Nutritionists Share Their Favorite Spring Foods
Milder in taste than kale or other cruciferous veggies, this Chinese cabbage is a nutrition superstar. "Bok choy contains selenium, folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A. Bok choy also provides fiber, which is important for digestive health. Most Americans fall short on meeting recommended fiber intakes and bok choy can help fill the gap," says Suzanne Dixon, nutritionist with The Mesothelioma Center. "Bok choy can provide a nice texture and extra crunch when tossed into a stir fry for the last few minutes of cooking," Dixon adds. Or, try sautéeing it with olive oil and some fresh garlic for a simple side.
"Naturally sweet and bursting with color, strawberries are packed full of fiber, potassium, folate, and Vitamin C. Studies have shown strawberries may help reduce cholesterol levels, manage blood pressure, lower risk of stroke, and have protective effects against certain types of cancers," says Betsy Ramirez, nutritionist and blogger at Betsy's Kitchen, a food and family blog. Besides snacking on strawberries, add them to a salad or enjoy them with grits or oatmeal.
"Whether it takes center stage in a green salad or a supporting role in pasta sauces or omelets, spinach beats lettuce with a darker green to signal more vitamins inside. [It's] loaded with Vitamin K, Vitamin A, folate, iron, Vitamin C, and more," says nutritionist Anna Mason. A wonderful base for salads, also try tossing a handful of spinach into smoothies (you'll barely notice its flavor) or into soups, right before serving.
'Tis the season, folks. "Rhubarb is unique in that only the stalks are eaten as the leaves are high in oxalic acid, which can be toxic in large quantities. Rhubarb is high in vitamin K – one cup of rhubarb has 45 percent of the daily recommended needs. It’s also rich in antioxidants, such aslutein and zeaxanthin, which contributes to eye health," says Daniela Novotny, nutritionist and instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University. "I love its vibrant color and unique tart flavor." Strawberry-rhubarb salad, anyone?
"Avocado is a wonderful source of heart-healthy fats called monounsaturated fats. These types of fats have been shown to lower rates of inflammation and cholesterol in the blood. Avocado also contains many essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamin C and carotenoids. Another benefit of avocado is that it’s a great source of fiber," says Novotny. Guacamoled out? Try mashing it up and spreading on sandwiches in lieu of butter or mayonaise.
"A one-cup serving of red raspberries is an excellent source of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant," shares Julie Harrington, nutritionist and chef of Julie Harrington Consulting LLC. "Antioxidants are substances in food that may prevent or slow oxidative damage. Heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases may be caused by oxidation. Antioxidants may help immune defense and lower risk of these diseases," she adds. Virtuously sprinkle 'em on cereal and slip into smoothies all week long? We won't tell if you use an extra pint to garnish some ice cream.
"Artichokes are both a spring and fall food that you should be enjoying frequently! They are easier to cook than you think and will provide a ton of nutrients including fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C," says nutritionist Kelli Shallal of blog Hungry Hobby. In the summer, try them grilled or make 'em like mama used to, steamed and served with olive oil and lemon juice.