This past winter had some horrific weather especially for the folks who live in the Northeast. Snow fall was at record high levels and many people were stuck inside for long periods of time. Fresh produce and other delicious springtime food choices may have been limited due to season availability. Most of you are thrilled that the winter season has finally ended and are looking forward to more outdoor living. Everyone would like to boost their energy levels, immunity, mood and memory capacities with a change of season. Let’s look at fresh and tasty options to include in your spring menu planning. Most of you can buy these foods year round from places outside our country, in cans or in the freezer section but realize they will surely taste fresher and more natural in springtime. Look for the latest practices of local farmers markets, home gardens and farm to table springtime food preparation along with regular groceries to enjoy these springtime food choices at the peak of freshness. Enjoy!
- Pineapples: Although available year round, pineapples are sweeter during the warmer months especially when you purchase the golden ones. They are a good source of Vitamin C for boosted immunity and contain folate, iron and manganese which can aid in healthy skin, bones and cartilage. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme which aids in digestion by dissolving proteins and decreases inflammation. 1/2 cup has only 11 grams of carbohydrate or less than 1 serving of a carbohydrate and about 40 calories which is perfect for blood sugar control. They are refreshing, tangy and easy to roast on the grill. Thread pineapple cubes on shish kabob skewers with cherry tomatoes, chicken cubes and green peppers for an easy springtime dinner. Fresh pineapple can help tenderize meat and chicken when added to stews due to the bromelain content. They are high in soluble fiber which can help lower blood cholesterol. Pineapple can easily be added to fruit salads for a perfect low calorie dessert or eaten plain in chunks or rings.
- Red, Orange, Yellow and Green peppers: They are plentiful and reasonably priced in the spring and easy to add to many different dishes. The various colors indicate the degree of ripeness. Once picked off the vine they will not change colors. The red are the sweetest, orange and yellow in the middle and the green are the most bitter. The deeper the pepper color, the more bioflavonoid, which helps lower cancer risk. They contain plenty of Vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, folate and beta- carotene. The folic acid in peppers can decrease the amount of homocysteine (inflammation marker) which damages the inside of the blood vessels. Peppers may reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) which can lead to increased insulin sensitivity, decreased blood sugars, decreased CRP (C-reactive protein) levels and reduced visceral fat. Peppers also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which when taken is linked to fewer cases of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. They are easy to steam, stir-fry, roast, bake, sauté or grill, all of which are good springtime food preparation techniques when you have diabetes.
- Asparagus: Asparagus are another delicious vegetable with flavors bursting of springtime. They are an excellent source of folate (a B vitamin) as well as zinc, selenium and beta carotene. They can help decrease inflammation. Asparagus are rich in fiber which can lower heart disease risk and may be able to help regulate blood sugars. 1/2 cup contains 3.5 grams of a carbohydrate which makes them diabetes friendly. Asparagus can be eaten raw in salads or steamed with lemon juice. They can be added to stir fry and casseroles. They can be roasted or grilled with a teaspoon of olive oil.
- Artichokes: Artichokes are high in magnesium which over 50% of Americans are deficient in. People who take high blood pressure medications should focus on getting enough magnesium and potassium. Others who take medications for gastric reflux may also be depleted of magnesium. Magnesium may increase energy levels. Artichokes contain potassium as well. They are high in fiber and low in calories which make them a good choice when you have diabetes. Beans, spinach, brown rice and whole grains are also excellent sources of magnesium. Artichokes are easy to prepare on the grill or in the oven. Do not add rich dipping sauces such as Hollandaise or butter since that will negate the benefits of this fantastic fresh low calorie vegetable. Keep the dipping sauces light and try mustard, olive oil or Walden Farm based dips.
- Corn: Although a starchy vegetable and counted as a carbohydrate, corn in the spring and summer are super sweet, delicious and often part of the summer BBQ. Eaten in proper portion size, there is no reason why you should skip this vegetable at your next meal. A medium ear of corn has 26 grams of carbohydrate which counts as roughly two servings of a carbohydrates (30 grams) and when added to a protein like chicken, turkey, fish, lamb or pork and a green salad, can count as a complete balanced meal. Corn is rich in a beta-cryptoxanthin, which may reduce the risk of lung cancer. Corn also contains pantothenic acid, a B vitamin, which helps with metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
- Peaches, plums and nectarines: All are wonderfully sweet in the spring and summer and eaten in moderation are a perfect treat with many fresh fruit benefits. They are plentiful in this season and may be found at road side stands depending on where you live. A medium size stone (pit) fruit is low in calories and carbohydrates; do not look for the biggest one in the display and think it counts as one serving. All these fruits are high in fiber especially pectin which helps lower blood cholesterol. The skins contain bioflavonoid and the flesh contains beta carotene and Vitamin C. They have calcium, potassium, Vitamin K and Vitamin A. They can be eaten raw, baked or grilled. Be careful if you are allergic to aspirin since they contain salicylates and may cause a reaction in aspirin sensitive people.
These are just a handful of super fresh springtime food’s that are abundant in the spring/summer season. Experiment with new seasonal varieties and open your world to additional fresh fruits and vegetables. Test out different recipes and cooking techniques when using these delicious springtime food choices. These treats are sure to please your entire family!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.