Top 10 Healthy Spring Foods & How To Use Them
Spring is here! The days are getting longer, the air is getting fresher, and everyone seems to be in a good mood. This changing of the season marks a time for all things to come alive and experience renewal. In nature, this means abundant growth in the form of grass, flowers, and delicious colorful produce. For our bodies, it means leaving behind the heaviness of grounding foods and embracing all things light and fresh. We are inherently attuned to the environment and are meant to eat the foods that grow around us. In spring those foods include a wide array of veggies and fruit that will make you feel nourished while also gently cleansing and resetting your digestive and immune systems.
During this time of renewal, allow fresh healthy spring foods to crowd out unhealthy food & unhealthy habits. Don’t even worry about avoiding or eliminating anything in your diet during this transitional time, simply eating more of the fresh foods you’ll find at your local market will gradually crowd out any lingering rich or heavy foods until you no longer desire those.
To help you embrace the season, here's a list of my favorite spring foods and how to use them. Most of these require minimal cooking so they’re also great for those of you who are busy and don’t have much time for food prep. Of course, what’s in season for you will depend on where you live, and you may have already had access to some of these foods year-round due to importing, but trust me when I tell you that eating the local seasonal variety will taste and smell much better. Their level of freshness and bio-active compounds will also benefit your body in a much deeper way.
1. Arugula (And other leafy greens like Romaine and Red Leaf Lettuce)
Rich in vitamins like A, K, and folate, plus chlorophyll, fiber, and even water, these leafy greens will help reduce inflammation while also hydrating and detoxifying your body.
How to eat it: Just toss raw greens in bowl with other veggies, nuts, or seeds and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar or citrus juice. Chop or tear them into bite-sized pieces to enhance the texture of your salad.
Available in both spring and fall, artichokes are rich in folic acid, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and many minerals. These nutrients help lower cholesterol, ensure healthy pregnancies in women, reduce free radicals, and ensure optimal metabolic cell function.
How to eat them: There is an art and science to the basic way of cooking an artichoke. You can boil them for about 20 minutes then peel off and eat the leaves (well, use your teeth to scrape the bottom edible part of the leaves) after dipping it in garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.
Even more abundant in vitamin K (which you need for blood clotting, heart and bone health, cancer prevention, and many other functions), as well as copper, selenium, B vitamins and many other important nutrients. Asparagus can improve your overall health.
How to eat it: asparagus is delicious simply sautéed with a garlic and sea salt in some butter, ghee, coconut oil, or even a little vegetable or chicken stock. Just be sure not to overcook it! You want it to remain vibrant green and retain its shape as it softens a bit but stop cooking before it gets too wilted. About 10 minutes should do it!
Some foods give you a clear indication of what part of you they’ll benefit and that’s the case with beets. Their deep and juicy color lets you know they’re great for your blood and circulation. They can lower blood pressure, boost your stamina, and support detoxification all due to being a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains.
How to eat them: so many options! You can juice them or add them to a smoothie, roast them as a side dish, use a julienne veggie peeler to shave them into salads, spiralize them or make them into borscht!
We’re all familiar with this classic vegetable but when they’re in season locally carrots are absolutely delectable. Rich in vitamin A and other antioxidants, they’re great for maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails, and they are therefore considered an “anti-aging” food, plus they’re a powerful cancer-fighter.
How to eat them: Eating carrots raw and playing around with many different ways of chopping, slicing, or shredding them onto anything from salads to sandwiches or tacos also works well. You can even spiralize them as an alternative to zucchini to make healthy “pasta.” They’re also the perfect travel snack and are great dipped into nut butter.
This powerful herb grows like a weed and sometimes doesn’t get enough credit for it’s powerful healing properties. Mint contains an antioxidant called rosmarinic acid, which can relieve seasonal allergy symptoms (the not-so-great side effect of spring!), the menthol it contains is a natural decongestant, and it can also soothe an upset stomach.
How to eat it: Mint is a delicate herb so it’s better not to cook it. I love adding it to water or iced tea for refreshing natural flavoring, it also makes a great edible garnish, and can be chopped and added to fruit salads. Here are 10 healthy ways to use fresh mint to get you started.
Peas typically have a very short growing season of just a few weeks and that makes them all the more special. They contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and K, and several B vitamins, plus manganese, phosphorus, and protein. This makes them an excellent anti-inflammatory food.
How to eat them: You can eat sugar snap peas straight out of the pod for a light snack, add them to salads, smoothies, stir-fries, noodle dishes, and basically anything! Fresh peas make a great kid snack and you can also cook and puree them into baby food.
Is there anything better than biting into a fresh, ripe, fragrant, and delicious strawberry in late spring/early summer? This decadent and sexy food is a healthy indulgence because it is among the top five sources of antioxidant-rich fruit in the U.S. Despite being a fruit and containing fructose, strawberries can actually help balance blood sugar, and the polyphenols they contain will support immunity, healthy cell renewal, and many other functions.
How to eat them: Aside from eating them raw, you can freeze them (just cut the stems off before freezing) and add them to smoothies, you can melt dark chocolate over a double-boiler to dip them into and then freeze with a chocolate coating for dessert. You can also put them on your chia pudding or oatmeal, or make a quick jam by chopping them up and simmering in a bit of water with a cinnamon stick and then adding some vanilla extract and maple syrup at the end.
9. Spring Onions
Onions contain a high amount of polyphenols, and especially flavonoids, which are compounds that play a major role in disease prevention and reducing the oxidative stress that wears our bodies down when we don’t take good care of ourselves. They are also natural antihistamines, and have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to eat them: You can add raw onions to things like salads or tacos, or simply sauté them with some sea salt as a tasty caramelized onion side dish. They also make the perfect base for your spring sauces and soups.
A great detoxifier, radishes are great at removing waste and toxins from both the stomach and liver. They are also a natural diuretic and help treat urinary and kidney conditions, not to mention fight cancer, hydrate your skin, reduce fevers, and even treat insect bites.
How to eat them: I love them sliced thin with a handheld mandolin for a raw salad, and you can also roast them, add them to a quinoa salad such as a Mediterranean Herb Quinoa Salad, or even juice them.
Pretty much anything growing in your area is going to be beneficial; it just depends on your location and the temperature and time of year. So head over to your local farmer’s market in the weeks and months to come and enjoy all the goodness nature has to offer.