My Top 10 List of Summer Veggies

Summer Squash

Image by anslatadams via Flickr

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

It’s summertime. Well, almost. So below are my top 10 Arizona vegetables for summer. I’m going to make sure I either purchase at a local farmer’s market or grocery store. And, they’ll be in-season so they’ll be more reasonable in price.

1. Corn is one of the most popular vegetables, yellow sweet corn is a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Like most vegetables, it is also low in fat and contains no cholesterol. White corn is a little lower in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Sweet corn is very rich in vitamin B1, vitamin B5, vitamin C, phosphorus, manganese, folate and dietary fiber.

2.     Cucumbers taste refreshing perhaps because most of the weight of a cucumber comes from water.  While they’re not considered a nutrient dense vegetable, they contain calcium, potassium and vitamins A and K. The cucumber is also a source of slow-release energy and a powerful tool in your weight-loss program. An 85 gram serving of cucumber, about ¾ of a cup, has a mere 11 calories. It has virtually no fat, cholesterol or sodium. It has 2 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of sugar. Dieters can find much to love in the lean caloric profile of cucumber as few foods have fewer calories than the cucumber.

A favorite way to eat cucumbers in the summer is to slice them thin and put in a jar with white vinegar, slices of white onion and a little bit of salt and pepper. Then chill. They’re a great snack throughout the hot days of summer.

3.     Summer squash continues to gain popularity in home gardens and urban farms because it is easy to grow and comes in a wide variety of intriguing shapes, colors and sizes. It has a mild flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked. Its versatility in the kitchen includes use in salads, soups, casseroles, stuffing, breads, muffins, coleslaw or sauces. Dried herbs such as rosemary or basil help bring out the delicate flavor. One serving or ½ cup of raw summer squash provides 10 calories with zero calories from fat.

Of the nutrients listed on nutrition labels, where Percent Daily Values is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, the Percent Daily Value for total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium are all zero. One-half cup of squash provides 2 grams or 1% of the Daily Value for total carbohydrate and 1 gram or 2% of the Total Daily Value for dietary fiber. In addition, a serving of squash provides 15% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, according to the USDA.

4.     Sweet Onions are a favorite of my dad. He nearly eats one raw sweet onion a day. And for good reason, , of all the healthy benefits of onions, two elements stand out: sulfur (a compound) and quercetin (a flavonoid). They each have been shown to help neutralize the free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body’s cells from damage.

Quercetin, an antioxidant, is also found in red wine and tea, but in much lower quantities. Most health professionals recommend eating raw onions for maximum benefit, but cooking makes them more versatile and doesn’t significantly reduce their potency. In fact, unlike sulfur compounds, quercetin can withstand the heat of cooking.

Regarding your heart, as with garlic, onions help prevent thrombosis and reduce hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. The juice of one yellow or white onion a day can raise HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) by 30% over time, according to Dr. Victor Gurewich, director of the Tufts University Vascular Laboratory at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston.

5.     Tomatoes contain a variety of vitamins (A, C, B1, and B2), and carotene, protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fiber. Tomatoes also contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, boron and iodine and other minerals and trace elements. What I love about tomatoes is the variety of ways we can eat them: raw, cooked, sauces, and whatever creative way you come up with! What’s your favorite way to eat a tomato?

6.     Zucchini is also a summer squash and is versatile enough to single out. It can be used in pasta sauce, added it to a stir-fry or baked into sweet loaves of quick bread. You should eat zucchini with the rind attached whenever possible, since the rind contains much of the nutritional value. Because zucchini also has a high water content, it’s very low in calories. One medium (196 grams) raw zucchini with its skin on contains just 31 calories. That same zucchini contains 0 grams of fat and 0 mg of cholesterol. If you’re trying to cut down on calories, fat or cholesterol, zucchini is an excellent choice. One raw medium zucchini, including its skin, boasts 56% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C. It also delivers 11% of your daily value of vitamin K, 16% of riboflavin, 21% of vitamin B-6 and 14% of folate. Other vitamins present in lesser quantities include vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin and pantothenic acid.

7.     Green beans make me think of Grandma snapping off the ends of fresh green beans. Snap! Green beans, while quite low in calories, are loaded with nutrients and an excellent source of vitamin K, C, and A. The Vitamin K provided in green beans (a spectacular 122% of the recommended daily allowance in one cup) is important for maintaining strong bones.

8.     Okra reminds me of my mother. I’ll eat okra in just about any form and one of my favorites was when mom would powder diced okra with cornmeal and fry it up. Okra is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of protein, niacin, Iron, phosphorus, zinc and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Okra contains known anti-inflammatory nutrients, including Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Beta Carotene.

9.     Radishes don’t get much respect but they’re refreshing vegetable chilled and eaten as an appetizer. For the dieter, radishes contain high amounts of water and fiber and low levels of sodium and carbs. In addition, 1 cup of radishes has only 20 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. A 1-cup serving also provides almost as much potassium (270 mg) as you would find in a banana. Riboflavin, calcium, magnesium and folate help to round out the exceptional nutrition packed into a radish. Add some to a salad or eat them as a snack, and think about the health benefits you are providing your body.

10.     Chiles are one of my loves perhaps because I love hot food. Right off the bat, you know you’re going to get your vitamin C if you eat chilies. Chili peppers, despite their fiery “hotness” are one of very popular spices known for medicinal and health benefiting properties. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body protect from scurvy; develop resistance against infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

What are your favorite summer veggies? Of course, you can check out Fill Your Plate’s Seasonal Summer Chart to determine you own. It’s time to get cooking with our summer recipes too!

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2 Responses to My Top 10 List of Summer Veggies

  1. Pingback: 10 Amazing Things about Asparagus | Fill Your Plate Blog

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