“Variety is the spice of life,” wrote William Cowper, so why do we lack it at home in the fruit and vegetable department? I mean, growing up, my family standbys were broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. Nowadays, throw in the likes of a pomelo, maybe a rambutan, and let’s not forget those great shiitake mushrooms! See, my curiosity always got the best of me, so I read and educated myself on a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including their uses, availability, and most importantly, their nutritional value. So, as time moved on, I wanted to share what I learned, so I made it my mission to inform people in any way I could just how very valuable veggies are to their health and well-being.
A customer’s stroll through the produce aisle should be one of wonder and education, not the usual grab of the familiar. I always recommend eating through the colors of the rainbow when selecting what to eat. Each color is indicative of specific nutrients/vitamins that are abundant in that particular vegetable or fruit. Why do doctors recommend drinking orange juice? We know it is because of the Vitamin C, which may help fight off colds. The color orange lets you know that it has Vitamin C in it. But what about all those other orange and bright yellow produce options? They are just as good if not better. How about the same old green lettuce you may buy? Why not try the red one or a mixture of the two? The red indicates that there is some lycopene in the leaves that may help with overall heart health. The possibilities and color combinations are plentiful when you really think about it. How about those mushrooms? Did you know that oyster mushrooms are a natural source of statins, which help lower cholesterol, and the shiitake mushroom is known its anti-tumor properties? Food for thought.
Another question I like to think about as I shop for veggies is their source. How far away was this grown? Can I get it at this time of year locally, or, if not, is there a local business that I can support that may carry it? These questions help me make good choices that will allow everyone along the vegetable’s path from seed to table to benefit. I would gladly pay a little more for something grown 100 feet from where I am standing versus a beautiful looking product grown and shipped from 3000-6000+ miles away. Yes, it may be cheaper sometimes and even more attractive, but to me the closer it is the better it is for everyone.
At this time, I think a quick recap is in order. First, I selected the colorful vegetables I wanted. I then checked to see how close to home I could get them, and now I raise the last question of how they were grown, organically or conventionally. In regards to organics, I always to try buy the organic versions of items I eat the most. The benefit of “organic” can be shown through this example. Let’s say we have two potatoes, one grown organically and the other not. The organic one has to be “strong” against the bugs, parasites, and other invaders that try to hurt it. There is no backup or cavalry coming, so when you ingest the organic potato, all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are “strong” as well, which in turn make you “strong.” The conventional potato does not have to build up strength because the chemicals provide all of that for it. So, when you eat this potato, it is much less nutritionally dense than the organic one. For the record, I am no expert; I am just passing along what I read.
In closing, I hope that by my sharing some questions I ask myself, you may think about trying some new things when you are out and about in the produce section. Choices can be overwhelming at times, so just start out with small changes. Be sure to always ask questions if you have them and remember, “A man is what he eats.” -Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach.
Edward Farrace II, Co-op Produce Consultant