by Ishmir Savory
Vegan Chef & CHC
One of the greatest joys of summer is spending more time in the great outdoors with family and friends. Sunny summer days: the glistering blue sea, the periodical crisp breeze of fresh air and the delightful aroma of a fired up grill. Most will agree that the summer is their favorite season; while others will argue that the excessive heat can be unbearable at times!
This excessive heat leads many to exhaustion, lack of concentration, sleepless nights, irritability, as well as a host of other problems. No worries, I’ve got you covered! Did you know that food and beverages contribute to keeping your body healthy and cool during this beautiful season? “Clean eating”, “conscious eating” or simply choosing the right foods to help in feeling lighter and healthier for the summer can be daunting for some. Some wonder where to begin and find it hard to believe that eating healthy foods can taste so delicious and leave a rewarding feeling of satisfaction and nourishment. One of the essential goals to combating the excessive heat during the summer is staying hydrated. Below is a list of foods to stock up on to stay cool, hydrated and healthy this summer.
Bananas: are great sources of potassium. They are a perfect way to start the day, healthy snack or freeze for cooling banana ice-cream. Potassium helps to regulate bodily fluids that are lost during excessive perspiration.
Berries: are readily available during the summer months. They are nutritious and loaded with antioxidants that increase immune response to protect from aging, cancer and heart disease. They are also anti-inflammatory, a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. These versatile fruits can bring a summer meal lots of flavor while providing numerous health benefits.
Coconut water: is loaded with benefits. It is a great source of electrolytes that maintain a number of vital functions in the body; i.e. allowing the body to stay hydrated and is a great source of potassium. Coconut water is also has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. The water is best when it is in it’s natural case with no additives or preservatives. The water is alive, tastes incredible and truly enjoyable when you sip it straight from the shell! Cheers!
Cucumbers: contrary to belief, cucumbers are a fruit not a vegetable. They are the ideal summer cooling food loaded with health and beauty benefits, whether they are just simply sliced with a little sea salt and pepper or a crunchy snack for a favorite dip. They contain a high water content that helps to keep the body refreshed and cool as well as aiding the body in the digestion process and the removal of toxins. This is important during the summer months because this is when the digestion process is likely to become sluggish. Note the skin of the cucumber is also vital as it is high in fiber, so be sure to choose un-waxed organic “chokes” when available.
Melons: are well worth the wait for the during the summer season! They are surely luscious, sweet, juicy and hydrating to keep things cool with a bonus of numerous nutritional benefits. Watermelons are great source of lycopene more than any other fruit or vegetable. Melons are packed with potassium, vitamin B6 which helps maintain the body’s metabolism and brain function, as well as vitamin C. They are known to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and aid in immune function. So be sure to simply have a slice of melon, or get creative in your kitchen this summer by making popsicles, melon ice cubes or balls this summer!
Stone Fruits: apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums are all filled with a hard stone like seed in their center. They come into season in the spring throughout the summer months and make a perfect snack or treat on their own. When picked at perfection they can be sweet, juicy and delicious to keep you hydrated. Stone fruits are rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as dietary fibre, potassium and antioxidants, these little vibrant fruits pack a potent nutritional punch. Be sure to add them to your smoothies, breakfast cereals, salads and desserts. Grilled peaches would be a sure crowd pleaser!
Lettuce: or salad greens. The variety is endless: arugula, butter leaf, chicory, frisee, green or red leaf, radicchio and romaine to name a few . Be sure to note that they are just not rabbit food! Lettuce is not only cooling, full of texture, and fun to eat they are high in antioxidants such as alpha and beta carotene, folic acid, lycopene and vitamin C and K. Get creative with your lettuce, instead of using processed taco or tortilla shell try using the leaf of romaine heart or using a green leafy lettuce for a wrap.
Summer Squash: is rich in nutritional benefits and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Then can be added to the grill, stews, salads or soups. However, I just love use them to make “pasta” with a kitchen tool called a spiralizer out of them during the summer months, and prefer to purchase organic varieties to avoid the GMO ones. Summer squashes like cucumber are hydrating and cooling especially when eaten raw. They are rich in Vitamin A and C, magnesium, fiber, folate, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin B6. In addition, they are high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.
Tomatoes: like watermelons are not only tasty, juicy and sweet, they contain a great source of lycopene as well. If you did not know, lycopene reduces inflammation and is a natural occurring carotenoid that aid in skin protection from the sun. Natural sunscreen when the sun is at is at its peak in our hemisphere! Note that tomatoes picked when ripe higher in lycopene, vitamin C, and total phenols and flavonoids than tomatoes that were picked green. I enjoy them raw, roasted, or marinated and find that heirloom varies have the best punch for your dollar. Note tomatoes pair well with basil, extra virgin olive oil and your favourite pasta for a quick week night dinner meal.
Watercress: now touted as the most nutrient dense vegetable, surpassing “king kale” with a score of 100, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its latest study “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach”. Watercress is rich in calcium, beta carotene and iron. It also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, B1, B2 and E. By consuming watercress you can maintain a good level of essential mineral availability, such as iron that can possibly be lost in perspiration during the summer heat. Symptoms of a lack of iron are the felling tired or lethargic. Watercress makes a perfect salad green, addition to sweet fruit smoothies to balance with bitterness or sautéed lightly with garlic as a side dish.