Spring is here! I love the warmer weather, flip flops, tulips, blossoming trees and especially…Spring produce! If I had to list my favorite fruits and vegetables, most of them would be on this list. Spring produce always seems so refreshing after a long cold winter. Here are some fruits and vegetables you will be see popping up in grocery stores and on produce stands. I have tried to give you tips on what to look for when purchasing them as well as how they can help you nutritionally.
Apricots: Try to purchase these ripe or just underripe. If ripe, try to eat within a day or two or if they need to ripen, do so in the refrigerator. Fruit with a green tinge will not ripen properly so avoid those. Wash apricots just before eating to preserve quality. Apricots are good sources of vitamin A and vitamin C for immune function and maintaining healthy cells and tissues.
Artichokes: Most people are familiar with artichoke hearts, usually canned in brine or marinated, but the petals of the artichoke are edible and tasty as well. The best preparation is usually to trim the sharp petals and then steam it. Once cooked, the petals can be torn off and run along your teeth to remove the “flesh”. Beneath the petals is the artichoke heart, which is delicately nutty and tender. Artichokes are very high in vitamin C for immune function, Folate for reducing heart disease and cancer risk and fiber for digestive health.
Arugula: Arugula should be fresh, crisp and free of brown spots. Ideally it should be eaten immediately but kept no longer than two days. Arugula has a spicy flavor similar to spinach. It is high in vitamin A, which is helpful in immune function and in maintaining healthy skin, eye and bone tissue.
Asparagus: There are two varieties of asparagus, white or green. White is kept out of sunlight, otherwise the stalks would turn green. Both are excellent sources of vitamin C for immune function, Folate for reducing heart disease and cancer risk, and glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant to promote health. Look for asparagus that is firm and dry. The ends are tough and may need to be trimmed before cooking. Use within a day or two after purchase.
Avocado: Avocado is a fruit! It is different than most fruits as it is very high in fat and calories. The fat is monounsaturated, making it a healthy choice. Monounsaturated fats will lower total cholesterol while raising HDL (or good) cholesterol. Avocado is also high in fiber and vitamin E. Pick those that are unblemished, heavy and slightly soft.
Berries: All berries contain a generous amount of vitamin C. Most are a good source of fiber as well due to the skin and seeds. Berries are best used immediately as they spoil quickly. Their deep colors indicate high levels of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. They are also lower in calories as 1 cup is 50-60 calories; the same calories in a ½ cup portion for other fruits. Look for fruit with uniform color, un-bruised and firm.
Carrots: Carrots should be firm and brightly colored. Carrots can keep in a refrigerator up to a month, making them a great vegetable to always have on hand. As most people know, carrots are high in vitamin A, which will aid in immune function and maintain healthy bone, skin and eye tissues.
Cherries: Cherries can either be sweet or sour. The sour cherries are higher in vitamin C and vitamin A (and other powerful antioxidants!) than the sweet varieties. All cherries contain terpenes, which are antioxidants to help prevent cancer. Choose cherries that are firm, bright or shiny. Soft or shriveled cherries are a sign of poor storage condition or old age (and decreased nutrition). Store covered in refrigerator up to one week.
Kiwi: Kiwi should be plump and slightly soft. It can be stored up to two weeks in the refrigerator but will ripen more quickly on a countertop. Kiwis are high in vitamin C and fiber, especially if you eat the skin. It is edible!
Spinach: Look for spinach leaves that are crisp and bright dark green. Flat leaf spinach is more common due to its milder flavor. Spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin C and Folate. Although it is high in calcium, the absorption is poor due to oxalates that block absorption.
Enjoy eating these fruits and vegetables this spring! If there are any on this list you haven’t tried, don’t be shy! You might just find a new favorite.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD, CLT