Spring produce; health benefits, buying tips

FEATURE – Spring is here and that means warmer weather, flip-flops, tulips, blossoming trees and, especially, spring produce. Many favorite fruits and vegetables are on the list of those that spring refreshingly produces after a long, cold winter.

Strawberries
Strawberries

Here are some fruits and vegetables you will see popping up in grocery stores and on produce stands in the coming weeks along with some tips on what to look for when purchasing them, and how they can help you nutritionally.

Apricots

Try to purchase these ripe or just underripe. If ripe, try to eat them within a day or two or if they need to ripen, let them do so in the refrigerator. Any fruit with a green tinge will not ripen properly, so avoid those.

Wash apricots just before eating them to preserve quality. Apricots are good sources of vitamins A and 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, eat, 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 and kept no longer than two days.

Nicknamed “salad rocket,” arugula has a spicy flavor similar to spinach. It is high in vitamin A, which is helpful in immune function and maintaining healthy skin, eyes and bone tissue.

Kiwi
Kiwi

Asparagus

There are two varieties of asparagus, white and green. White is kept out of sunlight, otherwise the stalks 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 overall 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.

Avocado

Many people don’t realize that avocado is a fruit. It is different than most fruits because it is very high in fat and calories. However, the fat is monounsaturated, making it a healthy choice. Monounsaturated fats will lower total cholesterol while raising HDL (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. They are also lower in calories; a cup is typically 50-60 calories.

Berries are best used immediately, as they spoil quickly. Their deep colors indicate high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Look for fruit with uniform color, that are unblemished 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 vitamins C and A, and other powerful antioxidants. All cherries contain terpenes, which are antioxidants that help prevent cancer.

Choose cherries that are firm, bright and shiny. Soft or shriveled cherries are a sign of poor storage condition or old age (and decreased nutrition). Store covered in the refrigerator up to one week.

Asparagus
Asparagus

Kiwi

Kiwis should be plump and slightly soft. They 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.

Spinach

Look for spinach leaves that are crisp and dark green. Flat leaf spinach is more common due to its milder flavor.

Spinach is high in vitamins A and C and folate. Although it is high in calcium, the absorption is poor due to oxalates that block absorption.

Enjoy eating these nutritious 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.

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Emily Fonnesbeck
Emily Fonnesbeck

Written by Emily Fonnesbeck for St. George Health & Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Fonnesbeck is a registered dietitian who received her degree at BYU. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and belongs to the Vegetarian, Weight Management and Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice groups. She holds a certificate in adult weight management and is a certified LEAP therapist.

St. George Health & Wellness

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc. and St. George Health and Wellness magazine, 2014, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Sgnative March 30, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    These are great tips! Thanks for the great ideas for my next grocery run!

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