These warm-weather fruits and veggies pack serious health benefits
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The strawberry, a true symbol of warmer weather, is coming into its own this month. One serving of the low-calorie fruit packs more vitamin C than an orange and offers protection against heart attacks, cognitive decline, and damage to the skin from UV rays. The high antioxidant content has also been credited with increasing HDL, or "good" cholesterol, says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How To Enjoy: Straight from the vine! Pick your own this season and burn some calories in the process. Or try them as a sweet addition to salads with balsamic vinegar, says Sheth.
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One of spring's tiniest veggies is also one of its most nutritious. Peas are loaded with fiber and vitamins A, C, and K, which is important for healthy blood and bones, says Sheth.
How To Enjoy: Sprinkling some raw peas into a salad offers even more vitamin C per one cup than serving them as a cooked side dish does. Sheth suggests mashing them into guacamole to cut back on some of the fat from the avocado. They're also tasty additions to pasta and rice dishes.
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Just one single apricot in all its sweet and juicy glory contains a good amount of your daily vitamins A and C, plus some fiber and potassium—all for just 17 calories. It also offers some iron, says Sheth, which, in the presence of that vitamin C, is absorbed more effectively by the body.
How To Enjoy: A perfect on-the-go snack, apricots can also be chopped or blended into parfaits or smoothies, says Sheth. Try them sliced with peanut butter for a fresher take on the classic PB&J, she suggests.
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"People think about staying away from white-colored foods, but cauliflower is the exception," says Sheth. While it doesn't often get the praise its relative broccoli gets, it's worthy of it. Both come from the same cruciferous family of vegetables and are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Often thought of as a cooler-weather veggie, cauliflower is ripe for the picking in a number of states this month, offering possible protection against cancer and stroke.
How To Enjoy: Beside enjoying it raw with a little dip, Sheth suggests using it as a low-calorie substitute for potatoes, either baked or mashed. Or try roasting it with some Indian spices such as turmeric, she says, with some garbanzo beans for protein and fiber.
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Sure, these guys are pretty funny looking, but they boast a unique flavor and are a true sign of spring, which is prime morel hunting season. In the same family as truffles, they can be pricey, but they do provide potassium and B vitamins. Research in animals suggests morel mushrooms may also be beneficial for liver function, says Sheth, and, like other mushrooms, they are a decent source of vitamin D, she says.
How To Enjoy: Tasty raw in salads, they're also yummy in stir fries, or simply sautéed or grilled with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, says Sheth.
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Seeing as this gem is a cross between a raspberry and a blueberry, it's not surprising that it's chock-full of similar brainpower-boosting benefits, antioxidants, and vitamins, says Sheth. They're also rich in fiber.
How To Enjoy: Although they're less common than their counterparts, boysenberries can be enjoyed just like any other berry, says Sheth: just as they are, or in salads, smoothies, or even on top of pancakes, she says. Look for them at your farmer's market this month.