Health-start Your Summer

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh, in-season fruits and sizzling grilled vegetables like onions, zucchini, and peppers. Summer’s fruits add fiber and antioxidants to your meals and are really versatile, working in dishes from salads to smoothies to desserts – especially berries, peaches, and melon. I love to add strawberries and blueberries to my morning smoothie, and I’m keen to try grilled peaches and pineapples this summer for a healthy dessert! Summer’s veggies include greens, squash, and peppers, which are great served raw with hummus or grilled, perhaps with rosemary, sea salt, and a drizzle of avocado oil. If you have one near you, head to your local farmers market for fresh produce to spice up your meals with more flavor and color!

A note on daily fruit and vegetable servings: the most up-to-date nutrition guidelines published by the USDA and HHS recommend 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. According to Eric Rimm, a Nutrition and Epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, it’s best to eat fruits with the skin on to maximize antioxidant intake. Just be sure to thoroughly wash your produce, first.

Taste the rainbow: in-season produce to try this summer

 Peaches

  • Peaches are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants, which can help protect your body from aging and disease.

  • How to enjoy them: Add them to your morning oatmeal or just enjoy them on their own with their natural juicy sweetness!  

Tomato, Strawberry, Raspberry

  • Tomatoes are full of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as folate and potassium. They’ve also been found to exhibit heart-protecting qualities, antioxidant properties, and can help lower cholesterol.

  • How to enjoy them: Brighten up your fruit salad with strawberries and raspberries or try a tomato mozzarella caprese salad for a light side dish. 

Mango

  • Mangos have lots of vitamins A and C, which are great for eyesight and your immune system, respectively. They’re also high in fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer, and potassium, which is good for your muscles and heart health.

  • How to enjoy them: Try a fresh mango salsa with fresh herbs paired with some whole grain stone ground corn chips. 

Bell Peppers

  • Bell peppers contain carotenoids, which are organic pigments (called “phytochemicals”) that give them their characteristic red, orange, and yellow coloring. Diets rich in carotenoid-dense foods have been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and eye disease.

  • How to enjoy them: Try dunking them into some hummus or Greek yogurt dip for some extra protein. 

Leafy Greens, Avocado, Cucumber

  • Leafy greens will give you cell-protecting antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, fiber, protein, and iron! They are great for salads and green smoothies. Some summer-ready greens include watercress, romaine, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard.

  • Avocadoes contain fiber, vitamins B5, B6, C, and K, folate, potassium, and antioxidants. They also offer monounsaturated fat, a “healthy fat” that can give you more energy!

  • Cucumbers are a great source of potassium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and vitamins B5, C, and K

  • How to enjoy them: Make a giant side salad to pair with some grilled chicken or other lean protein. Make sure to add a nice dressing with olive oil to help you absorb all the benefits of the leafy greens! 

Blueberries

  • High in nutrients but low in calories, blueberries are full of antioxidants and fiber. Eating a cup of blueberries a day decreases risk of heart disease by up to 15%, even among those already at risk, finds a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

  • How to enjoy them: If you find them getting lost in the fruit salad, try making some fruit kabobs for the fourth of July with blueberries, strawberries, and banana. 

Blackberries

  • Full of vitamins and minerals like C, K, and manganese, blackberries are sweet yet tart when picked in season. Just 1 cup of these berries has 30.2 mg of vitamin C which is half the daily recommended value. 

  • How to enjoy them: If you don’t like the crunchy seeds getting stuck in your teeth, throw them into a smoothie to reap all the benefits. 

Beets

  • An excellent source of folate, fiber, and all natural liver stimulator. Don’t go throwing out the tops as they are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

  • How to enjoy them: Top your salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, and walnuts, and save the tops to sauté with garlic and olive oil. 

Rhubarb

  • A tart spring-time vegetable with rosy celery-like stalks and dark green (inedible) leaves that look like swiss chard. Rhubarb is a good source of Vitamin K and C. 

  • How to enjoy: Aside from the typical rhubarb pie, rhubarb pairs well with foods and ingredients that balance out the acidity, especially meat like chicken or pork. Try this rhubarb-cucumber salad paired with spicy chicken thighs.  

