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Healthy You: Spring delicacies can prove not only tasty but nutritious

There is something special about the unfolding of spring.

Weather-wise, it promises more sunshine and warmth. Food-wise, it is the herald of summer’s abundance.

Spring’s produce is characteristically tender, rich in varying shades of green, red and blue. Now is the time to take advantage of all the tenderness and colors of the produce available during this season.

So let’s take a look at some of the top players in spring produce: the “ABCs” of spring fare.

A is for Artichoke. These slightly prickly beauties are part of the thistle family. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one medium artichoke contains 60 calories, 4gm protein, 0gm fat, and 6gm fiber.

Yet there is more to these than just the mere calorie count. Artichokes also contain vitamins C, A and K and folate, nutrients important for immune health, blood clotting, bone health and fertility. But there’s even more: A compound called silymarin make these prickly veggies superstars worth including into your regular fare.

Silymarin is known for its role in liver health. Particularly, studies have shown it to be a powerful antioxidant and to promote the regeneration of liver tissue. Studies have also shown good success in this compound’s usage in treating in liver cirrhosis and mushroom poisoning.

While delicious, the extensive time required to cook them and their meager amounts of flesh make artichokes a more high-  maintenance food. They definitely appear to be one of those foods that seems easier to buy than to prepare yourself!

This is where the right tools can make all the difference. For those  who have a pressure cooker, you will find that cooking two or more artichokes only requires five to 15 minutes of cook time depending on the size.

B is for Broccoli. Most of us know that broccoli is good for us, yet we have no idea why! Not only is broccoli rich in vitamin K, vitamin C (when raw) and calcium (when cooked), it turns out that that characteristic sulfur smell that makes it oh so memorable is what makes it so healthy!

Sulfur is essential for a portion of your liver’s detoxification process, especially clearing out dangerous estrogens (menopausal women, take note).

Another powerful compound called sulforaphane induces and suppresses enzymes that affect cancer growth and death, making it a powerful anticancer food. Broccoli sprouts are particularly loaded with this compound. In fact, one sprout contains as much of the anti-cancer compounds as one whole head of broccoli.

C is for Cherries. Bright and beautiful, tart or sweet, these spring fruits are incredibly nutritious.

Their red color comes from a compound called anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. Cherries also contain potassium, vitamins C and E, melatonin and some fiber. Despite their sugar content (22 grams/1 cup serving), cherries appear to exert a beneficial influence on the blood sugar responses of diabetics (not non-diabetics).

Some studies conducted on athletes also showed improved recovery from muscle soreness after exercises induced stress (thanks to their anti-inflammatory effect). Due to the effect their sugar content can have on the bowels, be mindful of the serving size and stick to one cup or less at a time.

It is always surprising to me how potently healthful even the most “common” of produce can be! This spring, try adding in these “ABCs” of spring’s bounty and know you are supporting your health and longevity!

Cathryn Arndt is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She lives in the Lebanon area with her husband and owns a nutrition counseling business called The Pantry Lab LLC. To learn more about Cathryn, visit her at her Facebook page or You Tube Channel by searching under “Dietitian Cathryn.” Find her blog at thepantrylab.com.

 

Salted Dark Chocolate and Cherry Almond Clusters

Ingredients:

¼ cup (38 grams) fresh cherries, washed, pitted and chopped

¼ cup (30 grams) raw whole almonds, roughly chopped

½ cup (88 grams) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

¼ teaspoon (2 grams) fine sea salt

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped cherries and chopped almonds. Place the chocolate chips in a separate microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula. Repeat two or three more times until the chips are thoroughly melted. Pour the melted chocolate into the cherry and almond mixture. Stir with the rubber spatula until the almonds and cherries are coated with chocolate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out about 2 tablespoons to make 2-inch x 2-inch chocolate clusters and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serves 5.

Note: For those watching their sugar, try substituting the ½ cup chocolate chips with equal or lesser amounts of coconut oil and 2 tbsp. cocoa powder. Warm the coconut oil before adding the cocoa powder and mix well. This will make the clusters soft at room temp so always keep them refrigerated.

– Recipe by Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD