Seasonal eating isn’t just trendy. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when they are first picked and can lose, in some cases, up to 75 percent of their vitamin content after just one week of storage.
“Produce picked and eaten at its peak generally has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than foods harvested before they’re ripe and then shipped long distances,” the Cleveland Clinic says.
It’s hard to find restaurants that serve seasonal fresh foods, as I discovered while trying to find the best options for eating out for my book, “Eat It to Beat It.” But right now grocery stores and farmers markets are coming alive with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Here are a few spring foods that you don’t want to miss.
These bitter-sweet spring greens are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Indeed, they contain 112 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 537 percent of your daily intake of vitamin K (which helps build strong bones), plus 10 percent of your calcium and 32 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Can you say spring superfood?
A recent study found that steaming the greens increases their total antioxidant properties by 67 percent. And preliminary research is starting to pour in on this plant, with early studies finding it possibly protective against a host of ills, including depression, obesity and fatigue.
The consummate spring vegetable, asparagus is packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and health-promoting antioxidants.
Numerous studies have found that asparagus has anti-cancer properties as well. It’s high in vitamin K, which helps allow blood to clot and works with vitamin D to keep your bones strong. It’s also high in phytonutrients called saponins, which give it its anti-inflammatory properties, help decrease blood pressure and control cholesterol levels.
Asparagus is a spring vegetable and does not store well, so get it now and eat it right away, or sit the bottoms in some water until you are ready to cook it.
This plant might look like celery, but if you’ve ever been adventurous enough to cook with it, you know that this tart vegetable loves to partner with fruit and sugar to become a sweet treat. Just don’t eat the leaves.
Researchers have found that the antioxidants in rhubarb, called polyphenols, have the potential to selectively kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells.
Baking rhubarb for 20 minutes increases its cancer-fighting antioxidant content and also its anthocyanin content, which is what keeps the stalks that nice red color.
When USDA researchers conducted the largest, most comprehensive study of the antioxidant content of commonly eaten foods, artichokes ranked at the top among vegetables. I wasn’t surprised to read that artichoke compounds have been found to kill cancer cells in lab studies.
These hearty vegetables are also rich in magnesium, which most Americans don’t get enough of, despite its being an essential nutrient, and low levels linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and migraines.
Dave Zinczenko, ABC News nutrition and wellness editor, is a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author. His latest book, "Eat It to Beat It," is full of food swaps, meal plans and the latest food controversies. Sign up here for his free newsletter now!