With plants budding all around us, Spring can be a motivating time to explore new colorful veggies and healthy meals. It can also be a good time to eat fresh foods directly from the ground. Simply said, Spring is an inspiring time of the year. So, how do we find inspiration in a nutritious way? Four ways to increase your nutrition this spring are to eat with the season, eat fresh, eat local and eat green.
Eat with the Season
I think it’s safe to say that if we take our cues from nature we will do just fine. Many of the plants growing in the spring have beneficial properties for that season. For example, nettles are best picked during the early months of spring and are very effective at reducing seasonal allergies that are often troublesome during these spring months.
Asparagus, also a Springtime favorite, is rich in Vitamin C and Quercetin. Both of these nutrients are bioflavinoids that can act as natural antihistamines to reduce sneezing, itchy and watery eyes.
There is nothing like picking greens directly from the dirt. Veggies that are left to fully ripen often have a higher nutrient content compared to vegetables picked early for transport. They also taste sweeter, juicier and have a deeper color. Research shows that Vitamin C levels, for instance, decrease by half when the fruit is picked without fully ripening.
Eating fresh veggies in early spring can take some advanced planning in planting. A low maintenance way of eating fresh produce is by visiting one of the many farmer’s markets sprinkled throughout Portland’s neighborhoods. The produce you see on Sunday is often picked within days of going to the market.
When we eat local, we are typically eating with the season and eating fresh food. We are also reducing our carbon footprint, which will benefit future plants and the environment. Research also shows that storage matters when examining the nutrient content of foods. When a fruit or vegetable is stored and transported at slightly warmer temperatures, the food can lose about 47 percent of its nutrient content within six days. North American commercially grown produce can take about five days to make it to the grocery store. After you buy and take an apple home, you may only be getting 50 percent of its optimal vitamins.
Buying foods produced close to home naturally increases your foods’ nutritional content. In addition to taking a weekly visit to one of our farmer’s markets, another way to eat local produce is to become a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) member. This helps to keep our money close to home by financially supporting the farmers near us.
Arugula, spinach, spring greens, chard and collard greens are at their brightest during the spring months. These green leafy vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K and magnesium; necessary nutrients for numerous body functions. Think about greens when you are trying to add fiber for digestive health, magnesium to calm your tight muscles and Vitamin A for healthy skin. These antioxidants can also offer our immune system the necessary nutrients to stay strong or to fight infections.
As we move into the brighter months of the spring, I hope that you stay nourished and healthy.
Dr. Heather Krebsbach is a Naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist at Inner Gate Health and Wellness in NE Portland. She specializes in women’s health, endocrine and digestive disorders. Learn more at innergatepdx.com/naturopathic-medicine.
Photo of farmers market bounty by Kris McDowell