Super veggies for spring

Tuesday, April 04, 2017 6:28AM




As I look out the window at this April Fools snow storm here in the Monadnocks, it’s a little challenging to be thinking of spring vegetables. But anyone who has their own vegetable garden knows that true spring is right around the corner and it’s about to get very busy for the gardener.

Many of us are thinking about the fresh veggies that will soon be available from our gardens and at farmer’s markets. Eating seasonally helps to support our bodies cleansing and healing abilities. During the spring, vegetables like dandelion greens, spring onions and garlic greens are great for detoxing your body after a long winter.

There are several other spring time vegetables that are delicious and supportive to the health of our bodies.

Asparagus is a nutritional gold mine as it contains many nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as folate, iron, copper, and calcium. A rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, it’s great for the health of your digestive tract. As a prebiotic, it helps to fight bloating. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that can’t be digested which contribute to a healthy balance of good bacteria (or probiotics) in the digestive tract. This reduces gas. Asparagus also has a diuretic effect which helps to flush excess fluid and further fight the belly bulge.

Arugula is one of my personal favorites fresh out of the garden because to me, it’s delicious. But not everyone feels that way about vegetables from the cruciferous (also known as Brassica) family. Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale taste bitter to some folks. However, this category of veggies is extremely powerful when it comes to detoxifying your body and protecting you against cancer. It pays to learn to like them. A little sea salt can be helpful because it blocks bitterness. Another great tip is to avoid overcooking them. Try a quick sauté with a little olive oil and garlic, especially for greens.

Radishes also fall into this cruciferous family and provide the same detoxing and cancer prevention qualities.  They are also a great source of fiber and micronutrients.  For the most part, they are eaten raw but when cooked their spicy bite mellows out and the become nice and juicy.  Try roasting them for about 10 minutes.  They take on the same delicious caramelization that most roasted veggies do.  It’s great to find an easy good tasting recipe for a vegetable that is one of the first to come out of our gardens in the spring!

Artichokes are a great source of phytonutrients that provide potent antioxidant benefits.  In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, artichokes were found to provide better antioxidant protection per serving than more traditionally recognized sources such as dark chocolate, blueberries and red wine.

Artichokes are a great source of fiber.  One of the fibers in this great vegetable is inulin also a prebiotic which we have already said can increase the good bacteria in our gut.

Spinach has been known as a nutritional powerhouse ever since the cartoon character Popeye came on the scene.  It’s loaded with good nutrients for every part of your body.  This green leafy veggie is high in B vitamins, phytonutrients and lots of minerals.  I love it for its magnesium content.  57% of the US population does not meet the recommended daily requirement for magnesium.  I constantly see symptoms of magnesium deficiency in my practice.

The good news is that it is easy to get more spinach in our diets.  Add it to smoothie and you will never taste it.  Sandwiches, soups, casseroles, pasta and egg dishes can always benefit from a handful of spinach.

A fun thing you can do is grow your own spinach. You can keep it easy by using a big garden container.  It’s one of the best cold tolerant vegetables and very fast growing.  You can plant it 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost of the season.  That means this month.  It likes full sun but will also grow in partial shade.  My only challenge to growing this incredibly easy vegetable is fighting off the deer!

Ruth Clark is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience.  She lives in Sharon with offices in Peterborough and Amherst and sees clients in Keene (Jeni’s Skin Care).  Ruth specializes in mid-life women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality.