Spring Eats: Top 5 Produce Picks is a guest post written by Coach Petrina. Petrina Hamm, a mom of 4, is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & Independent Fitness Consultant. Read her inspiring story about overcoming obesity and becoming a certified trainer here.

Back when I weighed 240 pounds, I avoided vegetables like the plague and enjoyed fruits sparingly.  While losing and maintaining a 100 pound weight loss, I’ve grown to properly love and appreciate my fruits & veggies.   My 5 favorite in-season produce items for spring are asparagus (either white or green will–white just seems fancier), young green peas, radishes, spinach and rhubarb.

Here are the health benefits & some prep ideas for each:

1. Young Green Peas: Rich in health benefiting phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Fresh pea pods are an excellent source of folic acid.

PREFERRED PREP:  Heat 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a skillet over medium heat, stir in one chopped onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then, add in 2 cups of fresh green peas and a tablespoon of chicken stock and let cook until peas are tender (usually about 10-15 minutes).

2. Radishes:  High in Vitamin C and contains a group of compounds called isothiocyanates, which are shown to be effective against certain cancer cell lines.  They also contain adequate levels of folates, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamin and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.

HOW TO PICK EM’: Select ones with roots that are fresh, stout and firm in texture. Their top greens also should be fresh, and feature crispy green without any yellow, shriveled leaves. Avoid roots that have cracks or cuts on their surface.  Avoid peeling as this will rid some of nutritional benefit & flavor.

3. Spinach:  Bona-fide superfood, containing more nutrients per calorie than any other food on earth: vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium. It’s a very good source of protein,  dietary fiber and copper. Plus, it’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.

HOW TO PICK EM’: Since it’s one of the highest pesticide containing foods, it’s best to buy this organic.

PREFERRED PREP: I love baby organic spinach simply topped with blueberries and sunflower seeds.  If you drizzle an olive oil based dressing on top, this can also help boost vitamin absorption.

4. Rhubarb: Excellent source of Vitamin C, high in dietary fiber and is a good source of calcium.  Rhubarb is low in sodium and saturated fat which makes it a very good food to help prevent heart related diseases.  It is also high in Vitamin K, which is thought to help prevent diabetes.

HOW TO PICK EM’: Pick ones that are firm and red.

PREFERRED PREP: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. Combine 4 cups chopped rhubarb with a pint of sliced & hulled strawberries and a tablespoon of agave nectar and then place in a shallow baking dish.  Using the same bowl, I then stir together 1 cup of gluten free rolled oats, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, then mix in 1/4 cup butter until all crumbly and spread over the fruit in the baking dish.   Then, I bake in a preheated to 350 degree oven until crumble is a toasted brown & rhubarb is tender (about 40 minutes).

5. Asparagus:  Good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. It’s also a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, which according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.

PREFERRED PREP: either stir-fry, roast or grill your asparagus.  Personally, I love it simple.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

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