By: Ariana Palmieri
Today we can find all the produce we need in the supermarket year-round (tomatoes, anyone?). However, food tastes its best when it's in season and can provide some serious nutrition benefits. Here are some fruits and vegetables you should be putting on your plate this spring.
A great source of Vitamin A and C, apricots are a great additions to your spring diet. In season during the end of spring into summer, this low fat, sodium free, and cholesterol free snack is perfect for anyone seeking to lose weight. You could even get creative and make apricot sorbet (a perfect treat for warm springtime weather). Just make sure to get apricots that are plump, firm, and uniformly colored for the best flavor!
A personal favorite of mine, cherries are the perfect snack for those who want something sweet, but not unhealthy quick. Sweet cherries (such as Bing and Rainier varieties) are at their freshest from May to August. Just like apricots, sweet cherries are loaded with Vitamin A, but they also contain anthocyanin antioxidants, and melatonin, an antioxidant which combats annoying insomnia and jet lag (perfect for people constantly on the go). Try making your own cherry jam if you have some extra time (you won't regret it).
Prefer some tart with your sweet? Grapefruit is available from January to summer, making it fresh for several seasons (including spring). This aromatic fruit tastes great topped with some sugar or honey, but it can stand on its own too. Packed with Vitamin C and A, this treat makes a great morning breakfast (gets the motor going!). Try making this cardamom citrus fruit salad if you'd rather balance out the grapefruit with other flavors.
Cute, and actually not a berry at all, strawberries are at their peak April through June. In fact, strawberry festivals (yes, that's a thing) tend to pop up most during these months. These bite-sized fruits are high in Vitamin C and folate while being virtually fat, sodium, and cholesterol free (score!). Just make sure you buy organic for these - normal strawberries now claim the #1 spot on EWG's 2016 Dirty Dozen list (that means they're grown with the most pesticides - yuck!).
These sunny citrus fruits are at their best from winter into early summer, which includes spring. Also, they're full of vitamin C, folate, fiber, and potassium (all good things). Not many people will eat a lemon as is (except my dad), but they're great for baked goods (lemon bars anyone?) and drizzling over salad (try mixing it with some olive oil, black pepper, honey, and parmesan cheese - you'll thank me later).
Artichokes have two crop seasons (one in the fall and spring), but the spring harvest is the main one. These veggies are loaded with fiber, copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and antioxidants, so incorporating them into your lunch and dinner is a great idea (plus, they are low in fat and calories). When picking your artichokes, look for ones with compact leaves and fresh-cut stem ends.
Asparagus is harvested from March to June. Loaded with fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, this veggie is a powerhouse. Its even said to be a brain booster (who knew?). When buying asparagus, look for smooth skin, a bright green color, compact heads, and freshly cut ends for the best taste. Not sure how to cook them? Give this simple but tasty recipe a try.
In season from fall through spring, you can get fresh beets almost year-round. The freshest beets are often sold with their greens still attached (like in this picture). You won't believe how many health benefits these red veggies have: Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid just to name the basics. They're even said to be aphrodisiacs (crazy? Maybe not.) Try making them into crispy chips or add some homemade pickled beets to your salad.
Spinach is a little tricky: It's available year-round in temperate areas, during summer and fall in cooler climates, and fall through spring in warmers regions. However, it's definitely a veggie you want on your list. It's packed with iron and calcium and even flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties (known to specifically provide protection from prostate cancer). So ditch the iceberg lettuce for a change and swap it with spinach for an even healthier salad.
Anyone can grow carrots (I did - they were too cute!), and these veggies are harvested year round in temperate areas. With so many different varieties (purple, gold, and red carrots are a thing!), it can be hard to tell which to chose from. You can't go wrong with any of them: No matter their color, they're loaded with beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and soluble fiber. They can be eaten raw (I like to dip them in hummus), added to salads, or cooked (try these gazed carrots with brown sugar - trust me).