Becky Varner: Mix up a super salad to boost interest in veggies, fruits

Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables and fruits. These foods are major contributors of many vital nutrients including potassium, folate, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamins A, C and K. These nutrients are underconsumed by many people.
BY BECKY VARNER, For The Oklahoman Published: April 30, 2014
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Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables and fruits.

These foods are major contributors of many vital nutrients, including potassium, folate, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamins A, C and K, that are underconsumed by many people.

Plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans and grains, contain phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals.

These are naturally occurring components of plant-based foods and have potential health benefits.

Specific phytonutrients come from different plant sources, and each is believed to have unique effects and benefits for the body.

Scientists have identified many phytonutrients, but only a small number have been studied closely.

Researchers continue to investigate health benefits of phytonutrients and how they function in humans.

Most vegetables and fruits are low in fat, calories and sodium when they are prepared without added fat, sugar and salt. Enjoying them frequently instead of foods higher in calories is helpful for people needing to achieve a lower body weight.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, reports that the consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases. Moderate evidence indicates that an intake of at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits daily is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Some vegetables and fruits may protect against certain types of cancer.

Choosing a variety of types of salads more often is a great way to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits and the nutrients they contain. The specific nutrients in vegetables and fruits vary, and that is why it is important to get a wide variety of vegetables and fruits ranging in many colors.

Salads can be a great source of many nutrients that are vital for good health and can be served as main dishes or sides. Salad can be based on lettuce, cabbage, beans, peas, lentils, fruit, pasta or grain. For a heartier salad, add chicken, beef or seafood.

Build a better salad

Starting with a bed of greens provides a simple foundation. But the options are plentiful:

Arugula: an aromatic tender green that adds a sharp and peppery flavor to other salad greens.

Butterhead lettuces (Bibb, Boston, etc.): soft, tender and silky delicately flavored leaves.

Curly endive: a bitter flavored green with curly, chewy leaves — works well as an accent flavor in salads.

Escarole: a type of chicory with tender pale green leaves and somewhat of a bitter flavor.

Mesclun: a mixture of salad greens, including a variety of flavors, textures and colors — also called spring mix.

Radicchio: a purple- to red-color green with satiny leaves, a firm texture and bitter flavor.

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Healthy cooking classes

Becky Varner will teach healthy cooking classes featuring Mango, Strawberries and Soymilk Shake and Southwestern Wraps with Tofu at 9:30 a.m. May 6 at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell in Edmond; noon May 13 in the Buy For Less at 3501 Northwest Expressway and noon May 20 in the Midwest City Buy For Less at 10011 SE 15 St.

Class size is limited, call 302-6273, ext. 332, for reservations.

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