If fruits and vegetables are a part of your diet, you’re already well on your way to good health. These in-season, whole foods are not only the most natural foods you can possibly eat, but they’re also the most nutrient dense, which fuels your body with key vitamins and minerals that your body uses to protect itself, stay strong and provide you with energy.
While all fruits and veggies make great additions to your diet, the in-season varieties can be especially beneficial. When a fruit or vegetable is “in season,” it basically means that they are naturally growing in the location that you are in. This, functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P., explains, can vary from region to region, depending on temperature and other environmental factors. “We live in a time where we can ship fresh produce from all over the world at any time of the year, but it doesn’t mean that it is in season, per se—it just means that it is easily at our fingertips,” she says. “It can get confusing because the more readily available fresh produce is in our grocery stores, the easier it is to think that you can get it (and get the most nutrition out of it) at any time of the year, but that is not necessarily true.”
When produce is “in-season,” it is not only readily available, and therefore less costly, but it’s also at peak nutritional value. “Some produce just grows better during the spring or the summer, for example, than compared to the winter, in the region that you live in, and when you buy and eat those foods, you cash in on all the benefits: nutritional profile, better taste, more ripeness, saving money, reduced pesticide consumption, buying local, supporting local farms, having a smaller carbon footprint, being exposed to local allergens, etc.,” explains Rodgers.
In-season produce also tends to taste better, because there is less manipulation required to bring it to your table. “When produce doesn’t have to be grown and transported from far away from its final destination it will age less before it hits store shelves,” explains Lisa Richards, C.N.C., nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet. “The transportation process and storage of the produce alone will impact the quality and freshness of the produce as well as the flavor of the produce.”
Ready to shop delicious in-season produce? Here are the fresh fruits and vegetables nutrition experts recommend putting on your plate this spring.
This versatile green vegetable is rich with nutrients, especially soluble fiber, the type that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut that promotes gut health and lowers blood cholesterol levels, notes Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy. “Asparagus is also rich in vitamin K, which supports bone health, and folate, which reduces the risk for neural tube defects during early pregnancy and also benefits the heart,” she says.
Try this recipe: Baked Brown Rice Asparagus
Chances are, you’re a fan of this sweet red fruit, and you may notice that it tastes more delicious in the spring and summer months when it’s in season. “Spring strawberries are not only super sweet and tasty, but they are really high in vitamin C, so they are a great boost for your immune health,” says Rodgers. “They are also a great way to help whiten the teeth.” She recommends seeking out organic strawberries to keep your pesticide intake low, since they are one of the top produce on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.
Try this recipe: Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
This dark, leafy green is jam-packed with important nutrients, including iron, which some 2.2 to 10.5 percent of Americans are running low on, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. “Spinach is so versatile—from popping it into your smoothies, to adding it to salads, to using it in sautes and stir-frys, you can add spinach in your meals pretty effortlessly,” says Rodgers.
Try this recipe: Red Lentils and Spinach in Masala Sauce
Here’s another dark, leafy green that is nutrient-dense and in season this time of year. “Kale helps improve energy because it contains large amounts of vitamin A and improves blood pressure thanks to its potassium and magnesium levels,” explains Richards. “Kale also helps with weight because you will likely replace calorie-dense foods with nutrient-dense and low calorie kale.”
Try this recipe: Kale Chips
This spring vegetable is loaded with nutrients that aid in natural detoxification, lowering cholesterol, and regulating blood sugar, according to Richards. “These side effects alone are ideal for spring months when the body is in desperate need of detoxification and rejuvenation from the winter months,” she says. “One artichoke is just 60 calories with 7 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of plant-based protein.”
Try this recipe: Oven Roasted Artichokes
This tropical yellow fruit is so sweet and satisfying, but it’s especially delicious during the warmer months. “Pineapple is packed with immunity-helping vitamin C—in one cup of pineapple, you get 79 milligrams of vitamin C,” says Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., an inclusive plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, Connecticut. “The fruit also provides fiber and protein, plus it contains bromelain, beneficial for helping to lower inflammation.”
Try this recipe: Grilled Roasted Pineapple