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Breezy May days bring more than just flowers: This month also marks the start of the DMV’s spring produce harvest. Snatching up fresh, seasonal veggies not only supports the area’s local farmers, but it will also bring big benefits to your plate. Fruits and veggies that don’t have to travel to grocery stores across the country are able to fully ripen before they’re picked, so they’re more delicious and packed with more health-promoting nutrients. To get the perks, head to your local farmers’ market or check out the local section in your grocery store and pick up these four, in-season gems:

Flatten the belly with asparagus. For the past few years, probiotics—the bacteria that live in your gut—have been the darlings of the nutrition world. Having healthy bacteria in your gut has been linked to better immunity, better digestion and even an easier time losing weight. So how can we make sure our healthy gut bacteria are thriving? For one, eat asparagus! They contain a specific type of fiber, called inulin, that probiotics love to eat. And when the bugs are full and nourished, they help prevent issues like bloating, indigestion and constipation, so you can throw on shorts or a sundress without worrying about a belly bulge.

Make it today! Snap off the tough bottom ends of the stalks and spread asparagus on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and roast for 10 minutes at 425°F.

More delicious ideas: Chop asparagus into bite-size pieces and toss in a stir-fry; add to springy risotto with peas and Parmesan cheese; bake into a quiche with Gruyere or Swiss cheese.

Energize with spinach. We don’t often think about leafy greens putting a pep in our step, but that’s exactly what Popeye’s favorite food will do. Many of the hormones that govern our metabolism and energy levels are produced by the thyroid gland, and the foods we consume determine whether the thyroid is able to produce the right amount of each hormone. That’s where spinach comes in. It’s loaded with a trace mineral called manganese, which stimulates the thyroid’s output of hormones that fight fatigue and hormones that boost metabolism, enough that you’ll burn an extra 100 calories per day.

Make it today! Spinach can be enjoyed raw in a salad, but if you’d prefer to cook it, simply pile it into a high-sided sauté pan over medium heat and cook, tossing, until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.

More delicious ideas: Add to a lasagna or baked ziti; fold into scrambled eggs or an omelet; stuff chicken breasts or pork loin with spinach, cream cheese and shredded mozzarella.

Ease allergy symptoms with mushrooms. With so much pollen in the air this time of year, our sniffles and itchy eyes are becoming unbearable. The fix: Fill your plate with seasonal mushrooms. When the body is struggling with allergies, it produces hormones to fight the cause. Mushrooms contain a B vitamin (called pantothenic acid) that prompts the body to increase production of these hormones, quickly easing allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, eye itchiness and inflammation.

Make it today! Mushrooms can be sliced raw and enjoyed in a salad or with dip, or lightly sautéed in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes.

More delicious ideas: Slice and use as a topping for homemade pizza; chop and stir into ground meat to bulk up taco filling or meat sauce; sauté and pile on top of a hamburger with Swiss or Gruyere cheese.

Detox with broccoli. Still feeling a bit puffy from all those hearty winter stews and casseroles? (Don’t worry, we all are). Broccoli to the rescue! These crisp delights contain a compound called sulforaphane, which gives the liver a power boost, helping it easily process toxins and fats and get them out of the body. More good news: If you can’t stomach broccoli, you can still get the perks. All veggies in the cruciferous family—cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale—contain this detoxifying nutrient.

Make it today! Chop a head of broccoli into florets and place in a steamer basket. In a pot, bring 1 inch of water to a boil, place steamer basket of broccoli on top and cover. Cook 5 to 6 minutes, until you can pierce it easily with a fork.

More delicious ideas: Steam and toss with cooked chicken, pesto and pasta; mix into a grain salad with quinoa or farro; shave raw and toss with shaved Brussels sprouts and a creamy dressing for slaw.

Are you currently enjoying one of these spring sensations? Do you have a favorite recipe that uses one or more? Snap a photo and tag Power for Life Fitness and your apartment building on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If you do, we’ll send you four additional recipes featuring these ingredients!

 

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