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Enjoy a Superfoods Garden

By Paula Peirce, Apprentice Master Gardener

Gardening has many rewards. Among the rewards of a vegetable garden are the delicious fresh vegetables we enjoy.

Many of us are thinking about eating more “superfoods.” Superfoods are foods that are high in vitamins, minerals and other healthful nutrients. Although there is no clear definition of a superfood, they are dense in one or more nutrient. The comparison of nutrients in lettuce and kale below illustrates the idea.

Photo: https://foodstruct.com/

Take a look at the vitamin E comparison. The vitamin E content of kale is as much as 10 times higher than lettuce. The high levels of key nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and vitamin E win kale a place on the superfoods list.

Looking at another example of pumpkin as a superfood, we see that when it is compared to a pear, the pumpkin exceeds the pear in all nutrients except fiber and sugar. The vitamin A content of the pumpkin is more than 300 times higher than a pear, making it a great superfood that is easy to grow in your garden.

Photo: https://foodstruct.com/

These examples are not intended to keep us from eating lettuce or pears. These are great foods with plenty of nutrition. At the same time, if you like kale or pumpkin, knowing they are superfoods might make you plan them into your meals more regularly.

Lists of superfoods vary, as well as the nutrients or healthful substances they contain. We could argue that all fruits and vegetables are superfoods since each contains a mix of nutrients that contributes to health. The USDA My Plate nutrition recommendations say that half of our “plate” or what we eat in a day should be fruits and vegetables.

Common superfoods that grow well in our Colorado gardens are shown below, along with some reasons they made the list. Please consult your physician before consuming any of these foods in large quantities.

SuperfoodHealthful Property
BeetsNutrient dense.
Low in calories for the nutrients contained.
Fiber improves digestive health.
May reduce factors that contribute to high blood pressure.
Antioxidants fight inflammation and cancer.
Cruciferous Vegetable Family:
Broccoli, Cabbage, Collard Greens, Cauliflower, Kale
Nutrient dense.
Low in calories for the nutrients contained.
Excellent source of potassium, fiber, protein, vitamin A, calcium, iron and vitamin C.
Antioxidants for heart health and cancer fighting.
MicrogreensMicrogreens contain four to six times the vitamin concentration of their mature plants.
OnionExcellent source of vitamin C, B6, biotin, chromium, calcium and dietary fiber.
Red onions are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant thought to fight cancer and have immune boosting properties.
PumpkinNutrient dense.
Low in calories for the nutrients contained.
High in iron, zinc, and fiber.
High in vitamin C and vitamin A (beta carotene).
High in lutein and zeaxanthin, substances that may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
TomatoNutrient dense.
Low in calories for the nutrients contained.
Rich in antioxidants like lycopene and phytochemicals that may help prevent heart disease and cancer.
High in vitamins A, C, and E — all thought to be cancer fighting free radicals

It is worth mentioning that although these superfoods are high in healthful nutrients, we also need to pay attention to how we prepare them. Adding large amounts of fat, sugar or salt needs to be considered as part of your entire diet.

Choose your favorite superfoods, check out the Extension Fact Sheets for planting recommendations and enjoy your gardening journey with superfoods.

https://cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/717.pdf

Here are some recipes to get you started:

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/covid/HowBeets.pdf

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/covid/HowCarrots.pdf

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/covid/HowKale.pdf

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/covid/CarrotRaisinSalad.pdf

Paula Peirce PhD, RD is an Apprentice Master Gardener.

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