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Jessica Cox is a Dietetic Intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She recently moved to Nashville from North Carolina, where she received her bachelor's degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Jessica plans to attend culinary school and enjoys cooking, exploring new restaurants, and hiking.

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H ealthy Table*

Spring into Healthy Eating: Strawberries and Greens
By Jessica Cox

As warm weather approaches, many Tennesseans eagerly await the time when the farmers' markets will be brimming with what is perhaps America's favorite berry, the strawberry. Sadly, the growing season for strawberries in Middle Tennessee is short, lasting only from May to June. The strawberry's short availability period coincides with the season for fresh, local greens, from April through June. Combining these two nutrition stars may seem a little strange at first, but it is well worth the venture.

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Did You Know?

The ancient Romans believed that strawberries had powerful healing properties to alleviate symptoms of depression, fainting, inflammation, fever, throat infections, kidney stones, bad breath, gout, and diseases of the blood, liver, and spleen.

Strawberries are a low-calorie, naturally sweet treat that are packed full of powerful antioxidants like vitamin C. One cup of sliced strawberries contains only 50 calories and 160 percent of your daily vitamin C! Antioxidants like vitamin C are an important part of a healthy diet because studies have shown that they help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Southern tradition links eating greens on New Year's Day to good luck in the coming year. Green leafy vegetables may not actually help you win the lottery, but they do supply many nutrients that may help keep you healthy in the coming year. Greens like mixed greens, collards, arugula, kale, and spinach are very low in calories. They also are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes eye and skin health, and prevents infections. A half cup of cooked collards or kale provides 150 to 180 percent of your daily vitamin A and less than 25 calories. If you prefer salad, just 2 cups of raw mixed greens, arugula, or spinach will supply at least half of your daily vitamin A and less than 20 calories. These greens are a great nutrition bang for your buck!

Local berries and greens are fresher and tastier than their distantly grown, year-round counterparts. Enjoying these spring superstars is an excellent way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most Americans need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they consume to reach the recommended amounts of 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables daily (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).

This spring, explore the many possibilities using strawberries and greens. Increase your fruit your fruit and vegetable intake while keeping calories low with creative options such as the recipe below.

Spinach-Asparagus Salad with Strawberry Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

1 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups spinach leaves, trimmed
1 pound asparagus spears, blanched and drained, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Directions

1. Combine strawberries, juice, vinegar, oil, honey and salt in blender or food processor. Pulse on and off; dressing should be slightly chunky. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Measure 2 cups spinach onto each of four plates. Top each with 1/4 of the asparagus and drizzle with about 1/3 cup dressing. Sprinkle with 1 tablepoon of the almonds.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 252 calories; 15 g fat (2 g sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 2333 g carbohydrates; 8 g protein; 7 g fiber; 200 mg sodium

Enjoy happy, healthy eating this spring with local strawberries and greens!

Find more recipes here.

For more information on the topics covered in this article, visit the following websites: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov; www.calstrawberry.com

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