The Season's Best Spring Produce for Good Health
We've had unpredictable and unseasonable weather in just about every region of the country throughout the season. About now we are all ready to spring forward to enjoy days with more light and the taste and textures of Spring produce. Although most can be purchased throughout the year they are flavor powerhouses in season. Mother Nature's timing is impeccable as nutrient-rich fresh foods are abundant just in time to step-up physical activity.
When I checked out the produce counter at the local market there were the usual suspects-asparagus, artichokes, scallions, new potatoes, and strawberries. They were joined in the "Season's Best" market basket with arugula, fava beans, and tamarillo. Now this is not to say these are the only fruits and vegetables of Spring, I thought it would be good to take a look at both the standard and new choices on produce stands.
A is for asparagus however it may also be considered the triple-A veggie---antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging. It is loaded with vitamins-A, B, C, E and K along with minerals that play a role in the ability of insulin to transport glucose in the body. Asparagus are high in fiber and low in calories. The most frequently found variety is green, however the crayon-shaped vegetable comes in both white and purple.
Artichokes are another nutrient filled vegetable they are high in antioxidants, vitamins A, B, E, and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. The high content of potassium promotes heart health and reduces the risk of stroke. Its high antioxidants boost immunity and help in the manintence of healthy cells. Artichokes high fiber, low calorie count makes them a bonus option for waist-watchers.
New Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrates that are low in fat. The potatoes are high in vitamin C, with good amounts of vitamins A, B, and K. Additionally they are a good source of minerals including potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. Their antioxidant content may help prevent hypertension, and protect against heart disease and cancer.
Scallions are a low calorie high-flavor ingredient that is a good sources of vitamins A, C and K. These nutrients aid in blood-clotting, and bone strength. They are also a good source of potassium which promotes heart health.
Strawberries are probably the most popular item in the berry family. They're high in vitamin C, low in calorie and contain anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Recent research also indicates that the regular inclusion of strawberries in the diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Arugula is a deep green peppery salad green that is also called rocket. It contains vitamin A, C and K, calcium, and iron. It's an anti-oxidative and low calorie salad green that is a must-have addition to the mixed green salad bowl.
Fava Beans, often associated with Italian cuisine are also known as broad beans. They're a low fat protein and excellent sources of fiber, folate, and iron. As one of the oldest plants cultivated, they are staples in many international cuisines. They work to lower cholesterol and may stimulate the libido. Fresh young favas can be shelled and eaten raw or cooked, but more mature fava beans must be both shelled and skinned, because the skins are tougher.
Tamarillo alias the Tree Tomato is an oval shaped fruit available in red, amber and gold grown in New Zealand. It is low fat, and high in vitamins, including vitamins A, C, B6, and E. They also contain potassium, copper and manganese. As is the case with so many of these seasonal choices tamarillo also contains antioxidants.
The foods on the list are a combination of what you'll find in the produce aisle in Spring. Whether you opt for tried and true or new, make sure you include a couple each day in your diet.
Take Away: Remember the old adage---you are what you eat. Eat a variety of Spring produce to boost your intake of hard-working nutrients as you stride toward a healthier lifestyle.
Michelle J. Stewart MPH, RDLD/N, CDE is an experienced food and nutrition communication exper