Food

The Tastes of Summer

How enjoying seasonal fruits and vegetables can help to boost your health

In the summer months, we’re blessed with longer, brighter and warmer days. It’s a time to bask in the sun and make beautiful dinners to eat outside with our nearest and dearest. And most of us are more active and busy in the summer because we’re running around trying to fit in all of those gatherings and celebrations! If summer had a theme, it would be celebration and growth.

The Beach Boys have their album called Sounds of Summer. But what are the tastes of summer? Farmers are beginning to harvest the fruits and vegetables that have benefited from the warm summer sun. It’s the time of year that supermarkets and farmers’ markets are teeming with local produce of every shape and colour. For us Canadians, this is the time of year that we can eat exclusively local produce if we choose – you know those pints of mini tomatoes or raspberries that we eat by the handful. At this time of year, our bodies need a lighter diet with higher water content foods, that hydrate us without weighing us down, and that’s exactly what nature provides us.

It’s all about the hydration
If you’ve ever noticed salt form on your face after walking outside on a hot day, this salt is your body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes are electricity-conducting salts that your body uses to push nutrients into cells, remove waste from cells, and to regulate things like your heartbeat, muscle contractions and nerve function. Some of the most important electrolyte minerals are calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium.

Each time you sweat, your body loses your electrolyte minerals. According to traditional systems of medicine, this can lead to fatigue over time if the minerals aren’t replaced. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain most of the nutrients needed to replace your electrolytes: water, fibre, vitamins, minerals and sugars. A study conducted by Aberdeen University Medical School found that fruits and vegetables are even better at hydrating and replacing minerals lost due to sweat than water or sports drinks!

Here are some fruits and vegetables that will help to balance your electrolytes and keep you energized for the rest of the summer.

Apples
We all know the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Containing a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, apples also have the reputation of being nature’s multivitamin. Filled with tummy-filling fibre, vitamin C, and lots of the B vitamins, B1, B2, B3, B6 and biotin, in addition to minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron. Apples are one of the best snacks on the go, so be sure to pack one with you for a busy day of running around. Or try making apple cinnamon electrolyte water: slice up some apples and add to a pitcher with a cinnamon stick, water and a pinch of sea salt.

Summer squash
Summer squash, like zucchini and patty pan squashes are one of the most popular vegetables out there, and for good reason, They’re easy to prepare and can take on many different flavours. Zucchinis are known to have a mild diuretic action, thanks to pectin fibre. Try quickly poaching chopped patty pan squash in some chicken stock laced with minced garlic and fresh dill. Enjoy your zucchini raw by grinding it up in place of chick peas in your next hummus. You could also shave up your zucchini into a salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil, topped with fresh parsley and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Tomatoes
When we think of tomatoes, we often think of that nutrient called lycopene that has been touted for its prostate-protecting properties in men. But lycopene also helps to protect your skin from sun damage. Tomatoes are also a good source of electrolyte minerals. How amazing is that? The foods that grow locally and in-season are just what our bodies need. Local tomatoes are at their best at this time of year, and there’s little that needs to be done to them. Tomatoes and basil are a natural pair in this recipe.

Cucumber
There’s not much that’s cooler than a cucumber. Believe it or not, cucumbers are part of the watermelon family. Like watermelon, cucumbers boost hydration thanks to their high water content (around 95%). Cucumbers have been long used topically to reduce redness or irritation. Rub cucumber slices on a painful sunburn or bug bite; place cucumber slices over swollen eyes that partied too much the night before. Eat cucumber on its own or slice into a salad with tomatoes, and drizzle with white wine vinegar, olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

Watermelon
There’s nothing like a slice of watermelon on a hot day. As its name suggests, watermelons have a very high water content and are super hydrating and cooling as the temperature rises. Watermelon also has more lycopene than tomatoes. Its high lycopene content makes watermelon a good addition to your sun protection arsenal (it’s said to boost your skin’s SPF by about three). Try the slice and eat approach, or make fancy watermelon “pizzas” by topping wedges with sliced olives, feta and herbs like basil and mint.