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Five farmers market finds that will boost your health

Aida Miles, a University of Minnesota Health nutritionist and dietitian, has some surprising facts about common farmers market products.
This summer, visitors to the University of Minnesota Medical Center's East and West Bank campuses can access farmers markets on Wednesdays and Fridays.

After three decades as a nutritionist and dietitian, Aida Miles knows her produce.

That’s why Miles, an employee at University of Minnesota Health Weight Loss Management and Surgery program, shops at local farmers markets whenever she can.

“You know the food is fresh, because they are literally picking it up putting in a truck and transporting it,” Miles said. “The fresher the food and the closer it is to the date that it was collected, the more nutrition it retains.”

This summer, the University of Minnesota Farmers Market will be open every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Church Street pedestrian mall on the East Bank of campus. Fairview Health Services also sponsors farmers markets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays at the plaza in front of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and at Diehl Plaza on the East Bank.

We sat down with Miles to get her perspective on a handful of common farmers market products. Here’s what she had to say:


Bet you didn’t know this common little herb is a cancer fighter. Like many other plant foods, basil contains phytochemicals, a wide variety of compounds that may block carcinogens from acting on organs or tissue, according to the American Cancer Society.

Basil is very low in calories; two tablespoons of the herb contain only one calorie and no sodium, Miles said. For that reason—and because of its strong flavor—Miles suggests using it as a substitute for salt.


Over the last few years, blueberries have steadily climbed the popularity charts, and for good reason. The food, native to North America, is one of the most nutritious fruits available, according to Miles. Blueberries are particularly rich in a phytochemical called anthocyanin, which is believed to inhibit inflammation and tumor growth and help detoxify the body.

One cup of blueberries contains 84 calories, four grams of fiber and a quarter of your daily serving of Vitamin C. Because of their nutritious nature, Miles recommends using blueberries in place of croutons in fresh salads.


Kale chips are all the rage lately, and for good reason. One cup of the versatile vegetable has 36 calories, no fat and nearly three grams of fiber. If that isn’t enough, the dark green, leafy plant is an excellent source of carotenoids, a chemical that helps keep cells healthy by working as antioxidants, Miles said.

When it comes to vitamins, kale is no slouch; cup of chopped, cooked kale provides 350 percent of your daily value of Vitamin A, 88 percent of your daily Vitamin C and 1,300 percent of your daily Vitamin K.

To make kale chips, simply slice it into bite-sized pieces, place on a cooking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and seasoning and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.


Like several other items on this list, kohlrabi is a dyed-in-the-wool cancer fighter with phytochemicals that may help prevent colon and rectal cancer. But this plant is a nutrient powerhouse in other ways, too. One cup contains 150 percent of your daily Vitamin C and 700 percent of you Vitamin K, plus two grams of fiber, according to Miles. Kohlrabi isn’t as well-known as other entries on this list, but its popularity is growing in North America.


Rhubarb is often mistaken for a fruit because of its unique, tangy taste. But make no mistake about this plant’s healthy properties. One cup of diced rhubarb contains two grams of fiber and as much calcium as 1/3 cup of milk, at the cost of 26 calories and no fat.

Rhubarb is popular in pies and desserts, and its tartness is often counteracted by adding sugar to the dish. To decrease the amount of sugar needed, Miles recommends combining rhubarb with other berries or fruits.