JEFF TIEDEMAN: Fruits and veggiesDon’t overlook ones that are rich in antioxidant flavonoids.
How familiar are you with the produce section in your local supermarket?
If you’re a stranger, there isn’t a better time than now — National Nutrition Month — to make that change.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines in 2010 recommended that vegetables and fruits make up half your plate. In fact, its new MyPlate icon, which replaced the old Food Pyramid, clearly depicts that.
But studies have shown that most Americans do not follow that advice. And that’s a shame, since a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and probably some cancers, as well as lowering the risk of eye and digestive problems and helping control blood sugar.
“A good place to start might be with food rich in flavonoids,” said Ellen Doebler, licensed registered dietitian with Altru Health Systems.
“Flavonoids are antioxidants,” she added, which fight destructive materials from damaging cells in your body. “And numerous studies show the importance of flavonoids in strengthening blood vessel walls and lowering bad cholesterol.”
What are flavonoids?
Flavonoids are found naturally in plants and are responsible for the brilliant shades of yellow, red and orange in fruits, vegetables, tea and even red wine. Food sources rich in flavonoids include apples, grapes, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes and grape-seed extract.
Even dark chocolate falls into this category, which I was happy to discover because of my appetite for it.
But Doebler said to beware that not all chocolate products are high in terms of flavonoid content. Darker chocolates in small portions are preferred.
Clearly, the meals we eat fit the new fruits and vegetables guidelines and often are rich in flavonoids.
For example, kale, a leafy green that studies have shown contain at least 45 different antioxidant flavonoids —including quercitin — has become a staple in Therese’s nightly salads, along with a spattering of iceberg and leaf lettuce. Researchers believe that this broad spectrum of flavonoid antioxidants is likely to be a key to kale’s cancer-preventive benefits.
(We discovered kale a couple of years ago and have included it in our garden ever since but depend on the supermarket or food co-op variety during winter.)
For those who think kale is too tough, simply give it a massage. Take bunches of it in both hands and squeeze. Then rub them together. And repeat. In just a couple of minutes, the kale’s tough cellulose structure breaks down, turning coarse and fibrous leaves silky.
Our gardening and canning also helps us get a good dose of flavonoids. Each summer, we freeze several vacuum-sealed bags of raspberries, which we use every couple of weeks as a topping for a bowl of morning oatmeal.
And I can’t forget to mention our canned tomatoes, juice and salsa.
But this doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around the supermarket produce aisle.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.