Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Incorporate these fresh, healthful spring foods into your meal plan to add variety and improve your overall health.  Many choices are available in frozen or canned forms to give you access to good-for-you ingredients all year long.  You’ll find nutritional information and smart tips for each fruit, vegetable, or source of protein.

 Artichokes If you’re looking for a healthful food that helps slow down your eating rate and provides a broad range of nutrients, try artichokes.  The trick is to keep dressings, sauces, and dips low in fat.  Consider the following:
–One large artichoke contains only 25 calories, no fat, and 170 mg of potassium.
–Artichokes are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, folate, and magnesium.
–Artichokes boast 10.3 grams of fiber in a 4-ounce serving.  This high fiber content helps with blood glucose management as well as maintaining digestive health, lowering blood cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, and preventing certain types of cancer.
–One medium artichoke contributes about 14 grams of carbohydrates.
–Artichoke hearts can be purchased fresh, frozen, canned, or jarred, with or without added seasonings.
 Halibut With a firm texture and mild taste, halibut often appeals to people who don’t like fish.  Plus, with lots of nutrients in a low-calorie package, halibut is a top choice for anyone.  Consider the following:
–At 158 calories for a 4-ounce serving, halibut is an excellent source of protein, minerals (selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium), and B vitamins (B12, niacin, and B6).
–Halibut is also a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids.  These acids are known for reducing the risk of blood clotting and providing anti-inflammatory effects linked to reducing such health risks as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
–As few as two servings of fish per week may help lower triglycerides to the preferred level.
–Halibut is available fresh from spring through mid-fall, but it can be found frozen all year long.
 Beets Brilliantly colored and highly nutritious, beets are heart- and diabetes-friendly root vegetables.  Unique pigment antioxidants in the root as well as greens offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke, lower cholesterol levels, and have anti-aging effects.  Consider the following:
–Beets are an especially important contributor of compounds that are beneficial to eye health and common age-related eye problems involving the macula and the retina.
–Beets are an excellent source of heart-healthy folate and the antioxidants maganese and potassium.
–Beets are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, copper, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus.
–A 1-cup serving of boiled beets contains about 75 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates, and close to 4 grams of fiber, making it an excellent side dish.
 Blueberries Packing flavor, fiber, and nutrition into a small, deep blue globe is what makes blueberries one of our top foods for spring.  Consider the following:
–Blueberries are a top source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, manganese, and vitamin C.
–With only about 80 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates per cup, blueberries fit perfectly into a diabetes-friendly nutrition plan.
–The extensive health benefits of blueberries include lowering risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as well as an association with improved memory and cognitive function.
–While blueberries are delicate and delicious when enjoyed raw in season, they are easily available year-round frozen and dried for snacking or adding to salads, smoothies, and baked goods.
 Strawberries Universally popular for flavor, color, aroma, and versatility, the strawberry is a fruit that makes it easy to meet needs for vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and other health-promoting antioxidants.  Consider the following:
–Strawberries are a dream food for those managing weight and diabetes.  A 1-cup serving of strawberries provides only 44 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates, and more than 3 grams of dietary fiber.
–While fresh strawberries are most abundant and tasty from April through July, it’s easy to find quality frozen unsweetened strawberries in most grocery stores year-round.
–Strawberries can be stored for two days without seeing a major loss of vitamin C and antioxidants.  However, they should not be washed until right before eating or using in a recipe.
 Peas Green peas make a terrific choice as part of a diabetes-, weight-, and heart-healthy diet.  Consider the following:
–A half-cup of green peas provides around 67 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of protein, counting as 1 carbohydrate exchange.
–Green peas provide several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients including vitamins C, E, and K, and a significant amount of the antioxidant mineral zinc.
–Green peas are also a great source of protein and fiber (about 8-10 grams per cup for each), which assists in regulating blood sugar and appetite.  That means peas are a good choice for people who are concerned about diabetes and weight management.
–95% of peas grown are sold frozen or canned, which means they are easily available year-round.  Check labels for “no salt added” indications.
 Radishes Even though radishes are usually eaten raw, they can also be added to cooked dishes or served whole.  The leaves are often discarded, but they too can be used as a highly nutritious and tasty addition to salad greens.  Consider the following:
–A half-cup of sliced radishes provides only 10 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrates, so they can fit into just about any diabetes, heart-healthy, and weight-management eating plan.
–Even though radishes are a root vegetable, their high water content makes them low in calories but high in fiber, potassium, folic acid, and vitamin C.
–Radishes and other root vegetables can help reduce risk for cardiovascular disease.
 Lamb Often considered a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, lamb is a meat associated with heart health and a lower risk of chronic diseases.  Consider the following:
–Half of the fat in lamb is the healthier unsaturated type, and most of this is monounsaturated.
–A 3-ounce serving of cooked lamb provides 30% of the recommended daily allowance for zinc, which is essential for growth, tissue repair, and immunity.  It also provides 17% of the RDA for iron, which is needed to form red blood cells.
–A 3-ounce serving of lean lamb provides 47% of the protein most people need in a day with typically less than 200 calories.
–Lamb is rich in B vitamins.  One serving can provide 74-100% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12, which many people lack as they get older.
 Asparagus As delicious as it is nutritious, asparagus is one of spring’s greatest gifts.  The nutrients in asparagus can help reduce risks for cancer, heart disease, and hypertension.  Consider the following:
–A 1-cup serving of cooked asparagus provides only 32 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates, along with 3 grams of fiber.  That makes this spring veggie a superbly nutritious addition to a diabetes-friendly meal.
–Asparagus is low in sodium and free of fat and cholesterol.
–A serving of asparagus provides 10% of the daily requirement of folate, 8% of dietary fiber and potassium, and 100% of vitamin C.
–Asparagus provides about 3 grams of dietary fiber per cup.  Risk of type 2 diabetes can be significantly lowered with greater intake of dietary fiber.
–Asparagus is regarded as the second-best whole food source of folic acid, after orange juice.  Folic acid is known to lower the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, liver disease, and spina bifida.
 Basil Fresh basil leaves make an amazing difference in the quality, taste, aroma, and nutrition of foods with which they are used.  Consider the following:
–Basil is a rich source of vitamin K, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C.  These nutrients are consistent with a heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly diet.
–Using herbs such as basil to season meals adds flavor without adding sodium, which helps control blood pressure.
–Fresh basil leaves should look vibrant and deep green, not wilted or spotted.  Store fresh basil in the refrigerator in a damp paper towel.  Add fresh basil at the end of cooking so flavor and aroma are preserved.