Hello, February! Spring (hopefully) is just around the corner. As 2018 marches into the warmer months, the list of in-season fruits and veggies will be bursting with delicious, nutritious options. But, we don’t have to wait for the warm-weather harvests to partake of produce that will keep our quests to be fit on track.
In February, kale is in-season, lemons and limes are coming into season and papayas are approaching their sunset. To round out the list, I’ve added onions, garlic and bananas, which are ubiquitous enough to be in good form any time of the year. To see what the nutrients contained in these fit foods do for your health, refer to the list following this post.
These tropical superstars contain plenty of B vitamins, especially folate and pyridoxine. They also offer loads of vitamin C, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin.
The knock on bananas is they seemingly go from under-ripe to over-ripe in less than 24 hours. I see over-ripe bananas as a blessing in disguise. I mash them into whole wheat and oat muffin batter and fruit smoothies. My new favorite lunch is a shake made with plain, unsweetened kefir (8oz), natural peanut butter (2T), one over-ripe banana and a dash of raw honey.
This cruciferous vegetable prefers cool climates, making it an ideal source of nutrition throughout the winter months. And what a source it is! Here’s a list of nutrients kale contains in ample amounts: fiber, vitamins A, C, K and most of the B-complex; minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus; and phytonutrients carotenes, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane and zeaxanthin.
Young kale are tender enough to be eaten raw in salads. Mature leaves are fibrous and a little bitter, so some cooking is in order. They’re great sautéed or braised with garlic as a side dish or baked into yummy kale chips.
I’ve put these two citrus fruits together because they’re utilized similarly in cooking and have nearly the same nutrition profile. Lemons and limes have vitamin A, C and much of the B-complex and minerals copper and iron. They also contain several flavonoids, hesperetin and naringen.
Their juices and peels add acid (a natural tenderizer) and floral notes to any dish – from meats, to grains, to vegetables, to desserts. If you use the peel, or zest, be sure not to get any of the white pith directly underneath the peel. The pith is bitter and will overpower the sweet, citrusy zest.
Onions and garlic are actually considered herbs and are otherwise-known-as alliums. All alliums release the phytonutrient allicin when they’re squeezed, cut or crushed. Onions also contain much of the B vitamin complex, vitamin C, manganese and quercetin. While garlic offers vitamins B-6 and C; minerals calcium, copper, iron, manganese and selenium; and phytochemicals carotenes and zeaxanthin.
Onions come in many forms. Here are the most common onion varieties listed from most pungent to least: red/purple (Spanish), yellow, white/pearl, shallots, Cipollini, Vidalia (Georgia sweet), leeks, scallions (green), and chives.
This exotic, tropical fruit offers fiber, vitamins A and C, folate, magnesium, carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Sweet and juicy, their flavor is most similar to mango.
They’re nearing the end of their season, however. So, if you spot them in the produce section, grab a few before they’re gone.
Vitamin A: Antioxidant promotes immunity function and eye, skin & red blood cell health (fat-soluble)
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin): Aids in metabolism of carbohydrates
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Necessary for converting food to energy
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Necessary for generating energy for cells
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Metabolic necessity
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Necessary for blood health and to feel energized
Vitamin B-9 (Folate): Necessary for the creation of new blood cells & fetal development
Vitamin C: Antioxidant that boosts immunity
Vitamin K: Important in protein absorption for healthy blood and bones (fat-soluble)
Calcium: Electrolyte necessary for strong teeth and bones
Copper: Antioxidant promotes healthy blood and eye, brain, skin and bone tissue
Iron: Antioxidant necessary for blood health
Magnesium: Electrolyte for nerve function and heart & blood glucose regulation
Manganese: Antioxidant important in bone health and blood sugar regulation
Phosphorus: Promotes healthy bones, digestion and hormone regulation
Potassium: An electrolyte that assists in controlling blood pressure
Selenium: Antioxidant critical to DNA synthesis
Fiber: Technically not a nutrient but essential for digestive health & an aid in weight control
Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients: Powerful antioxidants found in small amounts in most plant-based foods. Over 25,000 individual phytonutrients have been identified thus far and many are sub-divided into categories such as phytoestrogens, carotenes and polyphenolics. The largest category of phytochemicals are known as flavonoids:
- Allicin: Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, lowers blood pressure
- Carotene (Alpha & Beta): convert to vitamin A; anti-aging & eye health
- Catechins: flavonoid showing anti-cancer promise
- Cryptoxanthin: anti-inflammatory carotene
- Epicatechin: flavonoid may lessen risk for heart disease, diabetes & cancer
- Flavonol: heart & respiratory anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Indole-3-Carbinol: anti-estrogen, cancer fighting properties
- Hesperidin: anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Lutein: carotene for eye health
- Naringenin: immune system regulating flavonoid
- Quercitin: heart & respiratory anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Resveratrol: anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Sulforaphane: anti-estrogen, cancer fighting properties
- Zeaxanthin: carotene for eye health
Sources: visualnews.com, wisebread.com, nutrition-and-you.com, Harvard.edu, webMD