Foods in season are at the peak of their nutritional value—which is why spring is the perfect time to stock on produce.
While available in cans year-round, fresh artichokes are at their prime in the spring—and they’re packed with nutrients. Just one artichoke provides about 25 percent of your daily fiber needs alongside plenty of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. Potassium and magnesium are both needed to build proteins, support energy production and metabolism, and maintain healthy nerve and heart function.
Artichokes are also rich in polyphenols, beneficial plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Research has found that the polyphenols in artichokes can help protect against breast cancer, while fiber and inulin in the thistle (yes, it’s in the thistle family) act as prebiotics—they feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Asparagus popping up in farmers markets and on grocery store shelves is a sure sign of spring. The popular spring veggie has just 20 calories per cup, but over half of your daily needs for folate and nearly double your daily needs of vitamin K. Your body needs the nutrient to clot blood; it also helps your bones get the calcium they need to stay strong and healthy. Folate contributes to a healthy metabolism and neural development, so it’s especially important for pregnant women to support a baby’s developing brain. Asparagus is also a great source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against many types of cancer.
Also known as green onions, these are a great source of phytochemicals like quercetin—an antioxidant that can help prevent heart disease and cancer. Spring onions are also high in sulphuric compounds that research suggests can reduce the incidence of chronic disease. These sulphuric compounds are especially effective when you eat them raw—not a problem since spring onions have a milder, sweeter flavor compared to white or red onions.
These tasty treats are one of the first vegetables to come into season in the spring. A cup of peas has 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of filling protein, with about 100 percent of your daily needs for vitamin C and 25 percent of your vitamin A requirements. Green peas’ vitamin A content coupled with their high content of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin make them great for eye health.
Rhubarb stalks look a little like pink celery, but they’ve got a very tart flavor that works well in sweet recipes. Rhubarb is in season from April through June, when the veggie is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin K, and B vitamins. Vitamin A is helpful for immune, skin, and eye health, vitamin K is essential for bone health, and B vitamins support a healthy metabolism.
Fennel’s refreshing anise flavor makes it a great vegetable to enjoy as the weather gets warmer, especially since it has much more than flavor going for it. The flowering plant has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries to solve digestive problems like cramping, bloating, and gas.
Fresh fava beans are in season from March to early May and are a great source of protein and fiber. One cup of fava beans has 9 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein, making them great for building muscle and refueling after a workout while helping to lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
This leafy green is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as kale and broccoli. Since watercress greens are delicate, they thrive in cooler spring temperatures and wilt under summer’s harsh sun. The CDC considers cruciferous vegetables to be “powerhouse” vegetables, which help reduce your risk of chronic disease. One cup of watercress has just 4 calories, about a quarter of your daily recommendation for vitamins A and C, and over 100 percent of your daily recommendation for vitamin K.
Radish and radish greens
Crisp radishes come into season in the spring, and you can eat their roots (the part most commonly sliced and eaten) and greens—they’re both nutrient-packed. Radish bulbs are crunchy and peppery, and they get their red skin from antioxidant pigments known as anthocyanins. Radish greens and bulbs are great sources of vitamin C, and the greens also deliver calcium, vitamin K, and potassium.
These are the bulb’s flower stalks that emerge in spring; they have a mild garlic flavor without the spicy bite. Garlic scapes share many of the same nutritional benefits of garlic, such as glutathione, sulfur compounds, and other flavonoids that reduce the oxidative stress linked to cancer, liver and kidney disease, and other illnesses.
Fiddleheads, sometimes called fiddlehead ferns, have a short mid-spring season. They have a flavor similar to asparagus with the crisp texture of green beans. Fiddleheads provide about three-quarters of your daily recommendation for vitamin A and about a third of your daily needs for niacin. Niacin is a B vitamin that’s essential for a healthy metabolism, nervous system, hair, skin, and eyes.
Like many fresh herbs, mint flourishes in the spring as the weather warms up. Used for centuries as a digestive aid and to treat headaches and nausea, mint’s medicinal properties continue to be researched today. Peppermint, in particular, is high in menthol, a compound that has soothes inflammation and may ease gastrointestinal symptoms.
Sorrel is a tart, lemony flavored green that’s in shines in spring. Each half-cup serving of sorrel greens has 2 grams of fiber and half of your daily recommendation for vitamin C. Your body requires vitamin C to make collagen, which keeps your skin springy and youthful-looking; collagen is also key to wound healing. The nutrient is also an antioxidant that helps prevent chronic diseases.
You can easily find wild Pacific salmon in late spring, so be sure to add this superfood to your shopping list. The fish are a great source of omega-3’s— unsaturated fats that may protect your heart, your brain, and more thanks to the fat’s anti-inflammatory benefits. A 3-ounce serving of wild salmon has over 2,000 mg of omega-3’s, which is quadruple the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation for healthy adults.
Sea kelp beds thrive between April and June, producing lots of nutrient-rich seaweed. Kelp is exceptionally high in iodine, a mineral vital to healthy thyroid function; your thyroid regulates hormones that keep your energy levels high, control your weight, and boost your mood. Most table salt is now fortified with iodine, but if you’re looking to cut back on salt, kelp is a great way to get more iodine.