Veggies, fruits that are eater-friendly

March 18, 1998|By Phil Lempert | Phil Lempert,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Most of us have grown up with our parents exhorting us to "eat your fruits and vegetables -- they're good for you." Since 35 percent of all cancer deaths can be attributed to the typical American diet (too high in fats and too low in fiber), health authorities are encouraging consumers to reduce the risk of cancer by eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day as part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

And while all produce may be good for you, here are a few specific items that are readily available year-round, are relatively inexpensive and are particularly valuable from a nutritional standpoint.

A few things to keep in mind: Serving vegetables raw or steamed allows you to get the most nutrition for your money, because cooking can weaken or destroy some of the nutrients. And remember that when you start adding things like dressings and dips, you're going to significantly increase the fat content. Also, keep the menu varied when it comes to fruits and vegetables. As healthy as some produce might be, too much may lead to boredom.

* Broccoli packs a lot of punch, containing vitamins C (220 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance -- or RDA -- per serving) and A, beta-carotene, folate and fiber. Also present is vitamin E, iron and calcium. It also contains a compound called sulforaphane, shown to block the growth of breast tumors in mice. The highest levels of sulforaphane are found in the florets, and the best way to eat broccoli is raw.

* Sweet potatoes. When it comes to vitamin A, it's hard to beat a serving of sweet potatoes, with 440 percent of the RDA. One medium sweet potato also has 16 percent of the fiber you need for the day, or 4 grams, and 30 percent of the vitamin C. It's also a good source of potassium.

* Spinach. No question about it, Popeye was on to something. A 1 1/2 cup serving of spinach has 20 percent of the iron, 25 percent of the vitamin C, 70 percent of the vitamin A and 19 percent of the fiber you need every day. It's also a good source of folate.

* Carrots. There's a reason why you've heard that eating carrots is good for your eyes: One 7-inch carrot contains 270 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. It's also a good source of fiber and vitamin C.

* Bananas. Portable and delicious, bananas are rich in magnesium (which helps protect the circulatory system), as well as potassium. They're also a good source of pectin, which is a soluble fiber that keeps blood sugar levels stabilized.

* Kiwi. You may not know it, but just one, small, fuzzy kiwi contains more vitamin C than a medium-sized orange, or 250 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Kiwis are high in fiber and, contrary to what some people think, even the skins can be eaten.

* Prunes. OK, baby boomers, you can stop snickering. There's a reason why prunes have been a staple for the older set. They're high in fiber (3 grams per serving), potassium and beta-carotene -- and fat-free. And, of course, prune juice is great for regularity.

Here are a few suggestions from Kathy Means, vice president of the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, Del., on how to get the most for your money when shopping for produce:

* Watch the store ads for advertised items. This is your best guide to which produce is in season and, consequently, your best buys. Buy a mix of items -- some that keep well and some to eat right away.

* Check out produce carefully. Don't buy bruised or shriveled produce -- it won't last. Talk to your produce manager to determine how to store produce. Some items should be refrigerated; others should not.

* Use vegetables to help you save money by using them as extenders to your soups, stews, omelets and sandwiches. Compared to the per-pound cost of meats or cheeses, vegetables are cheap.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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