The Biggest and Sweetest is NOT Always the Best When it Comes to Fruits and Vegetables

When compared with many foods, fruits and vegetables are unequivocally healthy. But look more closely and you’ll find a wide variation in how nutritious they are. This variation is given short shrift by most health campaigns, which focus on nudging people toward eating fruits and vegetables and less junk food, period. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details. I think most of us, including my 4-year-old, are adept at distinguishing between unhealthful junk food and the merits of fruits and vegetables. But we don’t give much thought to which types of fruits and vegetables (and which varieties) are most nutritious.

Tote of multiple varieties of cauliflower.

If you’re like me, you think just because something is a fruit or vegetable then you can eat as much of it as you want to. For instance, mandarins and super sweet corn, albeit a fruit and a vegetable, veer toward junk food in terms of sugar content. One medium mandarin has 9 grams of sugar, on par with one standard Reese’s cup, which contains 10 grams of sugar. One large white ear of corn contains just about as many carbohydrates (25 grams) as half of a bagel (27 grams). Granted, they do contain more fiber and nutrients than junk food.

Simple slogans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourage us to fill half of our plate with fruit and vegetables each meal (a little more vegetables than fruit). This gives us the idea that as long as we eat a certain amount of any fruit or vegetable at each meal, then we have our bases covered and will be healthy. Continue reading

Step Aside, Kale—Cauliflower is the New Favorite

First it was kale cupcakes, kale calzones and kale chips. That was then. Now it’s cauliflower pasta, cauliflower steaks and cauliflower pizza.

A head of green romanesco cauliflower shows off intricate geometric patterning.

There are many varieties of cauliflower – many of which grow well in Alaska. This is a Romanesco Cauliflower.

Why the cauliflower craze? When compared with kale, although not quite as nutritious, cauliflower is less overpowering both in taste and in texture. If you’ve ever added a cup of kale to make your smoothie just a little bit healthier, then you know what I mean. With a little help from a good blender or food processor, you can make cauliflower into a silky smooth, ricelike or a hearty texture, depending on what your dish requires.

The rise of cauliflower is also no doubt due to ubiquity of carb-limiting or eliminating diets. Cauliflower is bland and white — kind of like mashed potatoes, pancakes, biscuits, rice, pasta and pizza dough—all big no-nos in many diets today. Google to find the type of recipe you want. For example, search for “cauliflower rice.” My favorite ways to use cauliflower are cauliflower biscuits, creamed cauliflower cashew soup and birbal kee khitcheree, which is a fantastic Indian dish that unites one of my other favorite ingredients, lentils.

Another nice thing about cauliflower? You can fill up while limiting your calories and maximizing your nutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a big head of cauliflower is about 200 calories and contains 16 grams of protein and fiber. Notably, cauliflower is very high in potassium and also a great source of vitamin C (nearly as much as an orange) and folate. Continue reading