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Celebrate with Color

Colorful fruits and vegetables will set you up for a healthy and sweet spring!

Spring is a great time to tap into the benefits of a plant-based diet and commit to choices for greater health, vitality and increased energy. Colorful fruits and vegetables grow all around us, and they’re loaded with health-promoting nutrients.

The American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research all suggest plenty of plant foods as the core of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are naturally fat and cholesterol free and are low in sodium. They are also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fibers that place them at the top of many health food lists. Equally exciting is the fresh-picked flavor, tender texture and sweet tastes that thrill our taste buds. They’re fun to eat and help us feel great, too.

Asparagus, onions, spinach and strawberries share an early-spring to midsummer growing season. This is the time of year to capture the very best of their flavors.

Asparagus

With green, white and purple varieties, sweet, tender asparagus is a favorite of vegetable- lovers everywhere. Anthocyanin, a phytochemical in purple asparagus, has potent antioxidant properties that may provide cancer-protective benefits. Look for firm, brightly colored stalks with tightly closed buds.

Try asparagus in a mixed green salad, tossed with a favorite vinaigrette, add it to omelets, roast it in the oven or cook it on the grill.

One cup of asparagus contains only 30 calories, yet has 3 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C.

Onions

According to the National Onion Association, the average American eats roughly 20 pounds of onions each year. Avoid tears by trying the increasingly popular spring and summer fresh onions. Typically sweeter and milder in flavor, they include varieties Vidalia, Walla Walla and Oso Sweets. An added bonus, onions contain an antioxidant called quercetin, a flavonoid, that may have cardio-protective and anti-cancer benefits.

Add onions to salads, omelets and soups, slice a sweet onion to top a sandwich or turkey burger, add to homemade salsa or roast in the oven to enjoy this sweet treat.

One medium onion contains 60 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of vitamin C, potassium and folic acid.

Spinach

Spinach is a leafy green powerhouse. Not what you’d expect, perhaps, from such delicate leaves. Loaded with antioxidants, spinach is a particularly good source of the phytochemical lutein, a carotenoid, that may help encourage eye health and protect against certain cancers. Spinach tastes great raw or cooked. Try a spinach salad with fresh strawberries, sauté spinach with fresh garlic, olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt, add spinach to spaghetti sauce or try adding spinach to pizza.

One and one-half cups of shredded spinach contains 40 calories, 5 grams of dietary fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.

Strawberries

Sweet and juicy, strawberries are in peak season April through July. They are a rich source of phenol, a powerful phytochemical being studied for its heart-healthy benefits and anti-cancer abilities. Their bright red color and intense flavor make them a wonderful addition to any meal or snack.

Choose fresh strawberries as a healthy snack any time or try adding them to yogurt, salads or cottage cheese. They’re great mixed with mango, kiwi or other berries and on top of pancakes or rolled into thin crepes.

One cup of strawberries has 45 calories, 3 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamin C.

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