It’s finally beginning to feel like Spring, isn’t it? I love Spring … The days get longer, the clothes get brighter, sidewalks are packed with walkers, and the most delicious produce is finally in season. Gone are the days when I crave hearty soups and roasted winter squash, which have been overtaken by light, refreshing salads and way too much time and money spent at the Farmer’s Market.
So, why should your eating habits change during Spring? Eating seasonally is generally more economical (because produce is at the peak of its supply, and doesn’t incur such high distribution costs), supports local farmers, and encourages variety (we all need to break out of the rut of just buying broccoli and carrots!). But did you know that we crave seasonal foods for a health reason, too? Eating produce that is in season helps our bodies adapt to climate change. When the climate is colder, starchy and hearty foods are nurturing and warming. When the heat of summer is upon us, juicy watermelons, tomatoes, and lettuces provide our bodies with extra hydration to cool us down.
Here’s the good news: spring produce has cooling and dispersing properties that help clear out the accumulated waste built up from staying inside, exercising less, and having less fresh air over the winter. In simpler terms, spring produce is detoxifying, and eating plenty of it can help your body shed any extra winter layer you may have developed!
Here are my top seven choices for healthy spring produce, along with easy and delicious ways to enjoy them:
- Asparagus. Rich in fiber, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C, asparagus is a nutrition powerhouse. There’s no beating fresh asparagus, hot off the grill, but also try steamed asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
- Artichokes. They may seem intimidating, but artichokes don’t have to be reserved for fancy restaurants. Simply cut off the stem, bottom leaves, and about ½ inch from the top, and remove any prickly tips. Then, boil a few inches of water (with a bay leaf and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you’d like) in a large pot, reduce heat to simmer, add artichokes, cover, and cook 25 to 50 minutes, or until the leaves begin to peel off easily. Dip in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil, whisked together to combine.
- Arugula. The slightly peppery, refreshing greens are a great way to get out of a salad rut. Not only does arugula taste more vibrant than simple iceberg, its nutritional content is four to five times as high as iceberg. Also try arugula sautéed or in a homemade pesto spread.
- Beets. Roasted beets make a delicious salad topper or side dish. Slice off the leaves, clean off any dirt, and wrap beets loosely in foil. Roast large beets for about an hour at 400 degrees – a knife should insert easily into the center. When cool, peel off the skin, slice, and enjoy. And try my Grapefruit, Beet, and Avocado Salad!
- Leeks. Sliced thinly, leeks add a delicious flavor (and pop of nutrients) to a stir-fry, vegetable sauté, or soup. Be sure to slice leeks lengthwise and rinse through each layer – they’re notorious for storing built-up dirt – and let them sit for 5 minutes after slicing and before cooking to enhance the health benefits.
- Sugar Snap Peas. Sugar snap peas make a crunchy and nourishing snack on the go – just grab a handful on your way out the door or dip a few in hummus as an appetizer. Green peas make a great salad topper or simple side dish.
- Strawberries. You simply can’t beat fresh strawberries straight as a snack, but also try them sliced on salads for a hint of sweetness, or paired with a square of dark chocolate for a healthier dessert.
Now it’s your turn … What Spring produce is your favorite? Which will you pick up this week?