Seasonal Spring Eating
Although we have access to most fruits and vegetables year round living in a warm climate, foods that are in season taste fresher. It is also nice to change up your produce to usher in each season. The following fruits and vegetables are the some of the healthiest the season has to offer. They will not only make you feel better, but they may help you look better, too. Happy spring!
In addition to being a great source of fiber (10gm for an 120gm artichoke), artichokes are also a great source of vitamin K and folic acid. They contain potassium which aids in lowering blood pressure as well as vitamin C. The cynarin in artichokes increases bile production in your liver, which in turn can aid in digestion.
Artichokes also contain the antioxidants rutin, quercetin, and garlic acid which may help decrease cancer cell proliferation. Many people avoid artichokes because they look intimidating and hard to cook. But just boil in water for 20 minutes or so and use your teeth to scrape the bottom edible part of the leaves.
Arugula is considered one of the cruciferous vegetables which are shown to decrease risk of cancer. Studies have suggested that the sulfur-containing compounds (sulforaphane) that give cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite are also what give them their cancer-fighting power. Sulforaphane is now being studied for its ability to delay or impede cancer such as melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment in the future.
Arugula is also a good source of vitamin A, K, folate, fiber, and water. Arugula is most commonly used in salads but can also be incorporated into pastas, casseroles, and sauces just like other leafy greens. It tends to sauté faster than either kale or collard greens because of its tenderness. It lends spicier flavor to a dish than spinach or Swiss chard.
Asparagus not only aids heart health due to its vitamin K content (which prevents blood clots), but this vegetable also contains a special antioxidant called glutathione that’s believed to help slow down the aging process. What’s more, the veggie’s other key vitamins, B9 and B12, may help ward off cognitive decline.
Indeed, a study from Tufts University found that older adults with higher levels of folate and B12 — which is harder to absorb as you age — performed better on cognitive tests than those with lower levels. If that weren’t enough, asparagus is also rich in lycopene, which has been found to lower the risk of prostate cancer. Asparagus is very easy and fast to cook or you can even it the stems raw!
These gems have so many health benefits! If you don’t like the red ones, try yellow or white which are a bit sweeter. Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits including contain antioxidants that help keep skin supple and youthful and carotenoids that can ward off the macular degeneration that occurs as you grow older. Roasting them in the oven brings out their natural sweetness even more. Peel and slice after roasting and add to salads.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene (an antioxidant), which actually gets its name from this vegetable. The word carotene was devised in the early 19th century by a German scientist after he crystallized the compound from carrot roots. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A helps support your immune system, preserves good vision and may help fight cancer.
Carrots also contain fiber, vitamin K, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin E and zinc. Farmer's markets carry carrots in a range of colors - like purple, yellow, and red - that contain a variety of antioxidants lending them their color (such as anthocyanin in purple carrots and lycopene in red carrots).
Also known as broad beans, fava beans contain a high concentration of thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium. They are also an inexpensive source of lean protein and are a good source of iron (32% of RDA for men, 14% for women). Fava beans can be served raw or cooked, though the bean pods must first be blanched and the mature seeds shelled before eating.
Peas have a very short growing season so it’s best to get them while they last! They contain many vitamin and minerals including vitamin C, K, B-vitamins, manganese, and phosphorus. Snow and snap peas are the varieties that you can find this time of year. Both can be eaten whole, either raw or cooked. They are great by themselves or used in a stir fry with other veggies. Garden peas are the variety typically found frozen in the grocery store.
Rhubarb tends to be one of those foods that you grew up, with but that no one knows what to do with except make it into pie. Did you know that every serving of rhubarb provides 45% of the daily value of vitamin K. It also contains infection-fighter vitamin C, the second most prominent vitamin, along with vitamin A, another powerful natural antioxidant for good skin and mucous membranes, good vision, and possible protection against lung and mouth cancers (the red stalks provide more than the green ones). It also contains folate, riboflavin, niacin, B-vitamins, and pantothenic acid.
Good mineral sources include 32% of the daily value in manganese per serving, along with iron, potassium, and phosphorus. Surprisingly rhubarb is also a good source of calcium (10% of DV or about 100mg per 3.5 ounces)! It can be bitter so cooking is best and it may require a little bit of sweetener. But it can also be used in savory dishes as well.
Spring onions are sweeter than regular onions, but the greens have a stronger flavor than scallions. The bulbs can be red or white, depending on the varietal, and while they can be used in much the same way as regular bulb onions. They are great grilled, roasted whole, or used like pearl onions. Onions contain high amounts of polyphenols and flavonoids which play a role in disease prevention and decreasing oxidative stress.
This delicious fruit (especially in spring and early summer) is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is thought to help lower cancer risk as well as cardiovascular disease. In addition, strawberries contain folate which helps maintain normal levels of homocysteine which in turn can lower risk of heart disease.
Strawberries also are high in fiber and help balance blood sugar, and the polyphenols they contain support immunity and healthy cell renewal. Strawberries are plentiful on the central coast during spring and summer and are delicious! No excuse to not enjoy this seasonal fruit!
Radishes don’t generally “spring” to mind when thinking about healthy superfoods in the same way as other foods such as kale or spinach might. But this root vegetable contains a long list of healthy nutrients — everything from folate to copper to potassium to magnesium. Radishes also contain detoxifying agents called indoles, and the powerful flavonoids zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene.
Radishes also contain an important isothiocyanate antioxidant compound called sulforaphane, a proven inhibitor of prostate, colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers. If that weren’t enough, they have vitamins A, C and K, which boost cell production and repair.
There are more foods than listed here that are available all year round to enjoy. But why not change things up and try some of the foods in season for a change and variety! This also does not include the yummy produce that comes in season right as we head towards summer (such as peaches, apricots, and other stone fruits). So get out to the market and pick some of this yummy produce while it lasts!