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What's In Season for Spring: Healthy Food Ideas

With a new season comes new produce that’s available at local markets— including a variety of greens, garlic, onions, herbs, and strawberries.

Why eat seasonally? Experts believe that some of the benefits associated with seasonal eating include obtaining a higher amount of nutrients, reducing your food costs, supporting your local economy and farmers, and even lowering your carbon footprint.

Produce that is harvested and eaten while in peak season tends to be richer in nutrients and also often fresher, not to mention that it costs less. It may also be easier to find affordable, organically grown fruits and veggies if you stick to purchasing what's most recently been grown in your area.

Shopping at local farmers' markets is a great way to support local farmers, plus you’ll find the freshest, seasonal produce at these markets. If you prefer to shop at bigger grocery stores, take the list below with you to the store so you know which types to add to your cart.

The Healthiest Foods to Focus on During Spring

Fruits and vegetables that are in season during the spring months vary depending on exactly where you live and the local growing conditions. For example, those who live in warmer areas, such as parts of California or the southern US, are more likely to have access to a larger variety of produce earlier in the year than those living in the northeast where it's cooler.

While it’s not exactly realistic to make your meals out of entirely seasonal produce (this is where frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables can come in handy), seasonal fruits and veggies are typically the most flavorful and also tend to be the richest in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

One reason this is true is that seasonal crops avoid long transportation times after being harvested, which can cause nutrient levels to decline. Plus, there’s less use of fertilizers and preservatives.

Here are some of the foods in season during the spring:

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is known for promoting healthy digestion thanks to their fiber content and diuretic effects, plus they provide vitamins A, C, and K as well as folate. Try roasting them, steaming them, or grilling them briefly, since they usually take only 10 minutes or so to cook.

2. Spinach

Known as one of the most nutrient-rich foods available, spinach is very high in carotenoid antioxidants that help protect your skin and eyes, vitamin C, calcium, and more. With its mild flavor, it's great in smoothies, salads, omelets, or quickly sauteed.

3. Collard greens

Like other leafy greens, collards provide lots of vitamins A, C, and K which can defend cells against damage, plus they are a good source of B vitamins, folate, and iron which help to keep you energized.

Because these greens have a thick and sturdy texture, one way to use them is as a replacement for regular wraps to make low-carb sandwiches. They can also be sauteed, steamed, or served alongside protein-packed beans.

4. Kale

Kale is often considered a "superfood" because it's beaming with various antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols that fight against oxidative stress, as well as vitamin C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Regardless of its “superfood” status, it’s also delicious and versatile.

Because it has a bit of a tougher texture than spinach, it's best to either steam or saute it or chop it finely and marinade it lightly in the dressing if serving as a salad. Using it in smoothies with other produce like cucumber, banana and your favorite berries is an excellent way to get it in your diet.

5. Arugula

Arugula is very low in calories yet high in calcium, potassium, and folate which support bone, heart, and nerve functions. With its signature peppery taste and light texture, it's perfect when eaten raw in salads, but can also be added to omelets and pasta dishes. Try it on top of a pizza drizzled with fancy olive oil for a different take on pizza night.

6. Carrots

Carrots come in all sorts of colors, ranging from orange and yellow to deep purple, each type of which has its own special antioxidant benefits. Carrots and carrot juice are known for promoting eye health and sharp vision, thanks to their high levels of proactive compounds including lutein and zeaxanthin.

Try eating them raw with hummus, adding them to salads, roasting them in olive oil and herbs, or juicing them in a high-speed juicer.

7. Garlic and garlic scapes

Garlic cloves contain protective sulfur compounds, such as diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine, that are released when garlic is chopped, crushed, or chewed (they're also responsible for garlic's signature smell and taste). These sulfur compounds have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects that can assist in digestion, heart health, and more.

To use garlic, lightly cook it in some olive oil in a pan, add it to soups, or roast a whole bulb and then use it as a spread on bread or roast chicken.

8. Artichokes

Artichokes are a great source of prebiotic fiber that helps to "feed" healthy probiotic bacteria living in your gut, contributing to improved digestion, immune function, and potentially even weight management.

Try stuffing and roasting artichokes, adding some to homemade pizzas or quiches, or using them in healthy pasta dishes.

9. Radishes

Radishes are a good source of nitrates that help improve blood flow and contribute to healthy arteries. They’re also full of minerals like potassium and calcium. Additionally, they contain antioxidants such as isothiocyanates and other compounds that have natural cancer-fighting and antifungal properties.

They're typically eaten raw, such as in salads, but can also be dipped in softened butter or roasted, which helps dial down their pungent taste.

10. Onions, leeks, and scallions

Onions are members of the Allium plant family (which also includes garlic, shallots, and leeks) and contain sulfur and antioxidant compounds that are linked with cancer-fighting, immune-boosting effects. Most people prefer the taste of cooked onions best, which heightens their flavor and reduces their "bite."

At home, you can sautee or roast them and use them in dishes such as quiches, pasta, tarts, and soups.

11. Peas

Peas belong to the legume plant family and are a great source of plant-based protein, as well as fiber and vitamins A, K, and C.

Peas' high fiber, protein, and starch content makes them extra filling and creamy once cooked and smashed, so they're great in soups, casseroles, and stews but can also be eaten on their own or added to veggie burgers or salads.

12. Fennel

Fennel is known as a natural digestive soother and diuretic, meaning it can help to promote healthy digestion and reduce cramps and bloating. It's also high in the antioxidant called quercetin as well as vitamin C, both of which fight inflammation and support the health of your skin, eyes, and joints.

Try fennel raw and sliced in salads, alongside segmented citrus, or roasted with garlic and olive oil.

13. Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a leafy green that's loaded with immune-supporting antioxidants such as carotenoids and polyphenols, which are present in this veggie's vibrant colors that include pink, green, and yellow. It also provides a hefty dose of magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Because the leaves tend to be a bit chewy and bitter, swiss chard is best served sauteed or steamed or added to recipes like vegetable lasagna or minestrone soup.

14. Strawberries

Strawberries typically become available in late spring into early summer. Not only are they a tasty addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and desserts like crumbles, they're also high in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants including polyphenols that are linked with cardiovascular and cognitive health.

15. Rhubarb

Rhubarb, which looks a bit like pink celery, is a slightly sweet fruit that's rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, and antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Rhubarb is best known as the main ingredient in rhubarb pie and crisps, but it can also be used to make chutneys, relishes, and marinades for meats like chicken and lamb.

This is not an exhaustive list of what will be in season this spring. Head to the farmer’s market to see what’s new and fresh to find the best of the season’s produce. Aim for as much variety in your meals as possible — such as by switching up the greens you use in your salads or the fruit in your morning oatmeal and smoothies — since each ingredient has its own unique benefits to offer.


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