Eating healthy all year long is what many of us strive to do. With healthy options being so easily accessible all year, it really is pretty simple to have healthy choices when you want them.
When you are busy and on the go, stopping at the grocery store and picking up some of your favorite healthy items can seem like a gratifying treat. Especially when you are actively making choices to better your health. Filling your cart with healthy vegetables and fruits and other items can really create that feeling of being on track and staying motivated to your healthy eating goals.
As you cruise through the aisles, you pick up that basket of strawberries and think to yourself, “I can’t wait to sink my teeth into these.“ The joy of this summer sweet treat and the memories that go with it rush back in an instant.
But, what if it is the Winter season?
What if it is the Fall season?
Will they really provide the same level of nutrients than if the strawberries were picked during their natural season? Strawberries are at their peak in the spring. Even though those “winter strawberries“ look red and ripe and delicious, do they taste as good as they look? Probably not.
Even though healthy food is at our fingertips all year long — whenever we need it — it doesn’t mean that certain foods will be at the utmost healthiest all your long.
Eating foods that are in season take your healthy eating to the next level. When foods are ripe, they will ultimately have the most delicious flavors (making it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan). More importantly, they will provide your body with an abundance of nutrients that has not been depleted because the foods were either picked too early or were shipped for long distances.
The longer fruits and vegetables are off the vine, the more the levels of nutrients are depleted. Picking a cherry tomato off the vine and popping it into your mouth creates an explosion of flavors that are so different then cherry tomatoes that have been sitting for a week or so.
In the spring and summer months, what are some delicious, nutrient dense foods that are at their healthiest levels?
Here are five of my favorites-
Strawberries and blueberries are my favorite! The antioxidants in berries can help your body fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals that can lead to illness. They also can protect your skin and hair, reduce inflammation, slow memory loss, increases health of collagen, decrease eye problems, and prevent certain diseases. Oh my goodness! There are so many powerful antioxidants that appear in berries — anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C. Need more fiber in your diet? Berries also contain fiber and folate. Fiber aids in weight loss and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Folate may protect against cardiovascular disease and age-related memory loss, and since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may also help ward off depression and improve your mood.
How to eat them? Top a bowl of berries with a sprinkling of chopped pecans or walnuts, add strawberry slices to a bowl of organic yogurt, sprinkle blueberries on a salad, combine frozen berries with bananas and almond milk to make a smoothie, and add dried berries to warm oatmeal.
Asparagus is truly a superfood. It is known to have excellent antioxidant and anti-tumor properties which help fight off cancer cells, it helps the body produce collagen which increases the rate at which wounds heal, it encourages insulin secretion to help regulate levels, contains fiber to aid in digestion, and it is anti-inflammatory. That’s not all! It is also high in iron and vitamins K, E, and A. These help to keep bones strong and healthy, keeps your skin looking young, maintains good vision, and gives you a blast of iron (actually 16% of your daily recommended amount)!
How to eat them? You can bake it, grill, steam it or cut it up and put it in a salad, stew or soup.
Fact alert — Did you know cucumbers are a fruit and not a vegetable? Regardless of it’s true category, choose them this summer. Cucumbers are low in calorie, filled with nutrients, and are made up of mostly water — about 96% as a matter of fact. They are also filled with antioxidants that help fight off cancers, they help to cleanse the liver and detoxify the body, they hydrate and soothe the skin, they are high in fiber and help with digestion, they are anti-inflammatory and help to alkalize the body, and they help to decrease and soothe headaches. Want more? They help to create heart health and they help to build strong bones. Wow!
How to eat them? You can slice them in salads, make a cucumber/bean salad, put them on sandwiches, dip them in hummus, or make pickles. Just make sure to keep the skin on because it provides fiber and certain vitamins and minerals. You can also slice them up and use them on the skin to soothe sunburns, heal acne, and provide relief for other skin issues.
Kale, spinach, romaine lettuce — oh my! Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals and vitamins, including including iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins K, C, E, and B. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Leafy greens help to lower blood pressure, decrease chance of cancer, and increase weight loss, just to name a few. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats. Try kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, or cabbage.
How to eat them? Make a salad, put them in a wrap or sandwich, add them to a soup, make a stir fry, steam them, or add to an omelet.
Need more vitamin C? Red peppers contain more than 200 percent of your daily vitamin C intake, which helps with absorption of iron. Red bell peppers are also a great source of vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A, and lycopene. Why is this so important? These vitamins and minerals help prevent anemia, support healthy eyesight (especially night vision), and help prevent many cancers including prostate and lung. Red bell peppers have also been linked to helping to burn more calories due to their mild thermogenic action that increases our metabolism without increasing our heart rate and blood pressure, like hot peppers do. In this case, seeing red is so very good!
How to eat them? Slice them on salads, put them in stir frys, dip them in hummus, put them on sandwiches, or puree them in a soup.
I am not saying that you should not eat healthy fruits and vegetables all year long! Just be aware of the true season of what you choose and try to buy as “in season” as you can. Not only will the food taste better, but it will also give you more bang for your buck!
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