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8 affordable superfoods to add to your grocery list this spring
Get a delicious dose of healthy (and cheap) eating with these springtime fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a healthy diet. Research shows they can lower your risk of serious health problems like cancer and heart disease. And they may help you live longer.
One recent study looked at the eating patterns of more than 100,000 people over 30 years. It found that people who ate about 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a 13% lower risk of early death.1
Despite the benefits, about 90% of Americans aren’t eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day.2 One reason could be the increasing cost of fresh produce. But even with the prices of some foods on the rise, there are still ways to save.
One good way to cut costs? Buy fresh produce in season when prices are at their lowest. And keep in mind that frozen and canned veggies are also good for your health. Those are budget-friendly options year-round.
Here are 8 fruits and veggies to stock up on right now that won’t break the bank.
Bundles of fresh asparagus may start flooding the fresh produce aisle as early as February. And you can get them for a much better price right now than the rest of the year.
Asparagus spears can range from super skinny to thick and sturdy. Thinner spears usually show up earlier in the season. Asparagus is great for chopping up and adding to pasta, omelets or even salads, raw or cooked.
Serving tips: Thicker spears, which show up later in the season, are good for roasting on their own. They’re even sturdy enough to throw on the grill. Simply toss the spears with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Rotating every few minutes, cook about 10 to 15 minutes.
To roast them in the oven, lay the spears out on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes until they’re tender.
Why it’s good for you: In addition to other nutrients, asparagus is a good source of the B vitamin folate. This nutrient is important for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. It’s needed for early growth of the fetus’s brain and spinal cord.
A head of cabbage is always a budget-friendly veggie at the market in the cooler spring months. And just 1 cabbage goes a long way (and lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge).
Serving tips: Use half a head to make a low-cal cabbage soup on a cooler day. On a warmer day, use the other half for a fresh coleslaw. You can add other shredded vegetables too. Try carrots, radishes or broccoli stems.
Why it’s good for you: Cabbage is part of a family of veggies that have powerful disease-fighting nutrients. (Other examples include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.)
Research shows they may be especially good at fighting off cancer.3 In one study, women who ate at least 5 servings a week of veggies from this family were 10% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate less than 2 servings.4
Bagged baby carrots are a convenient, low-cost option for year-round snacking. But you can’t beat the flavor of fresh, whole carrots in spring. Grab a bunch of fresh carrots with the greens still on them.
Serving tips: Cut carrots into sticks to nibble on raw. Serve them with hummus for a protein-rich afternoon snack. Or roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper and serve as a side with fish or chicken. And don’t toss the greens. You can use them as an herb, like parsley.
Why it’s good for you: Carrots are a great source of vitamin A. This vitamin helps maintain eye health and vision. It’s also important for immune function.
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4. Collard greens
You’ve probably seen collard greens on the menu at your local barbecue restaurant. These leafy greens are a favorite in Southern cuisine. And no matter how they’re prepared, they’re delicious, cheap and healthy.
Serving tips: Collard greens are tougher and more fibrous than other greens. So they taste best steamed, boiled or braised instead of eaten raw. Serve them as a side dish with a little olive oil. Or mix some greens into soup.
Why it’s good for you: Collard greens are one of the best sources of vitamin K. Just half a cup of boiled collards will give you 4 times the amount of vitamin K you need in a day.5 And that could be good news for your bone health. Some studies suggest that eating more vitamin K is linked to stronger bones and a lower risk of breaking your hip.5
But if you take a blood-thinning medicine, like warfarin, you’ll want to be careful. Vitamin K can have potentially dangerous interactions with blood thinners. That means it might not work right and cause unwanted side effects. Talk to your doctor for advice.
You can get frozen or canned peas year-round. But now is the time to find fresh peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas at the market.
Serving tips: Sugar snap peas are great for snacking raw with your favorite veggie dip. Snow peas go great in a stir-fry. Fresh peas can add a pop of green to tuna casserole or a spring pasta.
Why it’s good for you: Peas are a good source of fiber and protein. And although peas on their own are high in carbs (people with diabetes, take note), peas in the pod are lower in carbs. They have only about 5 grams of carbs per cup.
Raw radishes have a peppery flavor and a crispy crunch. They pack a big punch with very few calories. And they’re a bargain, especially in the spring.
Serving tips: Try some of these ideas for adding more radishes to your meals:
- Add thinly sliced radishes to sandwiches, salads and tacos.
- Add grated radishes to your coleslaw.
- Add chopped radishes to chicken or tuna salad.
- Toss them with cucumbers and vinaigrette for a tasty salad.
Why it’s good for you: Radishes are a great source of vitamin C. This antioxidant vitamin helps protect your cells from damage. It also boosts immunity.
Spinach is a springtime staple. Early in the season, you can get “baby greens.” These young leaves are less bitter than more mature greens picked later in the season.
Serving tips: The milder flavor of baby spinach greens makes it perfect in salads. Try making a springtime salad with other veggies on this list. Spinach, raw asparagus, fresh peas and thinly sliced radishes would make a great combo. Top it with a zesty, lemony vinaigrette.
Why it’s good for you: Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Those little leaves are packed with fiber and many essential nutrients. And a cup of raw spinach has just 7 calories.
Most fruit doesn’t come into season until later in the summer. But strawberries can satisfy your sweet tooth in the spring.
You don’t have to get them at the market. Try picking your own. See if there’s a berry farm near you that offers pick-your-own days. It’s a fun outing for the whole family. And you can get the freshest berries for a bargain. Stock up and freeze some for later.
Serving tips: You can add strawberries to your meals all day long. Here are some tasty ideas:
- Slice up strawberries and mix them with plain yogurt and a handful of nuts for a healthy breakfast.
- Toss them into a green salad at lunchtime.
- Blend them into a smoothie as an afternoon snack.
- Serve them for dessert after dinner, topped with a small dollop of whipped cream.
Why it’s good for you: Strawberries are an excellent source of flavonoids. These special plant nutrients may help keep your brain healthy. In one study, adults who ate the most flavonoids were 19% less likely to have age-related memory loss and confusion, compared with those who ate the least.6
Find more simple tips for healthy eating on our Until It’s Fixed podcast
- Circulation. Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality: Results from two prospective cohort studies of US men and women and a meta-analysis of 26 cohort studies. Published April 27, 2022. Accessed January 23, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations — United States, 2019. Published January 7, 2022. Accessed January 23, 2023.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The beginner’s guide to cruciferous vegetables.” Published August 13, 2020. Accessed January 18, 2023.
- International Journal of Cancer. Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: Repeated measures over 30 years of follow-up. Published April 1, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2023.
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin K. Updated March 29, 2021. Accessed January 20, 2023.
- Neurology. Long-term dietary flavonoid intake and subjective cognitive decline in US men and women. Published September 7, 2021. Accessed January 20, 2023.
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