We often hear the recommendation to eat what’s “in season”, but do we really know why? There are actually a number of important reasons to do so, one being to support your body from future illness; something we all could use more knowledge on this day in age.
As the weather begins to slowly move into warmer temperatures and inching toward the first day of spring, we can all begin to look forward to more time spent outdoors, flowers budding, and slightly longer periods of sunlight each day. Something we can also look forward to is all of the spring fruits and vegetables that will be ready to enjoy in the coming months!
So why should we focus on eating these below listed foods for our immune health? It has more nutrients! So much of the important nutrients in our fresh whole foods can decline over time, as they are often picked before ripeness and allowed to travel hundreds of miles before even reaching the shelves. Seasonal, local foods are allowed to ripen naturally and become quickly harvested to allow for optimal nutrition. Seasonal foods tend to taste better; our bodies possibly naturally telling us the slight advantage it has for our health.
When it comes to seasonal whole foods in NY state in spring, there are many nourishing options to choose from, that are often ignored:
● Ramps – Popular with chefs and foragers because of their big flavor, ramps are a cross between garlic, leeks, and scallions. Ramps are incredibly nutrient dense, boasting high amounts of vitamin C (about twice as much as an orange) to aid in immune health and tissue repair. They also contain a number of beneficial plant compounds, such as thiosulfinates and cepaenes, to help blood clotting processes and fight against certain types of cancer. Ramps can be an easy addition to any diet, only needing a small amount and adding to soups, stews, and potato dishes.
● Nettles – Traditionally used for back pain and arthritis, nettle has many anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in a wide array of nutrients, such as vitamins C, A, K, and some B. It also includes a high number of minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, polyphenols, and pigments to support high antioxidant levels in the blood. Dried or cooked nettle is safe to eat, but pregnant women should avoid it as it can stimulate uterine contractions.
● Sprouts – Alfalfa sprouts are high in bioactive plant compounds including saponins, coumarins, flavonoids, phytosterols, phytoestrogens and alkaloids. The amazing thing about sprouts in general is that they are often higher in nutrient content than their full grown counterpart. That is why if you see them at the store for a higher price point, it is because you can eat less of them for similar nutrition of increased amounts of greens.
● Morels – Morels are wild edible mushrooms prized for their rarity and savory flavor. They are incredibly high in vitamin D, essential for immune function. They are also unique in the wild mushroom category for having rich mineral content such as copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. Zinc is especially important for its role in immune function and cellular metabolism. Morels can be eaten in a number of ways, traditionally pan-fried with garlic to enjoy their natural flavor.
If these are newer foods to you, I highly suggest giving them a try this time of year in NY! Besides the important aspects of eating seasonally and local for your own physical health, this way of eating is beneficial to your own community. You are benefiting in multiple ways by supporting this because it is an investment in the farmers that bring you this produce, so they can continue to do so in high quality ways! Although it may be more difficult to find farmer’s markets in the colder months, it is not impossible. So get out there, support your community, try new foods, and boost your immune system this spring :).