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Top 10 Superfoods for Spring

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6. Fresh Figs
You can get dried figs year-round, which is why they might show up on my winter superfoods list, but for now, helloooo fresh figs. Fresh figs put the va va voom in fruit–the tender but toothsome skin gives way to a soft and sticky center, dotted with delicately popping seeds, the perfumed and honeyed flesh–you get the picture. In my humble opinion, figs are quite an experience. And beyond their drop-dead flavor is their profusion of life-boosting qualities.

Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits. With their standout source of potassium, figs may help to control blood pressure. Figs are high in calcium; bones, take notice. And as fate would have it, their potassium may reduce the amount of calcium lost as a result of high-salt diets. Figs are also a good source of iron, vitamin B6 and the trace mineral manganese.

The fruit also has tremendous amounts of fiber, more than any other dried or fresh fruit. Insoluble fiber protects against colon and breast cancer–soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, and figs provide both. (Which also makes them a mild laxative, just so you know.) They also are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols.

Recipes:
Try figs quartered, stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey and topped with sea salt and black pepper.
Fig & Kalamata Olive Tapenade

7. Leeks
Leeks look like cartoonishly big green onions, with a wonderfully sweet and subtle onion flavor. When braised or slowly sauteed, they melt into a sweet and creamy concoction that is hard not to love. And they are workhorses in the health department as well. Like garlic, onions, scallions, chives and shallots–all from the Allium family–leeks can help the liver eliminate toxins and carcinogens. Leeks contain sulfur compounds that may protect against heart disease and some cancers, they can help the liver eliminate toxins and carcinogens. Regular consumption of Allium vegetables (as little as two or more times a week–although I could certainly eat them every meal) is associated with a reduced risk of prostate and colon cancer.

Recipes:
Linguine with Leeks & Lemon
Creamy Vegan Potato Leek Soup

8. Oregeno and Other Fresh Herbs
Give me fresh oregano and find me happy. I love fresh oregano, especially if salty Mediterranean flavors–capers, olives, roasted peppers–are involved. Yum. And yum. And superfood-y too! When researchers at the University of Oslo, Norway analyzed 1,113 foods to identify those foods richest in total antioxidants. Of the 50 foods highest in antioxidants, 13 were herbs and spices. One study found that oregano had 42 times more antioxidants than apples.

Is it surprising that fresh herbs are so healthful? Not to me, on an instinctual level they strike me as deeply salubrious. Randomly pick an herb and research its health benefits. You might find that parsley is an excellent source of beta carotene, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin–essential for preventing macular degeneration–vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Or try cilantro. In research studies, cilantro�s remarkable components have shown the potential to help promote detoxification, reduce high blood sugar and lower levels of cholesterol.

Recipes:
Chard and Feta Tart with Oregano
Parsley & Walnut Pesto
Cilantro Tabouli

9. Spinach
Spinach, good old spinach. It’s almost surprising that something so good for us is loved by so many! Spinach is an excellent source of folate–the B vitamin that helps to prevent birth defects, heart disease, dementia, and colon cancer (the third most common cause of cancer in women)–people who eat at least one serving of greens, including spinach, each week are 20 percent less likely to develop colon cancer, according to Italian research. Another compound in spinach, lutein, fights against macular degeneration, which causes age-related vision loss–in fact, including at least two servings of spinach a week in your diet halves the odds of macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness), according to the the National Eye Institute. Eating cooked spinach more than twice a week cuts the need for cataract eye surgery in men by half, according to new Harvard University research. And in a large-scale Harvard study, spinach singled out as most protective against stroke! Finally, because of it’s high in vitamin K, spinach also helps build stronger bones–lowering the risk of hip fracture from osteoporosis as much as 30 percent, suggests a joint Harvard-Tufts study. Popeye was on to something.

Recipes:
Spinach Soup with Rosemary Croutons
Coconut Creamed Spinach

10. Strawberries
A of eight medium strawberries provides 140 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C, 12 percent of our RDA for fiber, 6 percent of our RDA for folate, 210 mg of potassium, and is also high in vitamins K, B2, B5 and B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-fatty acids. In addition, strawberries contain anthocyanin, which has been used for studies in preventing initiation of cancers. Strawberries contain a unique phenolic group, ellagotannins, which are effective in preventing initiation of esophageal cancer.

With more antioxidant punch than most other fruits, berries in general strengthen tissue defenses against oxidation and inflammation, which are underlying factors in most age-related diseases. For example, substances in blueberries help with short-term memory loss associated with aging. All berries help lower risk for breast, oral, and colon cancers in women. With a wealth of phytochemicals like ellagic acid, adding strawberries to the diet lowers tumor risk by up to 58 percent.

Recipes:
Spinach & Strawberry Salad
Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding (Or a vegan version.)
Simple Strawberry Cream Freeze

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

333 comments

+ add your own
1:05PM PDT on Apr 27, 2014

Thank you for the realy helpful information.

7:54PM PST on Jan 17, 2012

Thanks for the info!

4:45AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

thank you for the article.

7:40PM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

noted

5:32AM PDT on May 26, 2011

My notices to this article are: 1) Artichokes - I don't know them and I never ate them. 2) Asparagus - The food is very interesting, we can plant them at home, can't we? 3) CAULIFLOWER - I give a prefer the cabbage but I will buy it in spring now. 4) Dandelion Greens - It is for ill people. I used of the dandelion greens only with a cooperate by a healer. 5) GARLIC - It is a tested superfood, I always have it at home but the garlic is not strength succeptability from the supermarkets, it is better of a garden. We have the garlic in the cost - 159/kg Czech Krowns - it is very many. 6) Leeks - I don't buy them and I won't do that because they are too big. They are too fertilized, they wouldn't grow in the size in our garden. 7) Lettuce - That is good, I buy it instead cabbage sometimes. They are more kinds, the Chinese are good. 8)Nettles - I suppose that they are more practise than the dandelion greens and above glands that they are good for a fight against stress because they strengthen the adrenal glands and boost energy. 9) Peas - The peas are good, I am buying them and eating. 10) RHUBARB - It is right but I haven't any possible to buy it. It must be from our garden, in a supermarket can be dosy rhubarb, after any time already bad.
I am glad I can join the petitions and comments in Care2 because the local inhabitants in our Brno's region are saying: "...and it will be worse," but I am saying with you: "Make the world a better place."
By JarKry

7:48PM PDT on Apr 25, 2011

Thank you!

8:04PM PDT on Apr 16, 2011

thank you

3:14PM PDT on Apr 16, 2011

Informative article.

12:44AM PDT on Apr 16, 2011

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm sounds good

1:09AM PDT on Apr 14, 2011

try most of them and they all yummy

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