(Photo: Stephanie Foley)
Spring has officially sprung—just glance around the farmer’s market for proof of the season’s bounty—and a parade of fresh produce is soon to hit your plate. From fruit-packed breakfasts to veggie side dishes that outshine your mains, we’re getting geared up to find creative and colorful ways to eat clean.
But guess what? Eating your share of certain in-season fruits and vegetables comes with an awesome bonus: the habit can boost your metabolism, too.
“Keeping our engine running smoothly and efficiently requires that right balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients including fiber, protein, fat and healthy types of whole-food carbohydrates,” says Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “Every season has foods that are best eaten in that season, and some of those foods help maintain or increase your metabolism.”
Here’s your produce cheat sheet for spring. Check out these 11 foods, all of which will help keep your metabolism humming smoothly.
One of the most versatile veggies of spring, Moskovitz is a big fan of radishes. Research has shown simply sipping its water can boost your metabolic rate. “High in water, yet low in calories at 19 per raw cup, radishes can add a ton of volume and crunch to any salad,” Moskovitz explains. “They can also be used as low-cal, potato-chip alternative to dip into your favorite guacamole recipe.”
This low-cal, high-nutrient veggie should definitely make its way into your regular routine. “For a whole cup cooked, asparagus is just 30 calories, but has as much as 73 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C, 180 percent of your vitamin K and 61 percent of your folate,” says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, founder of New York Nutrition Group. “Among many other things, Vitamin C has been linked to boosting fat-burning especially when combined with regular exercise,” she tells SELF. Bonus? Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, so it’ll flush excess sodium out of your system.
For a dessert option you’ll actually feel good about (or simply a sweet snack), strawberries should be your go-to: they’re bursting with nutrients despite their small size. “A whole cup raw strawberries has just under 50 calories and provides 150 percent of daily recommendations for vitamin C—which is a powerful antioxidant that also fights fat,” says Moskovitz.
When it comes to maintaining a strong metabolism, it’s all about fiber—which is why artichokes are a smart pick, says Moskovitz. “These versatile spring veggies are one of the best sources of fiber, which helps to regulate digestion, blood sugars, and appetite,” she explains. “For just a half cup of hearts, you get a whopping seven grams of fiber, which will help keep you full for a longer period of time on much fewer calories.”
5. Fava Beans
Opt for this bean when you’re craving a smooth, creamy texture. They’re high in iron, and deficiencies of it has been linked to slower metabolism, so eat. “Fava beans are an excellent source of fiber, with iron,” says Moskovitz. “They also have seven grams of lean, muscle-building protein per serving.” You can reach for fresh or canned fava beans for a vegan-friendly source of protein that will keep metabolism running strong.
(Photo: Romulo Yanes)
Another fruit to grab this season? Golden, tart apricots, which are packed with all-important iron. “Apricots are rich in this nutrient, and we know that deficiencies in iron can lead to a slowdown in your metabolism,” Hunnes says. “Eating a quarter cup of dried apricots—or two to three fresh apricots per day—can supply you almost 20 percent of your daily need for iron.”
Related: 20 Superfoods For Weight Loss
7. Dandelion Greens
Guys: These are not just weeds you find in your garden—dandelion greens are actually packed with key nutrients, especially vitamins A and K. “Many herbalists believe certain parts of the plant act as a natural diuretic, alleviating swelling and water retention, as well suppressing appetite and improving digestion,” says Moskovitz. For that reason, she says, adding some of these greens to your salad might be worth a shot.
8. Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snap peas just sound like spring, don’t they? With a name so-fitting, “these sweet crunchy veggies are a good way to fill up without filling out,” Moskovitz says. “For 35 calories per cup, these fiber-rich peas are a great way to fight bulge.“Recent research has shown dietary fiber is linked with metabolic boosters independent from body weight, like maintaining a balance of gut hormones and regulating inflammatory markers that fight metabolic syndrome.
(Photo: Mike Lorrig)
We know you’ve been kale-obsessed for years, so just consider this note another reason to keep up the leafy-green habit. "Kale is currently in season, at its most nutritious,” Hunnes says. “It’s full of calcium at 137 milligrams per cup — and not only does the fiber from kale increase metabolism by causing our body to work harder to digest it, but there is evidence suggesting that calcium may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently.”
This produce pick is similar to broccoli (but with smaller florets) and might even one-up kale (gasp!) in the metabolism-boosting department. “Even more so than kale, broccolini has over 500 milligrams of calcium in a small bunch,” says Hunnes. “Again, calcium has been demonstrated to increase your body’s metabolism of fat. So, eat your greens, especially broccolini, at every meal!”
11. Blood Oranges
Blood oranges, well-known for their super-charged amounts of vitamin C, can satisfy cravings for sweet and tangy this season. “According to a 2005 article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, individuals who eat enough vitamin C also burn more fat during a moderate bout of exercise compared to individuals who do not take enough vitamin C,” Hunnes says. “Since you’re better off eating your fruit than drinking it, because you also get fiber to lower digestion rate, blood oranges are a great way to get some in-season vitamin C.”
By Jenna Birch
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