Warmer weather is gradually arriving (at least to us in Seattle!) and many of you, like myself, are likely starting to shift your eating. Heavy stews and fortifying soups are on their way out in place of lighter fare with seasonal produce. Personally, I always find this time of year that I’ve forgotten many of my favorite Spring and Summer foods as this transition happens, and I get into a food rut, rotating through many of the same meals until something reminds me of the variety at my fingertips (ie the store or farmers market). For that reason I created a list of the some fabulous “super foods” to start incorporating this Spring.
First off I will say I don’t really like the term “super food.” By super food we really just mean, “a healthy whole food that provides a combination of vitamins, minerals, and health protective compounds.” MANY foods fit this criteria. Below are just a few of the many options you may have neglected over the winter. Pick one or two this week to add in as a snack or as part of a meal. No time to start changing things up like the present!
Maybe you noticed, but strawberries were listed as #1 on “dirty dozen” list this year, meaning they are the number one pesticide-contaminated produce item. Unfortunate to say the least, but don’t forget you can choose organic to get the wonderful and delicious health benefits of this tasty fruit. Also, you can often find frozen organic strawberries in most stores at a much more affordable price, so be creative! Strawberries pack of a hefty dose of vitamin C, a few trace minerals and a host of antioxidants, making it a great choice for the warmer months.
These green, onion-like veggies are often overlooked, but don’t! They are a nutritional powerhouse of Vit K, manganese, iron, Vitamin C and B vitamins. In fact, they can be a great replacement in any dish that calls for onions. I’ve done this loads of times myself. Just cut off the tough stalk and chop up the tender white portion to use in your next dish. Alternatively they work great as a soup or baked into a quiche!
You may have ignored salmon over the winter, so start including more of this super food as the weather warms. Salmon is great not only because is it a good protein source, but also because it’s loaded with Omega 3 fats and provides a good amount of Calcium, Vitamin D, Selenium and B12. Pair it with a simple salmon for a light Spring dinner. Just make sure to always buy wild caught over farm raised to avoid potential toxins and genetically modified organisms .
There are so many different types of olives to choose from! Hit up the olive bar at your favorite grocer sometime and try some new varieties. All of them are high in monounsaturated fatty acids and contain important nutrients such as copper, iron, fiber and Vitamin E. They are also a wealth of unique antioxidants giving them heart-protective properties.
5. Pumpkin Seeds
Hiking season is coming up on us fast, so don’t forget to pack some pumpkin seeds for the trail. In fact, pack them everywhere for an easy snack. Pumpkin seeds provide an appreciable amount of zinc (great for your immune system!) and other minerals such as phosphorous, manganese, and copper.
These fleshy little friends are often overlooked as well, especially since getting to the actual edible portion of this rather large vegetable can be challenging for some. Never fear, you can always find them jarred or canned to save you the time and hassle. That being said, check the link below to expand your skills and become an artichoke-opening champ. Like other foods on this list, here we have another one loaded with antioxidants and high in fiber. Studies have shown artichokes to also be helpful in liver health, preventing cancer, and reducing cholesterol. For pregnant women, artichokes are a great source of folate.
It seems the health benefits of chocolate continue to be debated (much like coffee!) but I believe the overwhelming consensus is that chocolate is super for your health. Do watch the sugar and choose the highest cacoa content that you can, but otherwise enjoy the benefits of all those antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber with every bite. A small square per day makes a great snack.
8. Hemp seed
You may have yet to hear of these, but hemp seeds are gaining in popularity. Yes, if you were wondering, they are from the same plant as cannabis, however the seeds contain trace if any of the mind-altering compounds found in the leaves of the plant. The wonderful thing about these delicate little seeds is that they are high in protein and rich in essential fatty acids. They also contain a variety of minerals and antioxidants. Try adding a tablespoon to your morning yogurt, oatmeal or smoothie.
I associate beets with Spring salads, adding richness in color and flavor to any leafy arrangement. Besides appearance and flavor, they contain unique phytonutrients that support our bodies in detoxification, cancer prevention, and heart health. Unfortunately these phytochemicals can degrade with prolonged cooking, so prepare them as efficiently as possible. Check out this link for an ideal way to cook your beets for maximum retention of nutrients.
10. Leafy greens
Speaking of salads, leafy greens are the ultimate Spring food, chocked full of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Like other foods on this list, they protect the heart, help the body prevent cancer, and supply a great source of vitamins and minerals, particularly folate, potassium, Calcium and Vitamins A, C, and K. Plus, there are so many options to choose from! Spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens….. pick your favorites and enjoy in a salad, smoothie, stir-fry, or anywhere!