With this warmer weather I’m starting to feel more energy. I wake up earlier in the morning and feel more supercharged during the day. So what I definitely don’t want is my food to weigh me down. There is a sense of wanting to eat lighter as the days get warmer, right?
Fortunately for all of us, the Spring season brings with it a lot of fresh produce that encourages that new energy we feel—and protects us from disease. Many foods naturally available in spring help the body repair and renew itself, and several actually encourage body cleansing and detoxification. If you’re on the lookout for light, nutritious and delicious new options for the season, here are five great suggestions. Most importantly—shop local. Local foods are typically higher in nutrition content, as they are harvested closer to ripeness and are not exposed to long storage and travel times. Check out your farmer’s markets where you may find some of these superfoods.
1. Alfalfa sprouts. Nutrients include calcium, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and many more. They’re full of protecting antioxidants, inhibit inflammation, and some studies have shown them to be beneficial against cardiovascular disease. Use them on salads, or in blended juices for a cleansing effect.
2. Asparagus. Not only does this spring vegetable have potential cancer-fighting properties, it’s full of vitamin K, folate, and vitamin C, and is a known anti-inflammatory. It’s got all sorts of antioxidants, and helps support the digestive system. Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips, and sauté for the best flavor and health benefits.
3. Carrots. Think they’re boring? Think again. Carrots are powerhouses of beta-carotene and antioxidants, and have shown in studies to help reduce the risk of heart attacks. Just one cup provides over 600% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Intake of foods rich in carotenoids like carrots have shown potential to keep blood sugar levels steady. Carrots also contain “falcarinol,” a phytonutrient that may protect against colon cancer. Choose those that are firm, smooth, and bright, and for fewer pesticides, go for organic varieties.
4. Endive. If you haven’t tried this leafy vegetable yet, you should! It looks like lettuce, except that its curly (also known as ascarole or chicory). Related to the dandelion (which is also great this time of year, by the way), it’s a super source of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and potassium. Low in calories, it’s perfect in weight-loss diets, and it’s natural fiber content helps relieve constipation. Choose organic, wash thoroughly, and use in salads, sandwiches, or with your favorite dip.
5. Kale. This is another powerful superfood full of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s a great source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as manganese, and also has many antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients like beta-carotene and lutein. If you’re trying to up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, kale is a great choice, as it takes only 100 calories of it to give you 25-35% of your daily fatty acid intake. Look for firm, deeply colored leaves and moist, hardy stems. Store in a cool environment, and steam for maximum nutrition and flavor.
Do you have some favorite spring powerhouse foods? Let us know!
Photo courtesy the jen_m_stewart via Flickr.com.