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Four spring superfoods

Lankenau Medical Center March 9, 2016 General Wellness

Spring is just around the corner, which means the return of farmers markets and some fresh produce favorites. While you can’t go wrong when you’re adding fresh fruits and veggies to your plate, there are some foods that you should pay special attention to during the springtime.

“Eating produce any time of year is important for a healthy heart and your overall health, but eating in-season produce can help enhance the flavor of your meal,” explains Madelaine Saldivar, MD, internal medicine specialist at Lankenau Medical Center. “There are a number of fruits and vegetables that are in season during springtime, but a few of them offer additional health benefits and are very flavorful.”

Below, Dr. Saldivar explores four spring superfoods you can try this year, and the health benefits of adding them to your plate.

Strawberries

These fruity favorites are at peak seasonality during spring, usually in late April and May. But these berries are more than delicious—they have a number of benefits for your heart health, too.

Rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and potassium, strawberries protect your heart by increasing your levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” kind of cholesterol that’s found in other foods like avocados, nuts, and olive oil. They can also lower blood pressure, a heart disease risk factor.

So, next time you’re at the grocery store, pick the reddest and juiciest from the bunch to sprinkle on top of your salad, nosh on as a snack, or top with low-fat whipped topping for a dessert.

Asparagus

Although asparagus is an excellent side dish any time of year, the freshest stalks pop up between February and June. And while the veggie has a number of nutritional benefits—including Vitamins K, A, and C—perhaps its biggest benefit is the amount of folate offered in a single serving.

“Folate, often referred to as folic acid, is most commonly known for its impact on reducing birth defects, which is why it’s such an important nutrient for expectant mothers,” says Dr. Saldivar. “But folate has also been tied to other health benefits, too, like a lower risk of depression and providing protection against cancer.”

So, pregnant or not, pile some asparagus on your plate this spring. Your health will thank you!

Greens

Once spring is back, so are salads. You don’t have to worry about digging to the bottom of the salad bar to find crisp romaine or fresh spinach—greens are officially back in season. Not only is this good news for your plate, it’s good news for your health. Take a look at what benefits these leafy greens can offer you:

  • Spinach – perfect as a salad base or sautéed, spinach offers Vitamin C, folate, and helps boost your immune system. Even better for those who sniffle and sneeze their way through spring? Spinach can help ward off allergies.
  • Arugula – this savory green is packed with magnesium to keep bones strong, and also helps improve your immune system. Wondering how to use it? Throw it in a salad, use it as a pizza topping, or—if you’re feeling ambitious—try some homemade pesto.
  • Romaine – this refrigerator staple is rich in Vitamin A, an important nutrient for aiding your vision, immune system, and reproductive system. Throw it on a sandwich, in a salad, or use it in place of bread or a wrap and fill with tuna fish or ground chicken for a healthy lunch.

Artichoke

If the last time you ordered an artichoke was in spinach and artichoke dip, you’re missing out on all the benefits this superfood has to offer. Artichokes, which are at their peak during the spring, are a great source of Vitamin C and contain nearly half of your daily recommended amount of fiber. In addition, the veggie is rich in heart-healthy potassium and antioxidants.

“Many people avoid cooking artichokes because they can be an intimidating vegetable to cook and eat, but they offer a number of nutritional benefits,” says Dr. Saldivar.

Try steaming them, or stuffing the leaves with garlic for a little added flavor. Not sure how to cook an artichoke? Talk to the produce staff at your local grocery store for tips.

Main Line Health offers nutrition experts that are registered, licensed dietitians. As members of the American Dietetic Association, they stay up to date on the latest nutrition research that may have an impact on your health and well-being, and can offer an individual nutrition plan to fit your lifestyle. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s nutrition services.