June may be known for warmer weather, vacations and summer vacations, but did you know that June is also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Fruits and vegetables are not only a great way to incorporate beautiful colors into our meals, but they are also an important part of a healthy and balanced diet and help us perform our day to day activities.
Many of us are familiar with the slogan, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and while this may not be entirely true, eating our fruits and vegetables does have many health benefits that can help us stay healthy. Overall, a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients including potassium, folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins A and C. A healthy well balanced diet including foods such as spinach, bananas and sweet potatoes, which contain potassium, can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Folate or folic acid aids in the formation of red blood cells and can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects during fetal development. Dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can aid in reducing cholesterol levels. Vitamin A plays a role in eye and skin health while both vitamin A and C can help boost the immune system and help fight against infections. Fruits and vegetables are also great to eat as a snack or a side as most are low in calories, sodium and fat. They add color to our meals making them more appealing to eat.
To celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable month try out these ideas:
• Build a garden — Whether you are growing a large garden with raised beds or working from small containers, planting and growing your own produce can help increase your consumption as this may increase your excitement to try new fruit and vegetables that you personally grew.
• Try new fruits and vegetables each week — Try to incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your meals. Crease a challenge among your family members to see who has tried the most variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Visit a farmer’s market — Taking a stroll at the farmer’s market can help you explore all the fresh produce that is available. Local farmers can also be a great source to learn about the benefits of their produce and they can help with ideas on how to cook them.
• Learn about path to the plate — Visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Path to the Plate website at pathtotheplate.tamu.edu to learn about making the connection between agriculture and health.
Visit dinnertonight.tamu.edu for a variety of healthy fruit and vegetable recipes that include Rosemary Vegetable Skewers.
Rosemary Vegetable Skewers
½ pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed
1 squash, sliced into ¼ to ½ inch rounds
1 zucchini, sliced into ¼ to ½ inch rounds
1 orange bell pepper, sliced into ¾ inch squares
4 ounce mushrooms, rinsed and wiped clean
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
Soak wooden skewers in water for 20 minutes.
Combine olive oil, lemon zest and juice and rosemary. Set aside
Heat oven broiler to high
Remove wooden skewers from water and begin to alternate threading tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell pepper and mushroom
Place vegetable skewers on rimmed baking sheet and brush with lemon-herb oil.
Place under broiler for 5 minutes. Remove and carefully flip skewers. Place bake in oven and broil another 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully watch vegetables under broiler to avoid burning.
Nutrition Facts: 1 skewer of vegetables: 50 calories, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2.5 g. fat, 5 mg. sodium.
Sources: Healthy South Texas; Choosemyplate.gov
Kathy Smith is a Parker County Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent.