Okay, so really these are superfoods for all year long, but summer is a great time to make them a part of your nutritional regime. Many of our foods considered “super” are light and cooling, which is likely what you are craving if you are fighting the hot temperatures engulfing most of the country. This is a great time to let these seasonal cravings guide you away from heavier foods laden with sugar and dairy, and towards fewer animal products. Salads, fruit, and fish are friendly foods for your overheated system. Below is just a sampling of superfoods to work into your summer diet that are light in mass, but dense with nutrients.
Colorful Berries. If you are looking for a sweet snack packed with a nutritional punch, don’t forget to add berries into your diet. Darker fruits and berries like blueberries, pomegranates, blackberries, and raspberries contain families of antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols help decrease oxidative damage in the body and are associated with decreasing rates of certain types of cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration, and more. This family of antioxidants is also associated with optimal aging and skin health. Fruit can sometimes get a bad rap because of its naturally-occurring sugar content, but remember that fruit also contains fiber, so when you eat it whole, versus drinking just the juice, you don’t typically get blood sugar spikes and should metabolize it efficiently. Add some berries to your high-fiber morning cereal, or just keep them rinsed and ready to grab for those moments when you are perusing your refrigerator. Most of us should aim for two to three servings of fruit per day.
Leafy Greens. Salads can be a great way to fill up without feeling weighed down in the high heat. Leafy greens such as spinach, dark and green leaf lettuces, and kale are also great sources of antioxidants (those same polyphenols that give dark fruits their color also lend to the dark and bright colors of these vegetables). Leafy greens are also our best source of dietary calcium, especially when consumed with vinegar. Vitamin K is high in leafy greens and is currently one of the most studied vitamins, with promising studies in cardiovascular and bone health. A moderate addition of legumes, such as chickpeas, or nuts like sunflower seeds, is a great way to add a little bit of protein into your salad, making it more filling and balanced. For most of us, there is no daily limit to leafy greens; these awesome veggies are so efficiently processed in your system, you can have as much as you want every day. However, you should take precautions and speak with your doctor if you are on blood-thinners or if your clotting ability is being monitored.
Salmon and Fish. Salmon and other cold-water fish are a light and nutrient-packed way to consume your summer protein. Known for its high omega-3 content, cold-water fish can decrease inflammation in the body and has been linked to decreases in heart disease, stroke, joint pain, skin manifestations, and more. Try to pick Wild Alaskan salmon as the best source of omegas. White fish is also a great choice; although not high in omegas, white fish provides lean protein and is a great alternative to more inflammatory animal products like red meat. Again, go for the wild versions when you can and strive to have fish at least two to three times per week.
Sweet Potatoes. I always like to include sweet potatoes on my super foods lists because potatoes have such bad reputations and in moderation, they really aren’t bad. This is especially true for sweet potatoes, which are packed with nutrients including carotenoids, Vitamin C, and fiber. Sweet potatoes may actually be the mostnutrient-dense vegetable that exists. They are high in carbohydrates, however, and that is why it doesn’t fall into the “eat as much as you want” category with leafy greens. Go ahead and enjoy two to three per week!
Artichokes. Artichokes, parsley, garlic, bitter greens, and beets are among the best liver-cleansing foods. Nutrients found in these veggies help stimulate the body’s natural detoxification process, making stored toxins water-soluble so they can be excreted through our kidneys. We are constantly exposed to substances the body has to remove, and adding these foods will help your liver keep up. These veggies also fall into the “all you can eat” category!
Olive Oil. Olive and avocado oils continue to be the healthiest way to consume fats. These monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) supply necessary fat for our diets and are more stable against oxidative damage than other vegetable oils. MUFAs have been shown to decrease cardiovascular disease, protect against metabolic syndrome and diabetes, decrease inflammation, promote weight loss, and more. An easy way to use olive oil is on those leafy greens. Paired with vinegar, this will also help you avoid the temptation of using less healthy choices for your dressing. You can use up to two to three tablespoons per day.
Cruciferous Vegetables. These vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Bok Choy, and Brussels sprouts, not only provide good nutrient families, they also help metabolize hormones efficiently. This effect has been shown to decrease the production of some types of cancers, especially breast, colon, and prostate. Cruciferous vegetables can make a struggling thyroid work harder, so moderate these to three to four servings per week, especially if you already have hypothyroid or a borderline hypothyroid. If you’ve never roasted cruciferous vegetables with olive oil, you are missing out, and this is a great way to pair a couple of super foods together!
Extra Fiber. No superfood list is complete without a reminder to get your fiber! Fiber from the fruits and vegetables listed is a great start, but the inclusion of additional fiber is beneficial for many. Chia or ground flax seeds can be added to any cold food and help decrease cholesterol. They can be normalizing for digestion for many people that suffer from digestive issues. Add one to two tablespoons per day and avoid heating these, as they contain volatile oils.
Summer is a great time to keep your diet light and to go super with your foods. Stay cool, improve your nutrition, and improve your health with a few simple additions to your diet. Add in some exercise and stretching and you are on your way to optimal wellness!
Stay healthy & be well!
— Amy Whittington, NMD