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Power up with local summer produce

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Photograph courtesy of Travel Alberta

Alberta’s vegetables are as delicious in their variety as they are in taste. Even the pickiest eaters will find some veggie to love. And fruit? Well, fruit is nature’s treat. And unlike other treats, Alberta fruit is as rich as veggies in nutrients and antioxidants and can reduce the risk of certain cancers. High in water and fibre and generally lower in calories, produce can also help us manage our weight. Being at a healthy weight can help reduce cancer risk too.

Make it easier and more fun to love your produce this summer by opting for the best Alberta’s farms and fields have to offer. Read on for some ways to get some local cancer-busting vegetables and fruit into your day – and into you.

Choose local produce
The local food movement isn’t new. Championed in the book The 100-Mile Diet by Vancouver writers Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, local eating is easier now than it was a decade ago. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency defines local food as grown or produced within 50 kilometres of where it is sold. Fresh and tasty, it’s usually easier on the environment, as it wasn’t shipped from another country – or continent.

Find local food by visiting a farmers’ market or asking the produce manager of your favourite grocery store to stock more local foods and clearly identify them as such. Make a day of it this summer by visiting a U-pick farm with your friends or family to pick fresh. And think about starting your own veggie patch or pot at home. Beginners should try carrots, beans, snap peas, lettuce and onions. If you don’t have a garden space, try growing tomatoes in planters or rent a community garden plot.

What local vegetables and fruit should you eat to reduce the risk of cancer?
The report Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective specifies that non-starchy vegetables and fruit probably protect against some cancers such as mouth, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, stomach and colorectal. Examples of non-starchy vegetables that are commonly grown in Alberta include green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, beans, peas and bok choy. Potato, yam and sweet potato are examples of starchy vegetables. Keep in mind that all vegetables, starchy or not, local or not, are still nutrient-rich.

For dessert, try some fresh blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. At the peak of summer sweetness, berries freeze well. Buy frozen or freeze them yourself in batches on a cookie sheet, transferring to sealable bags. They are ready in your freezer for baking or smoothie making.

How much is enough?
Aim to have seven to 10 servings per day. It sounds like a lot, but when you think that half a cup (125 mL) of fresh or frozen vegetables is a serving, it adds up quickly. Increase your intake by having a bowl of fruit in easy reach. Keep washed and cut veggies in see-through containers in the fridge. That way they are convenient to snack on or to have handy for meal preparation on a busy workday.

Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with expertise and interest in the areas of weight management, nutrition and communications.

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