Liven up your meals with these gotta-have-it super foods.
After a winter’s worth of thickened stews and heavy pastas, spring is the perfect time to lighten up your meals via zesty super foods with a fresh taste. The springtime harvest provides just the right amount of nutrients to rouse you out of hibernation—and kick your season into gear. Here are our five favorite super foods for spring.
Asparagus—Ancient Egyptians not only cultivated asparagus, they also offered it to their gods. And in the late 1800s asparagus was a rare and coveted spring vegetable. It makes you wonder why so many people turn up their noses at this fresh breath of spring. Asparagus is a good source of folate, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. It's also a great source of fiber (4 grams per cup, 14 percent of your daily needs). Skip the bearnaise sauce, and enjoy lower-calorie cooking methods such as roasting (which brings out the sweet taste), quickly stir-frying, adding to your favorite egg-white omelet to jazz up breakfast, or lightly steaming and serving with a dipping sauce as an appetizer.
Strawberries—Sure they've been in the grocery store all winter, but if you're lucky enough to live in the southern part of our country, strawberries are an important rite of spring. In the frosty Northeast we don't see local strawberries until June. One cup of strawberries contains only 49 calories but packs in 149 percent of your daily vitamin C needs along with 12 percent of your fiber. Toss them onto your morning cereal, add them to fruit salads for lunch or whirl them into your favorite smoothie recipe for a refreshing pick-me-up.
Fiddlehead Ferns—When I see the tightly furled heads of these ferns, which are available wild in some parts of the country, sprouting over the brown grass and bare branches, I know that spring is truly at hand. Technically "fiddlehead" refers to the young shoots of any type of fern, but the ostrich fern is the only edible type. Look for the bright green, tightly coiled fiddleheads in specialty markets, and use within a day or two of purchasing. A 6-ounce serving of raw fiddleheads has only 58 calories, but contains 8 grams of protein—that's as much as one egg. Blanch or steam and dress with your favorite vinaigrette.
Arugula—Peppery arugula is at its best in the spring, when cool weather makes the taste mellower and less pungent. A favorite of Italian cooks, arugula is wonderful tossed into salads or your favorite pasta dish. Try adding small, torn pieces of arugula to your favorite chicken salad or tabbouleh recipe for a fresh spring twist. Substitute arugula on your sandwich for lettuce to get a burst of spring flavor. Believe it or not, 1 cup raw arugula has only 4 calories. Like all leafy greens, arugula is a good source of folate and vitamins A and C; it has more vitamin C than any other salad green.
Artichokes—Once used as a breath freshener, aphrodisiac, diuretic and even deodorant, artichokes are now recognized as a sign of spring. The artichoke is actually an edible thistle, perhaps not too appetizing a thought until you peel your way through the layers to the delectable heart inside. One medium artichoke has only 25 calories and no fat. It's a good source of magnesium, an essential mineral often removed from processed foods. To find the perfectly fresh artichoke, look for one with deep green lobes, with a tight leaf formation, that's heavy for its size and that squeaks when slightly squeezed. To prepare a fresh artichoke, rinse it under cold running water, pull off the lower petals and cut off the stem. Cut off 1/2 inch from the pointed top, and trim the leaves with scissors to remove any thorns. Dip it in lemon juice to preserve its color and enjoy. Marinate small artichokes in your favorite oil and vinegar dressing, and serve as an appetizer or vegetable side dish.