Friday, January 25, 2008


Start the New Year right with seasonal fruits and vegetables

After all the holiday eating, most people are willing to scale down their calorie rich diets come January for foods that are more nutritious and contain less fat and sugar. So, what foods are both seasonal and are good choices to incorporate into your New Year’s Resolution Diet?

 The United States is one of the biggest producers of oranges in the world, despite the fact that their origin is South East Asia. There are three varieties of oranges: sweet, loose-skinned, and bitter. The sweet variety is best suited for eating and includes naval, Valencia, and blood oranges.

Many people have realized for years that oranges contain high levels of vitamin C (as much as 98 mg per large orange), which has been shown to protect against cancer and reduce the risk of cataracts based on some controlled studies (although more research is needed).

Eating oranges for their vitamin C content to treat the common cold has conflicting controlled studies, but oranges remain a healthy food nonetheless. They contain about 4 grams of fiber, over 300mg of potassium, and even have about 70mg of calcium (adults should consume 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium per day depending upon sex and age).

 Pears are cultivated and thrive in the northwestern United States, mainly Oregon and Washington, and were brought there by colonists in the 1800’s. Some varieties include Anjou, Red and Yellow Bartlett, and Bosc (the latter better for baking or cooking). Although pears do not contain as much vitamin C as oranges, they are still a good source of fiber (4 grams) and potassium (207mg), and have less than 100 calories per serving, making it an excellent snack choice.

 Carrots are particularly nutritious and can be excellent this time of year. Carrots are known predominantly for containing large amounts of vitamin A, and are subject to the folklore that the British Royal Air Force ate enormous amounts of these vegetables to avoid radar in World War II. While this tale cannot be validated, it does hold true in studies that vitamin A improves vision (if deficient in vitamin A) and can help fight certain skin disorders. Not enough research has been done to confirm that this micronutrient has anti-aging benefits.

 Leeks are another good January vegetable choice, this one belonging to the onion family. Speaking of folklore, Nero supposedly ate leeks to improve the quality of his singing voice (I tried this and it doesn’t work). Leeks have been called scallions on steroids, and are easily located in supermarkets between September and April. They should be stored in refrigeration and wrapped loosely in plastic wrap. Leeks do not have nearly the vitamin content of carrots, oranges, or pears – but they are low calorie and contain some fiber.

Filling up on seasonal fruits and vegetables are far more healthful choices ringing in the New Year, especially when compared to the foods some of us indulged in throughout the holidays.

Whitney Bundy is a registered dietitian and Director of the Food & Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Bundy and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

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