Spring rolls along and, with it, the spring to summer harvest. Get these healthy, delicious vegetables while they’re fresh and, perhaps, local where you are. I’ll highlight the nutrients in each, consult the list following this post to see what fantastic things these nutrients do for you.
These thorny globes are unique for their prebiotics and, as such, are considered a digestive aid. They also have flavonoids, fiber, B vitamins (especially folates), vitamins C and K and minerals copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.
We like to steam whole artichokes and consume them, leaf-by-leaf, dipping them in melted butter and gently scraping off the tasty meat at the base of each leaf with our teeth. (Don’t forget to carve out and discard the choke when you get down to the heart.) But the diamond in the rough of artichokes is their hearts, which are more delicate in their texture and flavor. Watch this video to learn how to get to the hearts:
To steam whole artichokes, trim a few inches off tops and trim down the stems to about one inch. Peel off the tough small leaves near the stem. Steam over simmering water, face down, for approximately one hour.
These healthy spears come in purple and white in addition to the more familiar green. Consider trying the purple variety if you have picky eaters that turn up noses at green food. They’re packed with fiber, vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-9 and K; minerals copper and iron; phytonutrients lutein, carotenes, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin.
Trim and discard the woody parts of the stem, about one to two inches from the base, and wash thoroughly before cooking. Asparagus spoils quickly. Roast or flash boil them the day you buy them and store in a sealed container in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Sweet green peas are more a legume than a vegetable, which means they’re a good source of protein. But, they’re reputation as a vegetable comes from their micronutrients: vitamins A, C, K and B-complex; minerals copper, iron, manganese and zinc; phytonutrients lutein, zeaxanthin and several carotenes.
Sweet peas begin to break down into starches soon after harvesting. Therefore, much of the harvest is flash frozen or canned immediately to halt that process. So peas in the frozen foods or canned goods section of supermarkets are perfectly acceptable, healthy forms of this great veggie. But, in the short time they’re available fresh, buy them local and prepare them immediately for a harvest-to-table treat.
Radishes hold a special place in my heart because my father always planted these easy-growing root veggies in our garden. A member of the cruciferous family, radishes are good sources of fiber, vitamin C, sulforaphane and several flavonoids.
They’re best served raw and sliced thin into salads or other veggie dishes, lending vibrant color, crisp texture and a peppery kick. While the more common red radish is gorgeous, experiment with other varieties for a rainbow of colors. They can be found sporting purple, white, pink and stripes.
If you can, get your radishes stems and all. The greens are edible and offer vitamin C, protein and calcium. They’re bitter so you don’t want to eat them raw. Sautee or roast them in olive oil and season as you would any other bitter green, such as kale. They have a short shelf life so immediately remove from radish, wash thoroughly, drain, wrap in paper towels to absorb moisture and store in sealed plastic bag in fridge. Eat or cook as soon as possible.
Versatility is the snow peas’ (aka snap peas) secret weapon because they’re delicious raw as well as cooked. And their sweet flavor and delicate, crunchy texture make them kid-friendly. They’re terrific sources of the B vitamin complex, vitamins A, C and K; minerals iron and manganese; several flavonoids known to promote eye health.
If they’re young enough, you need not do anything to them other than clean them. They’re tender enough to be snacked on raw but sturdy enough to stand up to a gentle heating – such as in a stir-fry or sautéed into pasta, rice or quinoa dishes. As snow peas mature and get larger, their spines become woody. After cleaning, use a small knife to trim the stem end and gently pull back to “unzip” the spine from the pod.
Vitamin A: Antioxidant promotes immunity function and eye, skin & red blood cell health
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin): Promotes brain function, regulates energy levels
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Aids energy production
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Promotes blood health, regulates cholesterol
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Promotes healthy hormone response
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Promotes healthy blood vessels
Vitamin B-9 (Folate): Necessary for healthy blood cells & fetal development
Vitamin C: Antioxidant that boosts immunity
Vitamin K: Important in protein absorption for healthy blood and bones
Calcium: Electrolyte necessary for strong teeth and bones
Copper: Antioxidant promotes healthy blood and eye, brain, skin and bone tissue
Iron: Antioxidant necessary for blood health
Magnesium: Electrolyte for nerve function and heart & blood glucose regulation
Manganese: Antioxidant important in bone health and blood sugar regulation
Phosphorus: Promotes healthy bones, digestion and hormone regulation
Zinc: Antioxidant needed for healing and healthy skin
Fiber: Technically not a nutrient but essential for digestive health & an aid in weight control
Prebiotics: Specific carbohydrates that aren’t digested by the human body; they feed probiotics in our digestive systems.
Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients: Powerful antioxidants found in small amounts in most plant-based foods. Over 25,000 individual phytonutrients have been identified thus far and many are sub-divided into categories such as phytoestrogens, carotenes, flavonoids and polyphenolics:
- Carotenes (Alpha & Beta): convert to vitamin A; anti-aging & eye health
- Catechins: flavonoid showing anti-cancer promise
- Cryptoxanthin: anti-inflammatory carotene
- Epicatechin: flavonoid may lessen risk for heart disease, diabetes & cancer
- Flavonol: heart & respiratory anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Lutein: carotene for eye health
- Sulforaphane: anti-estrogen, cancer fighting properties
- Zeaxanthin: carotene for eye health
Sources: visualnews.com, wisebread.com, nutrition-and-you.com, Harvard.edu, webMD