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Spring into yum with fruit, vegetables

It’s finally happening! After a long, cold, snowy winter, signs of spring are beginning to show themselves – from the bulbs poking their first fingers through the soil or the buds that are just starting to plump on the branches – we are all celebrating the return of spring.

As I eagerly await the return of the farmers market, my taste buds are having some spring fever. They are craving new tastes and textures – more crispness on the tongue, maybe even some bitter flavors and certainly more fruit. Here’s a highlight of the vegetables that are topping the charts this time of year, bursting with flavor, waking the senses and cleansing the body.

  • Power-packed asparagus has to be at the top of the list. Full to the brim with vitamins K, A, C, Bs and folic acid, it supports balanced mood and healthy cell metabolism. It’s also high in fiber, particularly inulin – an important prebiotic that supports digestive health.
  • Spring is a great time to get friendly with artichokes. Excellent in supporting liver health and packed with fiber, it’s a great friend to your heart and gut. It has protein (3.5gm per artichoke!) and is high in luteolin, an antioxidant that helps to balance cholesterol.
  • Radishes, unsung hero of the cruciferous vegetable family, provide high levels of vitamin C, folate, fiber, B vitamins and potassium. They have compounds that research has correlated with lowering cancer risk and treating candida. If you don’t like the strong, spicy flavor, try the white spring radishes that are much more mild. (I get mine at the farmers market.)
  • Strawberries are among the first fruits of the spring season. They used to be reserved for royalty only – but now are accessible to all. Strawberries are rich with antioxidants (nearly more than any other produce) associated with heart-health, blood sugar balance and cancer prevention. They are jammed with vitamin C, other vitamins and fiber.
  • Arugula and mustard greens add zip to any salad. They contain very high levels of vitamins K, A, C and have been associated with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. They are more pungent when they are darker in color, so if you want less spice, get the lighter-colored leaves. Swiss chard is in abundance also, and offers a much milder flavor. Add them to stir fry, smoothies, wilt them as a side with eggs or steak, saute them with mushrooms, or eat them raw. You can’t go wrong with these nutrient-rich greens.

When we flow with the seasons, there are myriad benefits – for health and for the environment. When you eat foods that are in season, they are optimally picked for flavor, high nutrient content and freshness. Because they don’t have to travel as far, they are higher in vitamins and minerals and have less impact on the environment because we save on fossil fuels used in transport. Changing your diet seasonally also naturally adds variety to what’s on your plate and tends to be cost-effective because you’re choosing foods that are in the height of availability.

No matter your reason for exploring the fresh bounty of spring, may you find renewal in each morsel!

Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.