Good Nutrition Awaits at Local Farmers Markets

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If you want to increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables you eat, why not drop by a Catawba County farmers market and pick up some seasonal favorites? Soon, tender leafy greens, fresh strawberries, spring onions and more will be overflowing the bins at local farmers markets. You will find plenty of locally grown fresh produce loaded with healthy nutrients. As the season progresses, there will be even more healthy options.

Plant foods are rich in nutrients and naturally occurring substances that fight disease. Healthy fruits and vegetables provide antioxidant protection against dangerous free-radicals that are produced when your body uses oxygen. Free radicals can cause cell damage and lead to conditions like cancer and heart disease. The good news is that you can get disease-fighting antioxidants from fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K.

Sources of vitamin A include leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. You can get vitamin C from broccoli, cantaloupe, leafy greens, red bell peppers, and tomatoes. Leafy greens and tomatoes also provide immune boosting vitamin E. Vitamin K, found in leafy greens, controls bleeding by helping the blood to clot and works with vitamin D, to regulate calcium in the blood.

Melons and tomatoes are good sources of potassium. Potassium aids heart function and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. It’s great if you can get potassium from what you eat. Taking too many potassium supplements can lead to toxicity, so talk with your healthcare provider before you take potassium supplements to determine if you can get the potassium you need from the foods you eat.

Fiber is another reason to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. When you eat enough fruits and vegetables you can get the fiber you need to help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of gastrointestinal diseases and help you avoid constipation.

These are just a few of the many health benefits you get when you consume fruits and vegetables available at your local farmers markets. If you have not visited a farmers market because you are not sure how to prepare certain types of produce, don’t despair–we are working to provide some online recipes and information to help you. Soon you will be able to go to the Catawba County Extension website and click on the link to the “Cooking from the Farmers Market” page. You will find easy and tasty recipes–some of which have been offered for taste-testing at local markets with favorable comments from consumers. The page will be a work in progress so check back often for recipes and tips for preserving your farmers market finds for year-around enjoyment. Call the Catawba County Cooperative Extension if you have any questions about food, agriculture, or 4-H programming – 828-465-8240.