March is a time when we celebrate beginnings.
March ushers in a new season and brings with it a new crop of fruits and vegetables. One way to bring those fresh ingredients to the table is in a lively salad. By selecting a variety of colors, flavors and textures you can give an otherwise ordinary salad the kick it needs to be satisfying while also being packed with antioxidants.
Leafy greens like chard and arugula are the perfect base for spring salads. Arugula is a peppery leaf rich in beta-carotene, fiber and folate and is one of the highest sources of vitamin C among all vegetables.
Vitamin C is needed for normal growth and repair of all parts of the body, including tendons, ligaments, bones, blood vessels and even teeth and skin. The body is unable to make or store vitamin C so it is essential to include plenty of vitamin C-rich foods in your daily diet.
The rich green hues of arugula do more than just provide a splash of color to the salad; they remind you of the nutritional punch packed into each loose leaf. Select the crisp, verdant leaves with firm stems.
Although native to China, small, delicate, velvet-skinned apricots start to pop up in local grocery stores and markets come spring. An excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, potassium, and fiber, these fruits keep your body performing at its best with natural defenses to fight against diet-related health problems, including obesity and cardiovascular disease. Its bright, orange hues are a vibrant reminder of its antioxidant content. Beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A, is part of a family of carotenoids known for protecting against cancers and supporting healthy vision. Eat four apricots and you'll consume half of the vitamin A you need for the day.
For ideal antioxidant content, select plump, ripe apricots with a deep yellow to orange color. A ripe apricot will be fragrant, slightly soft to the touch, and uniform in color with no green patches.
Another nutritious ingredient for spring salads is almond. Of all the tree nuts, almonds boast the richest source of protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, manganese, riboflavin and niacin. They are a good source of the minerals magnesium, copper and phosphorus. Raw almonds are naturally low in sugars, sodium-free and high in zinc, a mineral important for immunity and wound healing. This salad is a great way to get part of the 23 almonds (or one ounce) you need a day.
• Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian, works for the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and is a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.