March is National Nutrition Month®
Celebrate a World of Flavors is the theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month®. This global emphasis highlights how we have come to enjoy various ethnic foods and flavors from around the world. Food is truly a universal language! This is a great opportunity to take a look at a few examples of healthy fruits and vegetables grown around the world.
Foods Around the World – A visit to All Seven Continents
Below are a few examples of fruits and vegetables grown in North America, including a reference to the leading location for production.
Apples (Washington State)
- An apple a day may help you to breathe easier! Apples have unique flavonoid compounds that keep your lungs healthy. Apples are also rich in fiber and many other healthy plant chemicals. Be sure to eat the skin, since that’s where a lot of the good stuff resides!
Blueberries are native to North America and the United States leads the world in blueberry production. Did you know that colors are good for you? The pigment that makes blueberries blue – anthocyanin – is also a powerful antioxidant that keeps your cells healthy.
- Potatoes are nutritional super-heroes, as long as they don’t hang out in deep-fat fryers! In their whole, unprocessed, unpeeled form, potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.
Vidalia Onions (Georgia)
- Ahhhh – nothing like the aroma of a freshly-cut onion! The sulfur-compounds that give onions their distinct odor are a rich source of many health-promoting chemicals that lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer.
- Sweet and crunchy, this unique tuber is low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber. It is sometimes called a “Mexican Potato.” Peel, cut up in strips and dip in a yogurt based dressing. You can also peel, grate it up and use it as a crunchy salad topper.
- Plantains look like bananas but are starchy and are eaten cooked, not raw. Green plantains are more starchy (like a potato) while ripe (black) plantains are higher in sugar and make a sweeter side dish. When you are active, your muscles need extra potassium. Plantains are a rich source of potassium, a mineral which also helps regulate your heart beat and aids your muscles and nerves. Plantains also provide plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and fiber.
- This tropical fruit is a favorite for breakfast in Brazil. The papaya has peach-colored flesh and a big mound of dark seeds. Some people like to save the peppery-flavored seeds and use them in salad dressings and other foods.
Papaya is loaded with vitamin C and is also a good source of folate, fiber, potassium, and vitamin A.
- Can you say chai-YO-teh? This squash is the color of a Granny Smith apple, and is shaped like a wrinkled pear. The flavor has been described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber. Chayote squash can be sliced and used raw in salads or cooked like a summer squash. Chayote squash is an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin needed for healthy blood cells and cell division.
- Asparagus (spargel) is extremely popular in Deutschland. During the asparagus season known as Spargelzeit (May-June), it can be found on the menu at virtually all German restaurants. Green or white, asparagus packs a nutritional punch. Super charged in cell-building folate, asparagus also contributes a healthy dose of potassium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and thiamin to the diet.
- While Italy leads the world in grape production, there is evidence that grapes were cultivated in Iran around 6000 B.C. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depict the cultivation of grapes around 3000 B.C. Most of the antioxidants are packed into the skin. Red grapes are best known for their high content of the plant chemical resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that helps keep our heart healthy.
- Most apricots are enjoyed in their dried form with fresh apricots available in the summer months. Malatya, the major apricot-producing city in Turkey, is known as the “World Capital of Dried Apricots”. Dried apricots provide a number of key nutrients, including vitamin A, fiber, potassium, iron, copper and vitamin E.
- Yams are a major staple food in much of Africa. If you are confused about yams and sweet potatoes, you are not alone! A yam is not the same thing as a sweet potato or any kind of potato. True yams are not commonly found in the U.S. Yams are much larger than sweet potatoes, are more starchy and dry, and contribute different nutrients to the diet. African yams are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
Okra originated in Ethiopia. It was eventually introduced to the U.S. by the French colonists of Louisiana in the early 1700’s. Also known as gumbo, it continues to be a popular ingredient in U.S. Southern cooking. Okra is a nutrient powerhouse! Most notable is manganese, a mineral important for metabolism, bone development, and wound healing. A serving of okra also packs plenty of fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, folate, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
- Watermelons are thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert, which covers 70% of Botswana, and parts of Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest (depicted in hieroglyphics) occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. This water-filled delicious melon is thankfully grown around the world. Watermelon is low in calories, rich in flavor, and high in vitamins A and C.
- Mangos originated in Southeast Asia and India, where references to the fruit are documented in Hindu writings dating back to 4000 B.C. Today, mangos are grown in many tropical climates, with the U.S. getting mangos primarily from Mexico and South America. Mangos are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and are loaded with more than 20 essential nutrients.
Yard-long bean (China)
- Now that’s a long bean! Actually, most “yard-long” beans are harvested when they are only half that size, about 18 inches. Also known as “asparagus beans,” many North American gardeners are now planting these vines in their yards. The yard-long bean can be chopped up and cooked in stir-fries, sautéed in oil, or even added to omelets. Yard-long beans are rich in folate, potassium, and fiber.
Kumquat (Japan, China)
- The Nagami kumquat was introduced into Florida from Japan in 1885 and has been grown commercially in the U.S. “Kumquat Capitol,” – Saint Joseph, Florida – since 1895. The kumquat is a one-of-a-kind little citrus fruit. The skin is actually sweeter than the inside pulp so go ahead and eat the whole thing. One tiny kumquat has just 13 calories but delivers a good dose of fiber and vitamin C.
Kiwifruit (New Zealand)
- A “Kiwi” is a flightless bird that serves as the national symbol for New Zealand. “Kiwi” is also a nickname for the people who live in New Zealand. That is why New Zealanders call the fruit a “kiwifruit.” The fruit originated in China and is also known as a “Chinese Gooseberry.” Kiwifruit from New Zealand comes in both the fuzzy green variety and also a golden variety that sports a smooth skin. Kiwifruit is rich in fiber and high in vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, potassium, copper and many other nutrients. Kiwifruit also contains the plant chemical lutein, which is important for maintaining eye health.
- Warrigal Greens are an example of “Bush Tucker” or bush foods, which are plants native to Australia. Warrigal greens are a ground cover and the leaves can be substituted for spinach in cooked dishes. Warrigal greens are not eaten raw like spinach, though. They are blanched (quickly boiled) before using the greens in recipes. Warrigal Greens are also known as “New Zealand Spinach” and the seeds are available to gardeners in the U.S. Warrigal Greens are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C.
This is a tough one since food production is a challenge in this harsh climate. But there are greenhouses that supply fresh produce for scientists and explorers. One example is the Eden-ISS, a farm which exists inside a climate-controlled shipping container!