Summer is here and we’re busy making plans for barbecues, picnics and outdoor fun. As the days get longer and warmer, our activity levels often increase and our dietary needs change. Some of the important things to remember are to maintain a balanced diet, to avoid dehydration, and to try to choose proteins and carbohydrates that require less energy to metabolize. Oh yes, and remember to use sunscreen! Did you know that recent studies suggest augmenting sunscreens with antioxidants to boost immunity to sun damage?
Summertime offers us a wealth of choices for fresh produce, and buying foods in season provides optimal flavor and lower prices. Visit farmers markets and roadside stands or even your local supermarket for healthy fruits and vegetables that are perfect for summertime meals and snacks. Some of the best at this time of year are summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, apples, pears, plums, grapes, strawberries and melons.
Have you ever tried frozen grapes on a hot summer day? They’re sweet and refreshing, and so good for you! Here are some more summer treats that offer health benefits along with great taste.
- Sweet summer corn contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.
- Watermelon is about 90% water and helps to keep you hydrated while satisfying hunger with minimal calories.
- Tangy and refreshing, raspberries are a great source of dietary fiber and they contain pectin, which helps lower cholesterol.
- Tropical fruits contain vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. Oranges are a good source of potassium, which can lower the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
- Cauliflower is the new superstar in healthy foods. You’ll find it in everything from cauliflower fried “rice” to cauliflower pizza dough, and pureed, it’s a wonderful substitute for mashed potatoes.
- Iced coffee. Yes, really. While caffeinated beverages act as diuretics and in quantity can lead to dehydration, a single cup of coffee each day may reduce the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer by about 10%. And a frosty glass of iced coffee on a hot day is heavenly.
- When grilling burgers, try using lean ground meat and whole wheat buns; add unexpected toppings such as guacamole, pineapple slices and feta cheese. These substitutions can reduce fats which require more energy to digest and lead to increased body temperature.
- Instead of meats, there are other wonderful sources for proteins such as nuts, seeds, sprouts, beans, soy products, yogurt and cottage cheese.
- Adult beverages seem to go hand in hand with summer parties, but alcohol is a powerful diuretic. Alternating drinks with water or fruit juice can prevent dehydration.
On the subject of picnics and barbeques, it’s important to remember hot weather safety tips. Food spoils more quickly in the warm temperatures, especially on sun-filled patio buffets. Make sure grills and prep surfaces are cleaned often and foods are not left out in the sun.
Here’s to summer fun and great seasonal foods. Bon appetit!