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Bundle of tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C. You can plant them in containers if you don't have a garden.

Growing your own vitamins and minerals

By Mary Schroeder, University of Minnesota Extension

eNews, May 14, 2007

Ahh, summer is almost here, and people across Minnesota are anxiously awaiting delicious fresh summer vegetables. In addition to their taste, vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are great for your body.

Here are a few nutrient-rich vegetables you may want to plant this summer:

Spinach: This leafy green vegetable is packed with nutrition. One cup of raw spinach contains 75 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A and 27 percent of your daily needs for vitamin C. Spinach is a good source of folate, which can reduce the risk of a baby being born with spina bifida. Spinach also contains the phytochemical lutein, which is important for eye health.

Broccoli: One-half cup of chopped, fresh broccoli contains 68 percent of your daily needs for vitamin C. Because it is a rich source of several different phytochemicals, broccoli has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

Squash: There are more than 40 different varieties of squash. Summer squashes such as zucchini contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, but in much smaller amounts than winter squash. In addition to summer squash, plant a variety of winter squash such as acorn or buttercup.

Tomatoes: A garden tomato is a favorite among many people. Enjoyed fresh, it is a good source of vitamin C. Tomatoes contain the phytochemical lycopene, which has been linked to a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer. An interesting fact is that the lycopene in tomatoes is more available to the body once it has been heated. So in addition to enjoying fresh tomatoes from the garden, consider processing tomatoes into canned tomatoes or spaghetti sauce.

If you do not have space for a garden, you can plant vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers in large containers. Or visit a local farmer's market to select from a wide variety of fresh vegetables.

Mary Schroeder is a health and nutrition educator with University of Minnesota Extension.