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From the Garden: Cooked, Raw, or Preserved?


Firmly into the growing season, your gardens should be amazingly colorful and so are your local farmer's markets. As you get to chowing down on your favorite fruits and veggies, think about how you prepare them to get the most nutrients.

Preparing Fruits and Veggies

To keep the most nutrients when cooking your fruits and veggies, steaming and microwaving do the best job. Cooking produce at a low heat and with small amounts of water also helps keep nutrients. (Water-soluble nutrients, like vitamin C, may get lost in cooking water.)

Since cooking can mean the loss of some nutrients, you might start to think that eating foods raw would give you the most nutrients. Surprisingly though, some nutrients, such as vitamin A and iron, are actually more easily gotten out of and absorbed by our bodies when coming from cooked foods, a term called bioavailability.

More of lycopene – a red pigment in foods like tomatoes and cherries – is absorbed by the body when coming from cooked foods, liked tomato sauce rather than fresh tomatoes. Some research suggests lycopene benefits heart health.

So, we come back to this idea again: get nutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables, both cooked and raw. Keep reading future posts to learn more about preparing produce and getting the best value when shopping.

Resource: University of Florida Extension, Eating Defensively: The Nutrition and Food Safety Benefits of Cooked Produce, 2013

Garden Out of Control?

If you planted just a bit too much in your garden this summer – and your family and neighbors are sick of taking the excess – or you want to save your hard work, consider food preservation.

I have been talking about different forms of food in this blog – fresh, frozen, canned, and dried – and you can do it too.

Recipe Corner

Need an easy summer dip recipe for summer get-togethers using your garden produce? What is better than fresh-made salsa!

Fresh Salsa with Blue Corn Chips (serves 8)

Blue corn chips are a fun twist on yellow corn chips and add a pop of color to this classic salsa. Most blue corn chips in the store will be fried in oil. That unsaturated fat will help absorb more of the lycopene and vitamin A in the salsa, even though it is not cooked.

If you use a jalapeno or another hot pepper, wear disposable gloves and avoid touching your eyes! The flesh and seeds can irritate and burn skin and eyes.

4-5 medium tomatoes, quartered and seeded
1/2 medium onion, thickly sliced
1/2 medium bell pepper (any color), chopped
1 small jalapeno (optional), seeded and chopped*
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (1 Tbsp dried cilantro)
Blue corn chips

1. Place all ingredients in a large food processor.
2. Pulse until combined and at desired consistency.
3. Serve with chips.

*May substitute with mild green chilies

Variation: Cut all ingredients to desired size and mix in a bowl until combined. No need for a food processor!

Nutritional analysis per serving (without blue corn chips): 15 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein

"Read More" Resources

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Check out more information on tomatoes through the University of Illinois Extension. Besides information on nutrition and preparation, learn to grow your own!

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: To see how many fruits and vegetables you need each day, check out the Fruits and Vegetables sections of ChooseMyPlate.

FOOD PRESERVATION RESOURCE: National Center for Home Food Preservation

*Zucchini and sweet and hot pepper photo credits to University of Illinois Extension, Beth Peralta*

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.



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