I have a raging sweet tooth, but most of the time I'm pretty good about channeling it to craving fructose (sugar from fruit). Every so often, however, I'll go through a period of a few days (ok, weeks) where I completely overdose on chocolate, ice cream, biscotti, cookies, cake — pretty much anything sweet, I'll eat it. Not only does eating all that sugar send me on a downward spiral of craving all kinds of other less-than-healthy foods, but I almost immediately sense a drop in my energy level and mood. It's not easy breaking out of the Magnolia Cupcake cycle, but knowing what fruits and vegetebles are in season and being aware that eating them has so many benefits beyond low calorie nutrition is a great help. To that end, here's a look at what's in season for Spring.
Carrots: Rich in beta-carotene (so rich, in fact, that the antioxidant nutrient was actually named for them) and a slew of other antioxidants known for their anti-aging properties, these root vegetables have tremendous cardiovascular benefits, help clean teeth by triggering a lot of saliva, and many studies have shown that eating carrots may help lower the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and improve vision.
Grapefruit: This has become a favorite ever since I read Tim Ferris' book, The 4-Hour Body, in which he outlines how eating grapefruits and drinking grapefruit juice can do everything from aiding the digestive process to extending the stimulating effect of caffeine. That aside, the fruit is a vitamin C powerhouse, which helps support the immune system (making this a great choice if you're fighting cold symptoms). For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened grapefruits.
Strawberries: Strawberries are high in manganese, potassium, Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to help the part of the brain that takes care of regular maintenance and "housekeeping" (in other words, they're good for the brain). The powerful antioxidants in strawberries also help prevent free radical damage, meaning they help slow down the aging process and countless studies have shown that a diet rich in berries has an anti-carcinogenic effect.
Kiwis: High in potassium, which is critical for cell function, muscle contraction, and nerve response, kiwis are also rich in Vitamin C (critical for collagen production and proper brain function) and Vitamin E, which supports the immune system.
Asparagus: High in potassium, Vitamin A, folate (known for its anti-cancer effect), and an amino acid compound called glutathione, which is known for its anti-aging properties, asparagus is also very low in sodium and, because of its shape, some say it has aphrodisiac properties.
Rhubarb: This vegetable helps keep bones strong thanks to relatively high levels of calcium (one cup has about 10% of the daily recommended amount), it's also a good source of lutein, a compound that helps neutralize free radicals (free radicals can lead to cancer), and it improves eyesight. Rhubarb is also high in Vitamin K and the compounds that give rhubarb its hue are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to help fight a variety of diseases.
Beets: High in folate, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, niacin, pantothenic, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, which collectively help keep bones and tissue healthy, work to fight blood clots, regulate blood sugar levels, work to improve metabolism, and help improve brain function.
image: Miran Rijavec