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Bivins: It’s spring time, time to go green for your health

Days are warmer. Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming, and bees are buzzing. Spring is in the air – it’s the perfect time to – go green. No not green as in earth friendly (though that’s important too) but green as in adding more green fruits and vegetables to your diet – green grapes, green apples, honeydew melon, green peas, avocado, spinach and asparagus. You get the picture.

What can green do for you?

Green fruits and vegetables are full are loaded with important vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folate, as well as fiber and phytochemicals.

Eating a diet rich in green produce can help…

• Reduce the risk of some types of cancer

• Maintain strong bones and teeth

• Promote vision health

      Challenge yourself to eat more fruits and veggies. Start with everyday favorites like green grapes, green beans and green apples. Then add a new fruit and vegetable to your shopping buggy every week. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Arugula

What it is? Arugula is a salad green that has a slight peppery flavor.

How to use it? Stir Arugula in to soup or pasta, toss it in a salad or use it in pesto.

Avocado

What it is? The buttery flesh of avocado has a slight nutty flavor. The most common varieties are the Hass (with dark bumpy skin) and the Fuerte (with smooth, thin, green skin).

How to use it:  Mash it to make guacamole, or slice/dice for a sandwich or salad. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice to prevent discoloring when exposed to air.

Broccolini

What it is: Broccolini looks like baby broccoli and is sold in bunches. It’s a cross between Chinese kale and broccoli.  The flavor of Broccolini is sweet and slightly peppery. Look for bright green stalks and flowerets with closed buds

How to use it: Broccolini stalks are tender and entirely edible, so enjoy them raw and with a dip.  Since they are so tender, they don’t take long to cook. Try sautéing, or roasting them at a high temperature for a few minutes.

Edamame

What it is?  Edamame is Japanese for green soybeans and is sold fresh or frozen.

How to use it? If purchased in the pod, remove the beans from the pod before eating.  Enjoy edamame as a snack, in a stir fry or tossed in a salad.

Kiwi fruit

What it is? Originally from China, commercial production of kiwi began in New Zealand where the fuzzy-skinned fruit was named after the national bird. Choose kiwi fruit that is soft enough to give slightly when pressed.

How to use it?  Slice it on both ends and peel the remaining skin with a knife or vegetable peeler. Slice or chop the fruit, a desired, and use it in fruit salad, salsa, sorbet or fruit pizza.

Leek

What it is: This vegetable looks like a big green scallion. When shopping for leeks make sure they are free from blemishes.

How to use it: Sometimes leeks have a gritty residue between their layers, so wash them thoroughly. Cut off the root end and the green stalks. Slice sleeks into rings or chop and use in stir-frys dishes, egg dishes, salads or vegetable casserole.   

Tomatillo

What it is: Also known as Mexican tomatoes, the tomatillo is enclosed in a delicate papery husk. Though it looks like a tomato, it tastes faintly like lemon or apple and herbs.

How to use it: Popular in Southwestern and Mexico cuisine, the tomatillo may be used raw or cooked in salads, guacamole, salsa, salads and sauces. It’s the key ingredients. Remember to go green – spring is in the air.

Source: Natalie Menza, MS RD: Fruits and Vegetables Matter