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A Dietitian's Playground: The Many Benefits of Farmers' Market Produce

06.08.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN

You may have noticed farmers' markets popping up in your neighborhood as we head into summer. These markets are an essential part of eating a clean diet and can be easily worked into your food shopping routine! You can read more on eating "clean" by checking out one of my past blog posts, titled Spring Clean Your Diet!

Caitlin Fields, a senior dietetic student at the University of Maryland with a passion for farmers' markets, offers the benefits of visiting Farmers Markets and ways to use the fresh produce once you get home.

Summer farmers' markets are a great place to find fresh, affordable and locally grown produce. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are natural, whole foods that provide highly beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Buying produce at farmers' markets is not only good for you, it’s good for your community too. Farmers' markets provide fresh foods direct from farmer to consumer without corporate intermediaries, which helps to boost local economies and strengthen regional food systems. Farmers' markets can also be a great place to buy locally-sourced and organic meats, eggs, dairy, and baked goods.

While many farmers markets are open year-round, the best produce selections can be found in the summer and early fall. The following outlines some nutritional benefits and preparation tips for a few of this season’s local fruit and vegetables:

Asparagus
This spring and early summer vegetable is low calorie and a good source of folate, thiamine, and vitamins A, B6, C and K. Asparagus can be expensive to buy in the store, but tends to be more affordable when purchased locally and in-season.

Preparation tip: Toss asparagus with olive oil and roast in the oven at 400°, stirring occasionally until tender (about 15 minutes). Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice before serving.

Strawberries
An excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Also a good source of folate, B-complex vitamins, phytochemicals, and manganese. Get your fresh strawberries soon, though. Strawberries are only seasonal here from May-June.

Rhubarb
Low-calorie and rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. A half cup of raw rhubarb contains 52 milligrams of calcium (roughly 1/3 of what is found in a half cup of milk).

Hint: Strawberries and rhubarb are great paired together! Try this recipe for vegan strawberry-rhubarb muffins.

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
Adapted from:
http://www.thekitchn.com/strawberry-rhubarb-muffins-fro-148097

Ingredients
● 1 cup vanilla soy milk
● 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
● 1/3 cup sugar
● 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
● 1/4 cup canola oil
● 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
● 1 1/2 cups finely diced fresh rhubarb
● 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
● 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
● 1 cup all-purpose flour
● 1 teaspoon baking powder
● 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
● 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
● 1/2 teaspoon salt

Oat topping:
● 3 tablespoons rolled oats
● 3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar

Preparation: Preheat oven to 400°. Grease muffin tins or line with cupcake liners, and then set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the vanilla soy milk, vinegar, sugars, oil and vanilla, stirring until mixed. In another bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt. Mix in the rhubarb and strawberries into the dry mixture, tossing to coat the produce with a light dusting of flour mixture. This helps the fruit stay at the center of the muffin, instead of sinking to the bottom. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Distribute the batter evenly into the muffin tins and top them with a sprinkle of the oat topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then turn the muffins out onto a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Kale
Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. This superfood is high in fiber and loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. Kale's antioxidant powers have been associated with reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of cancer.

Incredibly Easy Kale Chips
Adapted from
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/crispy-kale-chips-recipe/index.html

Ingredients:
● 1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
● 2 tablespoons olive oil
● Sea salt, for sprinkling

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into 2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.

More resources to get the most out of your farmers' market:

What's in Season
Top 10 Reasons to Shop at a Farmers Market
Functional Food Fact Sheet: Antioxidants
30 Ways to Stretch Your Fruit and Vegetable Budget

Tips on Choosing Produce and Keeping it Fresh
Freezing Fruits & Vegetables
What's Fresh Near You?
To find a Farmers Market near you, Click Here

Thanks Caitlin for giving us the tools and the motivation to head out to the local Farmers Market!

Make it a Healthy Week!
Jane

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