Favorite Healthy Spring Foods
As the weather warms up, many of us begin to crave the light, fresh flavors of spring foods, as opposed to the hearty foods we enjoyed all winter.
Lucky for us, Mother Nature is on the same page, with spring bringing a bounty of refreshing, seasonal fruits and vegetables to nourish and excite us.
Be it springtime or any other time of year, eating seasonally is a win on many fronts. You get fruits and vegetables that are at their nutritional peak, and you’re sure to have a diet that’s full of variety. But beyond that, seasonal foods tend to be lower in cost because they are so plentiful and don’t need to be transported from very far distances (a boon for the environment, too).
Eating seasonally means you get to enjoy springtime foods at their freshest, making the most of their health benefits, nutritional value, and flavor. Here are some of the favorites we reach for time and time again:
Sometimes referred to as ‘rocket,’ this peppery green is loaded with folate, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C, which help maintain bone strength, skin health, immunity and more. Look for bright, crisp leaves and fresh stems when shopping. You can also find baby arugula, which also may come pre-washed in containers (be sure to wash it and any other pre-washed greens again when you get home to get rid of any lingering bacteria). If the flavor is too strong for you, try mixing it with other salad greens to balance out the bite.
Available in purple and white varieties along with the typical green, asparagus supplies immune-boosting antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C and folate, plus filling fiber. It also contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Look for stalks with dry, tight tips. Try drizzling them with olive oil and roasting until slightly crisp.
3. Fiddlehead Ferns
Fiddlehead ferns are the young coiled leaves of the ostrich fern, with a nutty flavor that is reminiscent of asparagus. They are rich in metabolism-supporting B vitamins as well as the minerals copper and manganese. When choosing fiddlehead ferns, look for a tight coil and only an inch or two of the stem. Serve them sautéed and tossed into pasta or on a salad.
With a tart flavor and slight crunch, kiwi is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C and good-for-your-heart potassium. Choose a slightly firm fruit that is free of bruises, soft spots and wrinkles. To eat it, simply cut it in half and scoop the insides out with a spoon. Kiwi also tastes great sliced into a fruit salad. For an added boost of fiber, don’t be afraid to eat your kiwi whole—the outer skin, though slightly fuzzy, is entirely edible.
Spearmint, peppermint and other varieties of this herb are all loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants. In herbal medicine, mint has long been used to soothe symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. It also has anti-microbial properties. To lengthen the life of your mint, place it, stems down, in a container of water. Store it in the refrigerator, loosely covered with a plastic bag. Change the water every two days and it will stay fresh for up to a week. Add chopped mint to rice, couscous and bean dishes.
6. Morel Mushrooms
These hard-to-come-by mushrooms (check specialty stores or local farmer's markets) are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin D, as well as the minerals copper and iron. You can identify morel mushrooms by their honeycombed caps. Choose ones that smell fresh and earthy, and avoid any that appear bruised or slimy. Wipe them with a cloth or brush to remove dirt, and prepare them as you would any other type of mushroom—sautéed, grilled or roasted.
Said to be the world’s most popular herb, parsley is a good source of antioxidants and bone-strengthening vitamin K. Choose parsley with dark leaves and no signs of wilting. Chop as you’re ready to use it, and add it to sandwiches, salads, soups and more. (You can also chew it after a garlicky meal to counteract any potent flavors.)
Also called sweet or English peas, green peas are a sure sign that spring has arrived. They are a good source of vitamins C and A, as well as cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Choose firm, bright green pea pods with no signs of decay or wilting, and shell peas immediately before using. Toss fresh peas into pasta and risotto for a sweet burst of flavor.
Available in white, red, purple and black varieties, as well as both round and cylindrical shapes, radishes pack a serious vitamin C punch along with their spicy flavor. What’s more, they contain only 10 calories per half cup. Choose smooth, brightly colored roots with green, fresh-looking tops. For a peppery kick, chop them finely and add them to tuna and egg salads.
This spring fruit is high in calcium as well as vitamin C. Its red stalks also contain immune-boosting anthocyanins. Look for flat stalks that are not curled or limp, with a deep red color to ensure a sweet, rich flavor. Take caution: The leaves of this fruit are poisonous and should never be eaten. Tart rhubarb pairs well with sweeter fruits such as strawberries, apples, cherries and berries; use it in pies, fruit sauces, and cobblers.
Think of Spring as a season of rebirth and rejuvenation, when one should lighten up and assist your body in thriving with healthy, fresh local foods.