Cook at home
There are many benefits to cooking at home, from saving money to having more control over what goes into (and stays out of) your food. There are millions of recipes available at your fingertips that can be tailored to your specifications, with tons of opportunities to incorporate fresh fruits and veggies into your summer meals! Be sure to check out our recipes page for healthy, delicious, flavorful summer food ideas, like grilled zucchini with quinoastuffed peppers, and 3-ingredient vegan ice cream.The best part of cooking at home, though, is how much fun it can be! I love to invite my girls over for a wine and dinner night, where we throw on some fun music and have a blast attempting a few fun recipes. I usually find myself jamming to the Soak Up The Sun or Indie Sunshine playlists on Spotify while cooking.

* Tip: When cooking or grilling at high temperatures use fats with a high smoke point such as avocado oil, ghee, or coconut oil. 

Join team #HydrateOrDydrate
It’s so important to stay well-hydrated during sweltering summer days, when you lose more fluid than normal to sweat. Lona Sandon, RD, of the American Dietetic Association recommends that women drink 92 ounces of water and men drink 125 ounces in the summer to keep dehydration at bay. You can also hit your daily water goal through water-rich fruits and veggies, coconut water, or natural fruit juices. Pro tip: try cutting back on dehydrating liquids like coffee and milk, which can act as diuretics. Your skin will also thank you for staying hydrated, since sweat can make your skin less hydrated and supple, compounded by the drying effects of summer ubiquities like saltwater, chlorine, sunburn, and bug bites. 

Scranton, WHAT! The ~Electrolyte~ City
There’s nothing worse than when you’re killing it in a backyard volleyball game or your morning yoga class and you get stuck with a muscle cramp. The best way to prevent cramps or ameliorate one that’s already crept up on you is to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes lost via sweat. Not getting enough water can cause imbalances in your electrolyte levels, particularly sodium, calcium, and potassium; this can cause your muscles to tense up and cramp. Restore your electrolytes with a non-sugary sports drink or electrolyte tablets, which are great to toss in your bag for on-the-go hydration. You can also load up on electrolytes with your food, too – bananas and spinach are potassium-rich, while low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yogurt are a great calcium hookup.

Pile on the protein
Have you noticed that after a day at the pool or beach, your hair and skin get rather Sahara-esque? The sun, chlorine, and saltwater are all drying agents that can leave your hair crunchy and your skin parched. Your hair is largely comprised of the protein keratin, and protein is a major building block for your skin, so eating more protein can combat dryness and promote healthy skin, hair, and nails. Take advantage of backyard barbecues this summer and add some lean meats to your plate, like turkey burgers, shrimp skewers, or bean-based dishes. Another great way to get in some protein is to pack a protein-rich granola bar or homemade trail mix with nuts and seeds for day trips! 

Protect your skin
During the summer months, the sun’s rays are at their strongest during the day, and you’re more likely to be exposed to cell-damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Scoop a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which guards against both types of harmful sun-derived UV rays (UVA and UVB), and put it on every day, even if it’s cloudy out. Be sure to purchase a brand that is paraben free  to avoid the harsh chemicals found in most sunscreens. Here's the one in my beach bag but there's also an entire list on the Environmental Working Groups website that are rated based on the harm they could pose to your health. According to the American Skin Association, the sun is strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm, meaning maximum UV exposure and intensity. To avoid intense sun exposure, get outside earlier in the day or later in the evening – try a morning jog, or an evening bike ride in the park!

In great health,

Erin 

References

1.    Wadyka, S. (2018, May 19). Get the Health Benefits of Fruit. Retrieved from

a.    https://www.consumerreports.org/fruits-vegetables/health-benefits-of-fruit/

2.   Frank, C (2004, July 12). Summertime Nutrition Tips. Retrieved from

a.    https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/summertime-nutrition-tips

3.   Trimarchi, M. (2012, April 10). 10 Foods for Great Summer Nutrition. Retrieved from 

a.    https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/facts/10-foods-for-summer-nutrition.htm

4.   McDonald, J. (2009, March 12). Secret Summer Diet Foods. Retrieved from

a.    https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/secret-summer-diet-foods

b.   https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids

c.    https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/

d.   http://www.americanskin.org/resource/safety.php