Erin Jackson is a FoodCorps Service Member in Bozeman.

“I know why it’s called a beet: because it’s red and it’s good for your heart! Yummy, my heart wants more!”
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Although not all students enjoy roasted beets, this kindergartner sure does! It also appears that vegetable painting spurs critical thinking in the young mind—one more benefit of eating vegetables!

We celebrated American Heart Month with Hyalite kindergartners and first graders this year with beets.

We began our lesson with a discussion on the importance of maintaining a healthy heart and ways in which to do this in our everyday lives, like exercising and eating healthy. As it turns out, red fruits and vegetables are especially good for the heart thanks to powerful antioxidants like lycopene and anthocyanins.

What better way to recognize American Heart Month than to make art with this bright red vegetable?

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Students had a blast painting with beet juice to the prompt: “What makes your heart ‘beet’?” Responses ranged from “running” to “playing tag” to “looking at the stars”.

They all tasted roasted beets at the end of the lesson, which turned out to be especially exciting when they discovered that their fingers, teeth, and lips were dyed bright red.

 

Heart health has been on my mind recently since reading a NY Times article highlighting a study on the effects of a Mediterranean diet on heart disease.
erin3The study followed over 7000 people in Spain who were considered at high risk for heart disease based on known risk factors including being overweight and smoking, among others. The results were striking. Participants who followed the Mediterranean diet for five years had a 30% lower risk of heart disease than those on a typical low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, nuts, and olive oil, all of which are beneficial to our health when eaten in moderation.

Meanwhile, our nation is facing a public health crisis driven by the Western diet. The processed, sugary foods we find on the supermarket shelves in this country are bad for our health. We know that. We also know that diets rich in whole foods are good for us.

erin4Which is why I focus on “real” foods in all of my lessons with FoodCorps: foods that are whole and unprocessed. The students at Hyalite may not remember who I am or the day we painted with beets. But I’m confident that they will remember that eating beets is healthy. And that is knowledge they will carry with them for a long time to come.