5 Foods to Spring Clean Your Diet

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5 Foods to Spring Clean Your Diet

The long days and mild weather are making me crave change. Beyond buying new pillows for my living room (maybe a topic for another kind of blog), I’ve been craving lighter foods. And many of spring’s specialties have added health benefits that make them must-haves on your plate. Try these 5 foods to spring clean your diet:

Asparagus: These green spears are brimming with nutrients. Fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin C are all found in asparagus for very few calories (40 calories per cup). Asparagus also contains antioxidants and certain compounds thought to protect against cancer.

Lemons: Like all citrus fruit, lemons are a great source of vitamin C. But since chances are you’re not chomping on a lemon out-of-hand, the real benefit from lemons come from how you use them in cooking. The acidity of lemons adds a brightness to foods. Often, you can use less salt and/or fat when you rely on other flavors such as lemons and herbs.

Peas: Peas are a legume. As such, they have protein and fiber (9 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber in one cup), making them a filling addition to rice pilaf, spinach salad, curry ... you name it. Like many of the other spring superstars, peas have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. They’re also an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Try Giada's recipe for Peas & Prosciutto (pictured above).

Strawberries: Strawberries have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants in the food world (antioxidants help to mop up disease-causing free radicals). They’re also an excellent source of vitamin C (giving you 1 1/2 times the amount you need per day in just 1 cup) and deliver fiber. Try Mark Bittman's Fresh Strawberries with Almond Creme Anglais.

Spinach: Whether you use spinach as a base in salads, toss it into pasta or steam it as a side, you’ll be getting a boost of nutrients. Spinach is another excellent source of vitamin C and folate (important for cell division and forming red blood cells).

Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian who thinks you don’t have to compromise good taste to achieve good health. A former associate nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine, Kerri-Ann now freelance writes about food, nutrition and health trends and her work has been published on FoodNetwork.com, Yahoo! Shine and the Huffington Post, among others. She also puts her masters degree in nutrition from Columbia University to use teaching classes and counseling individuals on adding healthy behaviors to their daily lives. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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