Longer daylight hours, new life and colour emerging, and the noticeable warmth in the sun, the arrival of spring has to be the best time of year. Spring's arrival brings new foods (vegetables, herbs and fruits), and a cascade of other positive effects on human health, influencing us physically, emotionally, and mentally.

How springtime boosts health and wellbeing...

* More exposure to daylight along with the building intensity of the sun's rays enhances the body's natural production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in many of the body's metabolic processes, impacting bone health, immune function, and muscle strength. Spring is the perfect time to begin topping up our vitamin D levels, and so there lies the ideal excuse to get outside more and enjoy the spring sunshine!

N.B. If you plan to get vitamin D from sunlight, aim for moderate sun exposure (enough to cause a light pinkness on exposed skin) for 15-20 minutes a few times per week. Avoid getting burnt, and use sunscreen appropriately.

* Have you noticed how you tend to feel more energetic in the spring? This is likely due to the additional sunlight hours causing a suppression of melatonin production, the sleep hormone.

* You might even notice your sleep quality improving as spring arrives. While suppressing melatonin during the day, sunlight also helps regulate its production at night, promoting better sleep quality.

* Our mood can lift in the spring. The increase in light exposure is linked to a decrease in symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with shorter winter days.

* People tend to spend more time in nature at this time of year too, leading to a reduction in feelings of stress and overwhelm. Studies have shown that spending time in nature reduces stress hormones and promotes feelings of calm and relaxation.

* Watch your motivation grow in spring. The combination of longer days, warmer weather, and new life blooming can create a sense of optimism and motivation, encouraging us to be more active and engaged. In addition, studies suggest exposure to sunlight may improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration.

* Spring seasonal foods bring a whole array of nutrients and health benefits to our plates, and therefore our bodies! Spring brings an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Consuming these seasonal foods provides essential nutrients for optimal health.

Here are just some of the natural foods, plants, fruits and herbs that are available during springtime in the UK:

Asparagus - A delicious and versatile vegetable, asparagus is good source of dietary fibre, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and E. Asparagus is best lightly steamed, with a lemon butter. 

Broad Beans - Broad beans are a good source of protein and fibre. They can be enjoyed raw, steamed or stir-fried. 

Chard - A leafy green vegetable related to Swiss chard, chard is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K.

Nettles - Nettles, when prepared properly (as a tea or soup), can be a highly nutritious addition to your diet. They are an excellent source of iron, vitamins A and C, and chlorophyll. If you are foraging for nettles, wear gloves when handling fresh nettles to avoid getting stung!

New Potatoes - Freshly harvested new potatoes have a thin skin and a distinct delicate flavour. They are a good source of potassium and vitamin C.

Peas - Spring peas are a good source of plant-based protein, fibre, and B vitamins, promoting energy production and overall well-being.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli - With a stronger flavour than regular broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K.

Spring Greens - Spring is the ideal time to consume spinach, kale, rocket, and wild garlic. Spring greens are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, essential for healthy vision, immunity, and blood clotting.

Rhubarb - With its tart flavour, rhubarb is a versatile fruit used in jams, crumbles, and pies. Please note that rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

Strawberries - These English favourites are packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C, providing a natural immune boost.

Spring herbs to start using in salads and cooking...

Chives - Chives have a mild onion flavour and are a versatile herb used in various dishes.

Mint - Mint comes in a variety of flavours, and is commonly used as a tea, in salads, added to butter or yogurt, or sprinkled over fresh fruits. 

Parsley - A staple herb with a fresh flavour, parsley is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K.

Sorrel - Sorrel has a tangy flavour and is used in soups, stews, and sauces.

Thyme - Thyme is a fragrant herb with a variety of culinary uses.

Go foraging!

Wild Garlic - Wild garlic is delicious made into pesto or used in stir-fries. The flowers can be sprinkled raw in salads, and the garlic buds can be pickled. Be sure you have identified wild garlic correctly when foraging, as there are poisonous lookalikes. However the white flowers and smell are pretty distinctive!

Elderflowers - The delicate flowers of the elder tree can be used to make fragrant cordials and syrups. However elderberries should not be consumed raw as they are poisonous.

Meadowsweet - The leaves can be eaten raw and used in salads. They have a distinct cucumber flavour and aroma. Pick small leaves rather than big ones.

Wood Sorrel - These tiny clover-shaped leaves have a lemony flavour and can be used in salads or as a garnish.

Remember: When foraging for wild foods, be certain that you are picking edibles. If you are unsure about the identification of a plant, it's best to err on the side of caution and not consume it.

A recap on how to maximise Spring's health benefits...

* Spend more time outdoors. Soak up the sunshine for a natural Vitamin D boost and enjoy the beauty of nature.

* Embrace seasonal foods. Include fresh, local spring produce in your diet for a burst of new flavours and essential nutrients.

* Increase outdoor activity. Warmer weather provides the perfect opportunity to get moving outdoors, whether it's going for a walk, hike, or bike ride.

* Practice mindfulness. Take time to appreciate the changing seasons and reconnect with nature through activities like gardening and walking in nature.

By embracing the changes spring brings, you can experience a natural boost to your physical, emotional, and mental health. So, get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and savour the delicious flavours of the season.

Happy Springtime!