NATURE’S PRODUCE POWERHOUSES
Four fruits and veggies that you and your kids can’t afford to do without
September 28, 2009 – Mississauga, ON – It’s no secret that we all need well-balanced, nutritious foods
for optimum health. Incorporating this good intention into our daily diets can seem daunting, but four
versatile produce powerhouses – kale, sweet potato, spinach and strawberries – boast outstanding health
benefits (and great taste) that can put parents and kids alike on the fast track to feeling great at any age.
Liz Pearson, bestselling author, registered dietitian and founder of The Pearson Institute of Nutrition,
explains the virtues of these four fruits and vegetables and shares tips on ways that on-the-go families can
get the most out of these nutrient-packed foods.
KALE: The most nutrient dense vegetable you can eat
“Kale has been called one of the world’s healthiest vegetables for good reason. Based on research from
the University of Washington, it is the most nutrient dense vegetable you can eat,” says Ms. Pearson. “A
daily serving of kale, or other dark leafy greens, helps you meet your needs for many essential vitamins
If you’re looking for a cancer fighting superstar, make room in your diet for cruciferous
vegetables like kale. These vegetables are linked to a lower risk of the most common cancers,
including breast, prostate, and lung cancer. They contain plant compounds that help detoxify
substances that cause cancer before they damage body cells.
Kale is an exceptional source of vitamin K, a disease-fighting nutrient most people don’t get
enough of. Vitamin K is especially important for the health of your bones and arteries. Kale is
also rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Kale is good for eye health. It’s an exceptional source of lutein and zeaxanthin – two nutrients
linked to a lower risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading cause of adult
Did you know? In Japan, kale juice, also known as aojiru, is considered a miracle drink for health. In
research from Yonsei University, men at high risk for heart disease who drank one glass daily significantly
increased their intake of antioxidants and also lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol.
SWEET POTATO: A goldmine of nutrition
“When it comes to fruits and vegetables, colour is a great indicator of nutritional value,” says Ms.
Pearson. “The deep orange flesh of a sweet potato tells you it is a goldmine of nutrition.”
Sweet potatoes are low in fat and contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre. In
particular, they are an exceptional source of beta-carotene - an antioxidant that is important for
eye health and may reduce your risk of cancer.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating one dark green and one orange vegetable, like sweet
potatoes, each day. Orange vegetables are essential for the vitamin A (often found in the form of
beta-carotene) they provide.
Most people know that too much sodium from foods can increase blood pressure. What many
people don’t realize, however, is that boosting potassium intake can significantly lower blood
pressure, as it has the opposite effect to sodium. Potassium is also a nutrient very few people get
enough of – sweet potatoes are one of the most potassium-rich foods you can eat.
Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic score, so your blood sugar rises only
about half as much after eating a sweet potato as it does when you eat a white potato. In
addition to controlling your blood sugar, eating foods with a low glycemic index may help you
control your appetite and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Did you know? People who live in Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan, are known to have among
the longest life expectancies in the world. They regard “food as medicine”. The sweet potato is a very
significant and regular part of the Okinawan eating plan, along with soy foods, fish, green tea and
SPINACH: Nature’s nutritional powerhouse
“Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse and disease-fighting superstar,” Ms. Pearson says. “Cornell
University researchers put spinach at the top of the list as the vegetable we should eat more often based
on its exceptional antioxidant profile and ability to suppress cancer.”
Compared to iceberg lettuce, spinach contains four times more potassium, seven times more
folate, 11 times more magnesium and vitamin E, and 18 times more vitamin A.
Research from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging shows that spinach has the
potential to slow down or even reverse declines in cognition (the ability to think, learn and
remember) that occur with age.
Did you know? The traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with among the lowest rates of heart
disease and cancer in the world. A cornerstone of the traditional diet is dark leafy greens, including
spinach. In fact, people who lived on the Greek island of Crete were nicknamed "mangifolia," which
means "leaf-eaters," because they consumed so many dark leafy greens, foraged from the steep hillsides
of the island.
STRAWBERRIES: Nature’s perfect fast food
“Strawberries are among the most antioxidant rich food you can eat,” says Ms. Pearson. “The antioxidants
they contain help prevent damage to cells that lead to disease like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
They’re also an excellent source of vitamin C – just one cup exceeds your recommended intake for the
Harvard researchers have found that eating two servings of strawberries each week may reduce
your risk of heart disease or stroke by reducing compounds associated with inflammation of the
blood vessel wall.
