By Zeenat Farooq
Spring is already knocking at our doors. While the days are getting longer and nights getting shorter, there are changes in terms of the varieties of fruits and vegetables available in the local markets.
In the 21st century where we can have some fruits and vegetables throughout the year like some hybrids and frozen or processed ones, some of which are loaded with energy but nevertheless, nothing can beat the deliciousness and richness of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Spring is often considered a season of rejuvenation after a cold and harsh winter season, therefore fresh green veggies and rich delicious fruits are some of the best picks for spring. According to a number of studies carried around the world by nutritionists, it has been agreed upon that a truly healthy meal should constitute of 80% of fruits and vegetables alone which again emphasize their importance in terms of nutrition and health benefits.
Why To Have In-Season Fruits And Vegetables
People living in the ancient world were more in harmony with their surroundings than we do. For example, they would eat fruits and vegetables which were grown in season and not preserved ones.
Also they would cultivate the same through organic farming. While our conventional farming practices ensure higher yields and better productivity, it has been realized for around two decades now that organic farming practices certainly have benefits in terms of increasing the richness of fruits and vegetables by imparting increased mineral and vitamins like Magnesium and Zinc.
Also, organic farming practices increase the richness and preserve the bio-diversity of soil which again increases the richness of the crops.
Fresh and non-seasonal Fruits and vegetables, although now available throughout the year, should not be encouraged beyond limit as this practice harms our body and the environment in various ways as:
- Out of season fruits and vegetables have lesser amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Fruits and vegetables transported over long distances experience degradation of some of the vital Micro-Nutrients. Also, long distance transportation increases demand for fuel and contribute to pollution.
- Such fruits and vegetables are harvested at immaturity to prevent them from rotting during transportation which compromises the aroma and taste which would otherwise be attained at maturity.
- Fruits and vegetables, when grown out of season, necessitate some alterations in the cultivating area to meet the special needs of out of season growth. This puts a huge burden on the soil in the form of chemical Fertilizers, Pesticides etc which besides degrading the soil, also contribute to soil and water pollution; and also finds its way into our bodies through food chain.
All the above mentioned reasons further stress on the benefits and importance of fresh in season fruits and vegetables. So here are some of the best picks for you in this spring-summer to beat the heat and add some freshness and health to your meals:
- APRICOT: Apricot grows from late spring through early summer. A fruit liked by one and all, this fruit tastes best when ripe. Besides having the raw fruit, one can also have it sliced over ice cream or baked into apricot tarts. The dried peel of this fruit is very good for skin rejuvenation. This fruit is also rich in Anti-Oxidants that are good for heart health and is low in calories, thus good in reducing weight.
- AVOCADO: It is classically a summer fruit but is now grown throughout the year. This fruit has many health benefits especially for hair and skin. It is a rich source of Flavonoids, Foliate and good Fats which decrease Cholesterol.
- BEANS: A spring vegetable which is a rich source of Fibre and good Fats. This vegetable increases Cardio Vascular health and aids in Weight Loss.
- CHERRY: A fruit of late spring and summer is one of the most delicious of all fruits. This fruit has a lot of health benefits besides being a refreshing fruit. This fruit is highly rich in fibre, thus aids in Digestion and Weight Loss. It is also a rich source of Flavonoids, especially Anthocyanin which protects our body from Free Radicals and Environmental Toxins.
- CHILLIES: They are much more than just a spicy food ingredient. Chillies: boost our Body Metabolism, help in Weight Loss and loss of Appetite. They also lead to Neutralization of some of the Pathogens in our body.
- COLLARD GREENS: This veggie is a rich source of Fibre and Vitamins. It can be used as a bulk material in some delicious vegetable salads to help reducing weight as it gives a satiety feeling.
- CILANTRO/CORIANDER: A cool herb whose season predominates between spring and summer in cooler areas. It has a very high anti-oxidant potential. Many studies have suggested that use of herbs like Cilantro can decrease the risk of: Obesity, overall Mortality, Diabetes and heart problems. It can also help in increasing the health of skin and hair at the same time. It is also a natural preservative. It has also been suggested to play a role as an Antibacterial agent against Salmonella and also aids in Lead Detoxification.
- CUCUMBERS: Essentially a summer delight, cucumbers are a rich source of water which prevents from summer dehydration. It also contains ample amounts of Vitamins, Minerals and Fibre to increase health and boost energy levels. Cucumbers are also very low in Carbohydrates and thus can aid in Weight Loss. This water rich vegetable is also good in curing Digestive problems.
- GARLIC: It is also found mainly in spring and through fall season. This can be added to cooked vegetables as a spice or can be taken in the form of pickles. It is a very rich source of plant oils which help to decrease Cholesterol, thereby maintaining heart heath. It is also a good remedy for managing Hypertension.
- LEMONS: The most refreshing of all the spring fruits, lemons like most of the other citrus fruits are a rich source of Vitamin C and Anti-Oxidants which boost Immunity, improves Skin health, delays Aging and rids the body of harmful Toxins and Free Radicals.
- LETTUCE: The most common and loved one among all the green leafy vegetables, lettuce has a high content of Fibre and Cellulose which imparts satiety feeling, improves digestion and helps in long term body weight management. Its Fibre also assists in the removal of bile salts from the body, thus maintains Liver health.
- MELON: A fruit grown in spring and summer. It is a rich source of Fibre thus aids in Digestion and maintains the Micro Flora of our Intestines. This fruit also aids in Weight Loss and is a rich source of some essential Micro Nutrients.
- PEACH: Peach is a delicious summer fruit which is taken raw and also used in the form of Face Packs and Masks. It has been concluded by a number of studies that stone fruits like Peaches, Plums and Apricots are good in reducing the onset of Metabolic Disorders like Obesity, Diabetes and Cardiovascular diseases. This fruit also contains Bioactive and Phenolic compounds with Anti-Obesity and Anti-Inflammatory properties.
- PINEAPPLE: A rich juicy spring- summer fruit which is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals which strengthen Bones, prevent Cold and Cough, improve Digestion and keep Gums healthy. However, it is important to mention here that Pineapple should not be taken as a raw fruit since its flesh contains an enzyme called Bromelain which digests the flesh of mouth. Thus it is always better to have pineapple juices to enjoy the health benefits and at the same time, avoiding digestion of the proteins of mouth since the enzyme gets inactivated in the acidic atmosphere of our stomach.
- PLUM: Plum is considered as the healthiest of all fruits by some researchers. It is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, Potassium and Fibre. It also contains unique plant nutrients like Neochlorogenic and Chlorogenic acid which are very powerful Anti-Oxidants. This fruit also increases Iron absorption in the body, thus is very beneficial for people having Anaemia.
- RADISH: The small red and while bulbs of this famous spring summer vegetable are rich in Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory substances. It is a rich source of Foliate, Fibre, Riboflavin and Potassium, Copper, Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Manganese.
- STRAWBERRIES: Strawberries are packed with nutrients which have various health benefits. Compared to most of the other fruits, Strawberries have higher nutritive value and are highly rich in Anthocyanin which stimulates burning of stored fats to reduce weight.
- SPRING ONIONS: Spring onions are a rich source of a substance called Allicin which prevents one from over eating but stimulating Satiety signals in the brain. Thus it can help in managing body weight.
- WATER MELONS: Water melons contain abound 92% water, thus is an excellent remedy for summer dehydration. It contains sufficient levels of vitamin A, B6 and C. It is also rich in Anti-Oxidants like: Lycopene, and contains modest levels of Potassium. It also contains very low levels of Sodium, thus is very good in maintaining Blood Pressure.
(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir)