemished bulbs with wilted greens and look for healthier bulbs. You’ll find the prettiest beets at your local farmer’s market. By the way, don’t throw out those greens so fast! They are chock full of nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron and calcium. Greens can be sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Beets are rich in folate, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber and contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

Preparing Beets: Beet Recipe

Beets can be peeled, steamed, and eaten warm with butter as a delicacy; cooked, pickled, and eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and eaten as a salad. Pickled beets are a traditional food of the American South. It is also common in Australia for pickled beetroot to be consumed on a burger.

An increasingly popular preparation method is roasting beets. To roast beets, trim the greens away from the beets (leave about 1/4″), thoroughly clean beets with a veggie scrubber and place in a baking dish. Add 1/4″ of water to the dish. Cover. Place medium beets (4-6 oz) in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes (a little less or more time for smaller and larger beets, respectively). They’re done when a knife easily penetrates the beet. Allow to cool in the baking dish. Cut away the ends and slip off the skins. Roasted beets are wonderful on their own or dressed with a vinaigrette, and they’ll keep, refrigerated, for 5 days in a covered bowl.

Approx Nutritional Information: 1 roasted beet: 44 calories; Total fat: < 0.5 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 77 mg; Total carbohydrates 10.0 g; Dietary Fiber 2.0 g; Sugars 8.0 g; Protein 1.7 g.

Fig Nutrition Facts

Q: What is the succulent fruit of the ficus tree?
A: The fig of course!

The fig is actually not a fruit but a flower that has inverted itself, producing an edible, sweet, chewy, seed-filled flesh. If your only exposure to or taste of a fig is via a “newton,” (aka cookie) then you’re missing out on one of the world’s healthiest and tastiest fruits!

Cleopatra’s favorite fruit, the fig, originated in western Asia and is thought to have been introduced to the U.S. by a Spanish missionary in the late 1500’s. The nutritional benefits of figs are astounding. They are low in calories, delicious, a good source of dietary fiber and contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin B6 and manganese. They are rich in disease fighting phytochemicals (flavonoids and polyphenols).

A fig can be eaten both fresh and dried and are primarily grown in California (where they are known as ‘mission’ figs). There are over 100 varieties that vary in texture, color, flavor (slightly) and size.

Fig Calories, selection and preparation

One fresh fig (2.5″ in diameter or about 64 grams) provides only 47 calories, 0 g fat and 2 g dietary fiber. California varieties  are in season June through September. Beware: fresh figs are very perishable fruits (meaning they go bad fast). Purchase yours two days maximum before you plan to eat them. Choose figs that are plump and tender but not mushy, have firm stems and are bruise-free. Avoid figs that have a sour smell. Choose those with a mildly sweet scent.

Wash fresh figs before you eat or cook them under cool water. Gently remove stems before wiping them dry. You can simply pop dried figs right in your mouth, use fresh or dried figs in recipes (below) or simmer them in water/fruit juice for a few minutes to make them plump and juicy.

FIG RECIPE
Fig and Arugula Salad with Parmesan
Ingredients

2 Tbs minced shallots
1 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 fresh figs, each cut in half lengthwise
6 cups trimmed arugula (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup shaved (about 1 ounce) fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add figs; cover and let stand 20 minutes. Add arugula and pepper; toss well. Top with cheese. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Facts for Fig and Arugula Salad with Parmesan
(per serving): 152.7 calories; 32% calories from fat; 5.7 g total fat; 5.5 mg cholesterol; 253 mg sodium; 371 mg potassium; 24 g carbohydrates; 3.8 g fiber; 16.8 g sugar; 4.4 g protein.

Asparagus nutrition information and benefits

Did you know that the tender spears (of asparagus) were very popular in the royal households of 17th century France? Asparagus was believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac! Well now spring is here and you can enjoy this ‘in season’ fresh vegetable for its many benefits (aside from the above)! If you have tried asparagus and loved it, good for you. If not, perhaps you have eaten asparagus that was prepared incorrectly (under-seasoned and over-cooked), making it mushy and bland. At only four calories per spear, asparagus is a low-calorie vegetable packed with nutrients and disease-fighting compounds.

Asparagus: nutrition information

In addition to being low in calories, asparagus is a great source of the B-vitamin folate and a good source of both vitamins A and C. Five spears provides 20 calories, no fat and 110 micrograms (mcg) of folate, which meets 28% of the recommended Daily Value (DV). Optimal folate intake is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, making new cells and forming neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in the brain. Folate is also important for reducing your risk of developing heart disease. It controls the amount of homocysteine (an amino acid) in your bloodstream. When folate levels plummet in your system, homocysteine levels increase, causing damage to the delicate arteries which supply brain to your brain and heart. Keep in mind that folate is highly susceptible to destruction through cooking (heat, air, light) so cook your asparagus whole (briefly) and don’t submerge it in water.

Vitamins A and C are antioxidants. They protect cell membranes from damage and promote a healthy immune system. Vitamin A plays a role in the creation of new cells, reproduction, growth and development, promotes healthy eyesight among other functions. Vitamin C is needed to form collagen, a fibrous protein that acts like cement in your body, along with elastin it gives your tissues form and provides firmness and strength. Without these substances, your body would fall apart. One serving of asparagus, or five spears, meets 10% of the DV for vitamin A and 15% for vitamin C.

Asparagus contains a powerful compound which acts like an antioxidant, offering protection against cancer. It is called glutathione (a small protein). Like vitamins A and C, glutathione protects cells against free radical damage which can, at worst, lead to cancerous changes. In fact, in an analysis of nearly 40 green vegetables, fresh cooked asparagus came in #1 for glutathione content.

Asparagus selection and storage

Choose odorless asparagus with dry, tight or compact tips (most of the nutrients are in the tips!) versus loose, frayed tips. You can refrigerate fresh asparagus for up to four days. Simply wrap the ends of the stalks in a wet paper towel and placing the asparagus in a plastic bag. When preparing, remove the woody stalk or the point where it naturally ‘snaps’ off toward the bottom of the stalk. If they are very thick stalks, try using a vegetable peeler to remove some of the exterior and make it easier to find the woody part, which you can cut off with a knife.

Preparing flavorful asparagus

Never overcook your asparagus. It is best ‘al dente.’ Try grilling it or cooking it in a pan with a bit of oil (browning the sides). Make a orange-soy dressing or marinade with about 1 TB each of reduced-sodium soy sauce and fresh orange juice, 1/2 tsp each grated fresh ginger, orange rind and sesame oil. Toss it in the mixture before steaming, browning in a pan or grilling. Top with diced shallots, if desired.

Other varieties

When we think of asparagus in the U.S. we typically think of ‘green’ asparagus. White asparagus is not a different variety of asparagus but is grown using a different cultivation technique. It is more popular in Europe and tastes slightly less bitter than its green cousin. Purple asparagus, originally cultivated in Italy, is actaully a different variety and has more sugar and less dietary fiber than green asparagus.