In a study by the Clinical Nutrition & Risk Factor Modification Center in Toronto, strawberries
were also found to help prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the unhealthy or bad cholesterol in
your blood) – when LDL becomes oxidized it is more likely to be deposited along arteries walls.
For a healthy heart, eat strawberries.
In a study from the University of California, valuable plant compounds found in strawberries
called phenolics were found to inhibit oral, prostate and colon cancer cells in the lab.
Researchers concluded that this work adds to the growing body of data showing that berry
phenolics have a potential impact on human health.
Did you know? In the 13th century, strawberries were known more for their medicinal value than as a
delicious fruit for consumption. Belgium even maintains an exclusive strawberry museum to educate
visitors about the use and medicinal value of strawberries – which actually belongs to the rose family.
Delicious recipes featuring Kale, Sweet Potato, Spinach and Strawberries
Here are some delicious and health-conscious recipes featuring these four extraordinary fruits and
vegetables, developed by Go South! Fresh from the Southern U.S.
Kale and Sweet Potato Soup: Velvety smooth and rich in texture, this soup will deceive you – full,
comfort-food flavour and not an ounce of cream! Naturally creamy, sweet potatoes beautifully
balance the bitterness of kale in this family friendly, all-season soup.
Warm Sweet Potato and Kale Salad: Crunchy kale is often overlooked as a primary green to feature
raw in salads. Change minds with this warm sweet potato and kale salad. A tangy vinaigrette of red
wine vinegar balances the bitterness of kale and the sweetness of sweet potato for a delicious warm
salad that can be served on its own or with fish or poultry.
Sweet Potato Salmon Cakes: Imagine a fresh, crispy salad of greens, a cold beverage and these easy-
to-make, nutrient dense sweet potato and salmon cakes. Sweet onion and tangy dill pickle
complement the sweet, natural creaminess of the cakes, which are deliciously crisped to appeal to
children as well.
Spinach Guacamole Quesadillas: A kid-friendly weeknight meal is only 15 minutes away with these
tasty quesadillas. Antioxidant-rich spinach and avocado make up a hearty filling, folded between high
fibre whole grain tortillas. Spice up your quesadillas by adding Jalapeno peppers for little bit of a kick.
Spinach & Strawberry Smoothie: Don’t let the name or colour scare you off ... this super healthy
smoothie bursts with the full, fruity flavours of strawberry and banana, but with the added nutrition
of spinach! Perfect for an on-the-go breakfast or afternoon boost.
Strawberry Dips: Strawberries are nature’s perfect fruit for many reasons. They’re packed full of
nutrients and are sweet as can be – and they’re very kid friendly. Since kids love to dip, try any of
these delicious easy-to-make dips and serve with a heaping bowl of fresh strawberries:
- Vanilla Cinnamon Dip
- Maple Cream Cheese Pecan Dip
- Dark Chocolate Orange Dip
About Go South! Fresh from the Southern U.S.
Go South! is a program dedicated to educating Ontario and Quebec consumers about the health benefits
of fresh Southern U.S. produce and new ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into every day
diets. Managed by the Southern United States Trade Association, Go South! represents 30 commodities
from 16 Southern U.S. States including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. For more information about
the selection, care and use of fresh produce, including recipe ideas, please visit www.gosouthfresh.com.
Be sure to visit the interactive “Virtual Kitchen” area for selection, storage and preparation tips – a great
learning tool for children!
About Liz Pearson
Registered Dietician Liz Pearson runs The Pearson Institute of Nutrition. The mission of the Institute is to
translate the often-confusing and ever-changing science of healthy eating into practical, commonsense
advice that people can follow in their busy lives. Liz is the author of three award winning books on
nutrition and her newest, “Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health (and don’t forget the chocolate!)” hit
bookstore shelves last year, sold out immediately and was an instant National Bestseller. Liz received her
Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from Ryerson University and completed her internship at the Toronto
General Hospital. For more information, please visit www.lizpearson.ca.
Anthony C. Tiburzi
c/o Faye Clack Communications
Phone: 905.206.0577 Ext: 234