While seasonal foods differ from place to place, I’ve tried to pick foods that are in season in most places for my top 10 spring superfoods list. Here they are:
Artichokes—Globe artichoke contains a natural phytonutrient called cynarin that supports healthy liver function and boosts the detoxification of harmful chemicals. Recent studies show that artichoke helps with digestive troubles, irritable bowel syndrome, and lowering high blood pressure. Choose artichokes that feel heavy for their size. Trim off the outer leaves and use the inside portion, known as the “heart.”
Asparagus—An excellent source of vitamins K, C, A, folate, B1, B2, niacin, B6, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and selenium, asparagus is a spring nutritional powerhouse. Thanks to the amino acid asparagine and high potassium content, it helps to cleanse the kidneys. By doing so, it helps reduce water retention in the body and balance blood pressure. It also contains rutin which helps maintain healthy blood vessels and aids the prevention of haemorrhoids. Choose thin stalks. Flex the stalk with both hands and it will naturally break off the woody portion of the plant. Use the top portion.
Cauliflower—Research shows that cauliflower eaters have lower rates of cancer than people who don’t eat this vegetable. It contains sulforaphane, which according to researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, stimulates the body’s production of cancer-fighting enzymes. Plus, it packs a nutritional punch with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Dandelion Greens—While most people scoff at these pervasive weeds, in many cultures they are revered for their nutrition and taste. They are excellent liver and kidney tonics that help reduce the body’s toxic burden. Their innate bitterness stimulates digestive juices, helping to improve digestion, particularly of fats. They also encourage bowel regularity. Avoid picking dandelion greens near road sides or in areas that have been sprayed with pesticides. Pan-fry them in a little water, olive oil, and garlic. Cover until cooked (usually just a few minutes) and remove from the heat. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle a little sea salt over them for a delicious side-dish.
Garlic—Ancient Egyptians held garlic as sacred perhaps because of its impressive anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and even anti-cancer properties. Over 1000 scientific studies demonstrate the value of garlic, particularly due to its natural chemical component, allicin.
Leeks—Sweeter than onions, leeks contain allyl sulphides that help protect against many types of cancer, particularly colon and prostate cancers. They significantly reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease and lower high blood pressure. Leeks also contain the powerful phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration and other eye disorder. Not enough reason to eat them? They are also a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and K.
Lettuce—Greens of almost every variety are among nature’s greatest foods. Packed with vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, and enzymes, they deserve a place in every person’s diet. The darker the color, the more intense the nutritional value. Most greens contain high amounts of calcium and magnesium needed for strong bones, muscles, and a relaxed nervous system. Avoid smothering greens in high-sugar, preservative-filled dressings which negate the value of these superfoods.
Nettles—Most people are not aware that this common garden weed is a powerhouse of nutrition and an excellent addition to soups or stews. Nettles are proven to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms (check out my book Allergy-Proof for more information), and reduce water retention, while strengthening the liver, adrenal glands (the glands that deal with stress and boost energy), and kidneys. Wear thick gloves when picking them if you’re picking them yourself. The cooking process destroys the stinging portion of the plant, making them safe to eat. Also, make sure you find an experienced herbal guide if you are picking them yourself.
Peas—Packed with important nutrients like vitamins A, B1, B6, C, K, folate, and beta carotene, as well as the minerals iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, and it’s not hard to understand why peas make the Top 10 Spring Superfoods list. Add them to soups, stews, curries, or eat them fresh by snapping them out of their pods as a snack. Peas are excellent bone-builders, and their combination of nutrients helps reduce dangerous homocysteine levels that are linked to aging, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious health conditions.
Rhubarb—One cup of cooked rhubarb contains 348 mg of calcium—that’s one of the best sources of calcium you can eat. That makes rhubarb an excellent choice for maintaining strong bones and teeth, and for preventing osteoporosis. It helps maintain healthy heart functioning and protects against some forms of cancer. While it is naturally tart, avoid using excessive amounts of sweeteners with this superfood. And, only eat the stems, not the leaves, since they are toxic. Stew rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces with a little water until soft, and sweeten with a bit of honey for a delicious, calcium-packed treat.
Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook. Adapted with permission from The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, PhD, RNCP, ROHP.