Healthiest Foods That Are in Season in the Spring

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Revel in the seasonal colors and tastes of spring with these five fresh picks with distinct health and disease-fighting benefits

Blossom by blossom, spring is upon us. And with one of our favorite seasons comes fruits and vegetables that have climbed the top of the list with their time-tested, science-backed health benefits. Springtime offers fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors, including apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, broccoli, carrots, celery, kale, kiwifruit, lemons, peas, rhubarb, strawberries and so many more.

Here are five foods we've handpicked from the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide[i] as some of your healthiest choices for the season.

1. Asparagus

One medium spear of asparagus contains just 3 calories,[ii] but its magic lies in its amino acids and minerals, which researchers suggest enabled an extract of asparagus to shield liver cells against toxins from alcohol.[iii]

Asparagus is also known for diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties: it's traditionally used to support increased water excretion from the kidneys without affecting electrolyte balance, and demonstrates anti-inflammatory activity to aid in the increased metabolism of kidney cells.[iv]

Promising research from Rutgers University also studied two phytochemicals rich in asparagus that are thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in leukemia as well as colon cancer.[v]

2. Cabbage

A cup of shredded cabbage, equivalent to 70 grams, is a good source of fiber, potassium and calcium.[vi] Cabbage is a primary ingredient of kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean food known for a wealth of benefits including anticancer, anti-obesity, anti-constipation, antioxidant and antiaging properties, along with helping to balance cholesterol and enhance immunity.[vii]

A compound in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage is also thought to target cancer stem cells, helping prevent the recurrence and spread of certain cancers.[viii]

3. Lime

The humble lime may be popularly known for margaritas and the rich and tangy key lime pie, but it has a formidable list of health benefits that shouldn't be ignored. Lime juice helps increase malarial clearance when combined with standard drug therapy for the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, for instance.[ix]

Lime juice may also tackle bacterial agents in food. A study found that ceviche, which may contain pathogenic agents from fish, could be fully sanitized with lime juice.[x] Lime may also help people who want to cut the smoking habit for good. A clinical trial comparing nicotine gum to lime juice extract concluded that fresh lime can be beneficial as "a smoking cessation aid."[xi]

4. Mushroom

Earthy and tasty, mushrooms are a favorite addition in many spring dishes. However, they do more than serve as a culinary delight. Thanks to their high quality of proteins, unsaturated fats, minerals, sterols and other components, mushrooms have been massively appreciated for their role in protecting against conditions such as immunodeficiency, cancer, high blood pressure, inflammation and obesity, to name a few.[xii]

5. Pineapple

Besides offering the tropical, refreshing flavors of spring, pineapples have impressive healing properties. Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme extract from the plant, has been found in preclinical research to be superior to the chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil as an anti-tumor agent.[xiii]

Bromelain may also have remarkable potential applications against allergic airway disease, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, influenza and lung cancer.[xiv],[xv],[xvi],[xvii],[xviii],[xix]

Both bromelain and fresh pineapple juice have been tested and found beneficial on the early phase of healing in acute crush Achilles tendon injury.[xx] A separate study suggests bromelain can mitigate electrolyte imbalance in chronically constricted injury of the sciatic nerve, providing hope against neuropathic pain.[xxi]


[i] USDA Seasonal Produce Guide

[ii], Seasonal Produce Guide, Asparagus

[iii] Kim B et al "Effects of Asparagus officinalis Extracts on Liver Cell Toxicity and Ethanol Metabolism" J Food Sci. 2009 Sept 1.

[vi], Seasonal Produce Guide, Cabbage

[vii] Park K et al "Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food" J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):6-20. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.3083.

[ix] Adegoke S et al "Effects of lime juice on malaria parasite clearance" Phytother Res. 2011 Oct ;25(10):1547-50. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

[xi] Rungruanghiranya S et al "Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation" J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Dec; 95 Suppl 12:S76-82.

[xii] Ma G et al "A critical review on the health promoting effects of mushrooms nutraceuticals" Food Sci Hum Well. 2018 Jun; 7(2):125-33.

[xiii] Báez R et al "In vivo antitumoral activity of stem pineapple (Ananas comosus) bromelain" Planta Med. 2007 Oct;73(13):1377-83. Epub 2007 Sep 24.

[xv] Secor Et al "Oral Bromelain Attenuates Inflammation in an Ovalbumin-induced Murine Model of Asthma" Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar;5(1):61-9.

[xvii] Smirnova Iu et al "Flu virion as a substrate for proteolytic enzymes" Bioorg Khim. 2008 May-Jun;34(3):409-15.

[xviii] Bahde R et al "Bromelain ameliorates hepatic microcirculation after warm ischemia" J Surg Res. 2007 May 1;139(1):88-96. Epub 2007 Feb 8.

[xxi] Bakare A et al "Bromelain reversed electrolyte imbalance in the chronically constricted sciatic nerve of Wistar rats" Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2019 Oct 26. Epub 2019 Oct 26.

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