Late July and August are the time of year when healthy eating becomes an exercise in pure pleasure. Summer fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with flavor, natural sweetness and thankfully, powerful combinations of vitamins and minerals.
And forget about complicated recipes. Most of Mother Nature’s summer bounty is so delicious that it’s best to cook vegetables as lightly as possible, with perhaps a bit of garlic and oil, and to serve fruits raw and natural.
As a bonus, you get to fill up on high-fiber, low-fat treats without even thinking about dieting. Here are a few delights to enjoy on a lazy weekend afternoon.
Avocado. This delectable fruit — no it’s not a vegetable — is an all-star when it comes to health and taste. Just a tiny sprinkle of fresh pepper is enough to accent its flavor. Avocados are amazing in sandwiches, salads and dips.
If you’re dieting, you may want to eat half an avocado at one serving, since a whole one has about 240 calories. But do not shy away from that fat — three-quarters of it is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that reduces cholesterol. It’s also a complete protein, a great source of potassium (better than bananas) and a good way to get vitamins K and B.
Cherries are at their absolute best from May to August. Red Bing cherries are incredibly sweet and flavorful but only 87 calories a cup. They are loaded with potassium and are a great source of vitamin C. But the major health benefit of cherries comes from the anti-oxidant anthocyanin, the pigment that provides the fruit’s ruby red hue. Anthocyanin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that helps fight cancer. One caveat: cherries tend to have high pesticide residues, so it’s worth it to buy organic, if possible. If not, be sure to wash them well.
Corn is one of the signature foods of summer, but it’s often thought of as a tasty indulgence, rather than a nutritional powerhouse. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s wonderful grilled in husks or foil or lightly boiled or sliced off the cob and added to a fresh summer salsa. But go easy on the butter to keep fat content to a minimum.
Every bite provides fiber, folate, thiamin, phosphorus and vitamin C, but it also has a dose of lutein and zeaxanthin. Both antioxidants protect the eyes from macular degeneration.
Summer squash. The delicate taste and light, crisp texture of summer squash make it an ideal vegetable for easy cooking when temperatures are high. Slice it and sauté with a little onion and fresh oregano. Then hit it with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese just before serving, and you’ve got a great vegetable dish that’s ready in 10 minutes.
Some say squash is a nutritional lightweight, but that’s not the case. In addition to having generous amounts of vitamin C, lutein and xeaxanthin, squash is a great source of manganese, a mineral that supports bone health.
Tomatoes. True aficionados of the red fruit — again, it’s not a vegetable — swear that summer tomatoes are the only true tomatoes, because this is the time of year when they achieve perfect flavor and texture. The perfect way to enjoy a tomato is sliced, with a light sprinkle of sea salt, a few snips of fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
The nutritional benefits of tomatoes are extensive. They are high in vitamins A and C, beta carotene and folic acid, but they also have alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, and lutein. Alpha lipoic acid helps the body control and lower blood sugar. Choline supports restful sleep, helps your body absorb fat and reduces inflammation.
About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being
We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.
To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.