Little Kumquats Big on Vitamin C and Fiber

kumquatWhat’s a kumquat? If that question popped into your head, you’re not alone. My husband thought it was a root vegetable. My friend thought it was related to a mango. It’s neither.

The size and shape of a large grape, the kumquat is like a baby orange in reverse, with a sweet (edible!) skin and a tart pulp. And right around now, they’re available in major grocery stores.

With winter looming — and all the sniffles and sore throats that seem to accompany this season — I’m always on the lookout for ready sources of vitamin C, especially portable ones. Kumquats certainly check that box! Just five small kumquats provide nearly 75 percent of our daily needs.

Because vitamin C plays such a vital role in keeping us healthy — from boosting our immune system to producing collagen to limiting the damaging effects of harmful free radicals — it’s no stranger to health-related studies.

Ongoing research, for example, has demonstrated that while vitamin C can’t prevent the common cold or upper respiratory infections, it may slightly reduce symptoms. Some studies have suggested that vitamin C from food can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Still others have found that high dietary intake of vitamin C has been associated with lower risk of heart disease. My takeaway? Consuming the proper amount of this multi-tasking vitamin should be a daily priority.

Five bite-sized kumquats also deliver a big dose of fiber — nearly 7 grams of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber promotes regularity, while soluble fiber helps lower glucose levels and ferry cholesterol out. Both kinds contribute to better health and longevity by helping to reduce the risk of developing such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, diverticulitis and constipation.

The edible peel of kumquats serves up beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties. Research suggests that these compounds may help protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and weight gain.

On the topic of weight, nutritious kumquats are a dream snack: the high water and fiber content makes them filling, the calories are relatively low (around 10 calories each), and they’re super easy to carry around.

Kumquats, Dates, and Shaved Parmesan Salad

Adapted from New York Times, Amanda Hesser

6 kumquats
4 big handfuls baby arugula (or greens of choice)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
2-3 dates, pitted and diced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Slice the kumquats into thin rounds, discarding the seeds. Combine the arugula, parsley, dates, kumquats and Parmesan in a large bowl. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss. Serves 4.

Helpful tips

Select kumquats that are firm, smooth and bright orange, with the stem attached. Pass by any that are green or have soft spots. Store them at room temperature for 3-4 days, and inside the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Whole kumquats taste best if they are gently squeezed before being eaten.

Kumquat and cranberry compote (recipe at Epicurious.com) tastes great with turkey!

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.

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