Grower's Row: February: We Heart February (And Here's Why)

By Lauren Kaplan

Here’s 3 things we’ve got going for us in February:

1) More daylight. We start the month at 10 hours, and end it with 11.
2) Winter sports. Alternatively: hot beverages, fuzzy socks, and long hours to pore over seed catalogs / binge watch the Great British Baking Show.
3) It’s American Heart Month!

Yes. We have a whole month to focus on our hearts. With heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, most of us could benefit from taking a closer look at our own heart health (right after we get up off the couch from watching the Great British Baking Show).

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We all know the basics. Exercise and eat better (which usually translates to “eat more fruits and vegetables”). But how many fruits and vegetables do you eat each day? And how many, exactly, are we supposed to be eating?

a) 2 cups a day
b) 3 cups a day
c) 4+ cups a day

If you guessed c), you’re spot on -- according to the American Heart Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, anyhow. Eight servings (4-5 cups) is the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.

Now guess what percentage of Americans actually meet this requirement?

a) 50%
b) 20%
c) 10%

As it turns out, it’s actually less than 10%: As of 2018, only 9.3% of adults (and a measly 2% of high school students) are consuming the recommended 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

We’ve all heard the virtues of vegetables extolled at some point or another, and it goes something like this: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Why? Because fruits and vegetables are good for you! They are high in a whole alphabet of things, from antioxidants, fiber and minerals to phytonutrients (like flavonoids and carotenoids) and vitamins.

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Conveniently, all of these good-for-you things come in a natural package -- “food”. Consuming food (instead of supplements) means you get the non-essential nutrients that allow your body to absorb and utilize all the essential ones. Nutrients are most potent when they come from food.

Best of all, not only are they good for you, fruits and vegetables are just plain GOOD. They’re good roasted, baked, braised, stuffed, steamed, shredded or fermented. They’re good sweet or spicy, drizzled in oil, lightly dressed, dolloped with sour cream, or totally naked and raw. They’re especially good when they’re fresh, harvested at peak ripeness, and stored at ideal temperatures… something your local farm (ahem) can do really well.

So. In honor of American Heart Month (and another holiday happening mid-month that also involves hearts), consider signing up for a share of the freshest Poughkeepsie-grown produce! After all, what better Valentine’s day gift is there -- to a loved one, or to yourself -- than a CSA share?

Never mind the flowers. Woo your sweetheart with a bouquet of kale. Forget the chocolate and oysters. Nothing says “I love you” like vegetables.