Spring is fast approaching and with that comes amazing produce. Whether your motivation is to lower your cholesterol or simply prepare for swimsuit season, eating a plant-based diet can help. Try adding these five foods to your grocery list that are at their peak in March to create tasty meals that are also healthful.
Superfood One: Artichokes
Why Try It: You can enjoy an entire medium-sized globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) for about 60 calories. You'll be getting a healthy dose of potassium, an electrolyte, as well as 7 g of fiber, which is needed for heart and digestive health. Lastly, artichokes are a great source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.
How to Prepare It: If you buy whole artichokes, they can be roasted or steamed with herbs and spices to flavor the petals. Just be sure to trim the tips of the petals before cooking. The proper way to eat an artichoke is to remove the outer petals and scrape off the flesh with your teeth. You then remove the heart and eat that as well. Or, you can buy artichoke hearts in a can which is an easy way to quickly prepare meals. Add them to pasta dishes or salad, or to meat and vegetable kabobs and grill them.
Superfood Two: Brussels Sprouts
Why Try It: A member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea) are actually a fantastic source of vitamin C. Just one, 1-cup serving is all you need to get more than 100 percent of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Vitamin C fights free radicals, strengthens the immune system and supports healthy skin. They're also a great source of fiber.
How to Prepare it: Roasting Brussels sprouts is the best way to soften them and bring out their flavor. Try tossing them with olive oil or coconut oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven until golden brown. You can also sauté them on the stovetop. From there, combine them with nuts or cheese for a hearty side dish. They can also be add to cous cous or quinoa to make a more filling main dish. Lastly, you can finely shred the Brussels sprouts using a mandolin and make a slaw out of them with apple cider vinegar, dried spices and a little stevia.
Superfood Three: Turnips
Why Try It: A turnip (Brassica rapa) is a type of root vegetable with starchy flesh. Consuming one medium-sized turnip provides almost half of your daily vitamin C as well as protein for natural energy and lean muscle development. You also get some fiber from consuming turnips as well. At only 34 calories and 8 g of carbohydrates per serving, they're a smart choice.
How to Prepare It: Turnips are very versatile and can be cooked a number of ways, but they're taste can be somewhat bitter. They can be grilled, sautéed or roasted to bring out a sweeter flavor. You can even enjoy them raw -- try thinly slicing or shaving them and adding the turnips to a salad. Another great way to enjoy them is by boiling the turnips and then mashing them with seasonings and a little butter, just like you would a potato. The greens of the plant can also be cooked and eaten.
Superfood Four: Strawberries
Why Try It: Berries are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, which help strengthen the body's natural defenses against pathogens that can make us sick and free radicals, which damage cells and lead to aging. They also provide fiber.
How to Prepare It: Strawberries are sweet and delicious on their own, but you can also add them to a number of recipes. For breakfast, combine strawberries with vanilla protein power, some soy or almond milk, ice cubes and flax seeds in a blender for a satisfying smoothie. For lunch, mix them with other berries for an antioxidant-packed fruit salad to bring to work. For dinner, try topping a spinach salad with sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar for a tasty mix of sweet and savory and plenty of nutrients.
Superfood Five: Kumquats
Why Try It: Similar in appearance to an orange but about the size of a Brazil nut, kumquats (Citrus japonica) are a type of citrus fruit. Just like oranges and other citrus varieties, they're a great source of vitamin C as well as fiber, which is found in their flesh. Kumquats also contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant as well as vitamin E, which keeps the skin healthy.
How to Prepare It: The great thing about kumquats is they're a type of citrus fruit that can be eaten in their entire, peel and all. When you get them, make sure to wash them thoroughly. From there, you can eat them whole or peel them like a clementine. However, you'll need to be careful of the small seeds inside. Either eat around them or cut the kumquat in half and remove the seeds before enjoying. If the fruit is too sour, you trying cutting them in half and dipping them in a little bit of a natural sweetener, like stevia.
Take advantage of all the great produce March has to offer to help you stay on track. We'll be back next month with five more superfoods worth trying. Have a great week!