From the desk of: Jessica Sisneros, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
ThinkstockPhotos-179077332It’s spring! Farmers markets are opening and these are great places to find a variety of local, seasonal produce, which flourishes now. Making room for these powerhouses in your everyday food choices is important for your health. A 2012 peer-reviewed analysis in Food and Chemical Toxicology states that approximately 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year if one-half of Americans were to increase their serving of fruits and vegetables by one serving per day. The recommended serving size for one serving of vegetables is equal to 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup of other vegetables or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice. The recommended serving size for one serving of fruit is 1 medium fruit (medium is defined as the size of a baseball), ½ cup chopped, cooked or canned fruit or ½ cup juice.

There are several reasons to take advantage of the fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market. This produce is the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen in the field and are brought directly to you—no long-distance shipping, no gassing to interrupt the ripening process, no sitting in storage for weeks. This is as real as it gets—fresh food from the garden.

One of the first delicacies of spring is fresh asparagus. In the southeast asparagus is in season from February to June. Fresh asparagus is usually bright green, although some markets may also sell purple or white varieties. The tips should be firm and tight, not mushy. When choosing your asparagus the stalk size is not an indicator of tenderness.

Eating asparagus is an excellent way to protect yourself against heart disease, as it contains folate, as well vitamins E, A, and C. In addition to helping your heart, folate helps cells regenerate; vitamin E provides antioxidant protection; and vitamins A and C prevent cancer. Asparagus also contains potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. Asparagus is an excellent low-calorie, high-fiber vegetable to add to your meals this spring. Other seasonal produce that can be found at the farmers market in May includes arugula, artichoke, beets, cabbage, garlic, green beans, peppers, onions, kale, lettuce, spinach and strawberries. Enjoy this bounty of fresh produce and stay well!

Roasted Asparagus from the Produce Lady 
1 lb. asparagus
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, Parmesan or other cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus and olive oil. Pour asparagus and oil into a nonstick pan, top with cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 4.
Nutrition Information Per Serving
75.1 Calories, Total Fat 6.9 g, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Sodium 1.3 mg, Total Carbohydrates 3.0 g, Dietary Fiber 1.4 g, Protein 1.5 g

Shop Local
Farmers markets are found throughout the country depending on growing seasons. To find a farmer’s market close to you, click here

Reference: Estimation of cancer risk and benefits associated with a potential increased consumption of fruits and vegetables (Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2012 December; V50: 4421-4427)