Summer Is the Season for Eating Well

By Mark Hyman, MD

There are many reasons why I love Summer: The green grass and warm sunshine, long days and balmy evenings, more time to savor all the beauty of the outdoors. But the best part by far is the amazing abundance of healthy, fresh, whole foods everywhere you turn. In celebration of the richness of the season, I have put together my reasons why there’s no better time to eat well.

Food is fresh, available, and affordable
It’s easy to eat fresh, locally grown food when fruits and vegetables are as abundant and available as they are during the summer months. And when food is more easily available, it’s more affordable, too, since choosing local produce cuts the cost of shipping from some far-off places.

When food is in season, it’s also better for you. Except for freezing, most food storage practices cause a loss in nutrition and quality. Think of all the preservatives and toxic chemicals used to keep packaged foods from going rancid on grocery store shelves. Beware these processed and preserved foods that can’t die. Fresh food is alive, filled with all the nourishment and nutrients needed to keep you alive and thriving!

Eating locally is not only healthy for you, it’s great for your community, too. Participate in the grow-your-own movement by shopping at your local farmers market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture). You can go to www.localharvest.org to find a CSA or farmers market near you. For more adventurous ways to go local, try that interesting little farm stand you drive by during your daily commute (they usually offer great value for seasonal fruit and veggies) or try a pick-your-own farm.

You can get back to basics
Summer is all about unwinding, relaxing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of good food and good company. Always keep basic staples in the pantry, so you’ll be ready for an easy, impromptu meal. To eat well, you don’t have to indulge in expensive specialty foods or the new, trendy exotic fruit du jour. Keep it simple.

Tip: Get back to basics by creating delectable meals out of everyday foods such as beans and greens. Beans cost only a few cents per serving, yet give you 7 grams of blood sugar-friendly fiber. (Try the “Black Bean Salad” recipe from my book, “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.”)

You can savor the flavor
Summer offers so many ways to add flavor to your food without resorting to salt and fat. Herbs, spices, and berries are all plentiful during the warmer months. Get creative, and experiment using herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, or fresh dill. These are easy to grow right in your own window!

You can lighten your load
Produce is available in huge quantities and varieties during the summer season. The wide array of options makes it easy to enjoy a light, plant-based diet, which can keep your heart healthy, your waistline slender, and your blood sugar levels optimized.

Try incorporating “Meatless Mondays” into your weekly meal plan, or try eating at least one meal a day without animal protein. This can help you lighten the load on your digestive system, as well as on the Earth, since raising animals for food has a greater impact on the environment than growing fruits and vegetables.

Tip: Choose non-GMO tempeh to replace ground beef in your next recipe. This one change will drastically trim your shopping bill, because tempeh costs about a third of what you’d pay for the amount of meat needed to feed a family of four! (Try the “Spiced Ground Turkey Wrap With Watercress & Avocado” recipe from “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook” and replace the turkey with tempeh.)

There are many ways to enjoy your leftovers
Remember all those leftover berries from the pick-your-own farm, or all the fresh zucchini you found at the farmers market? Don’t waste them – re-use them! (Here’s one great way to use Monday night’s chicken dinner in Tuesday morning’s breakfast: the “Roasted Chicken and Egg White Cup” recipe from “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook.”)

Dine under the stars
Add flare to your normal weeknight routine by creating your own summery dinner table outside. No need to go to a fancy restaurant to make your meal feel special. Decorate your outdoor table with candles or fresh flowers to enhance your dining experience. Invite friends over and make it a potluck. Relaxing under the stars, enjoying a fine meal with loved ones, will soothe your nerves and help you digest your food, while truly appreciating the magic of summertime.

Buying local can be better than going organic
While it’s sometimes OK to choose the conventional versions of fruits and vegetables, it’s best to opt for organic whenever possible. This limits your exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, drugs, and other toxins that can be found in conventionally-grown food.

When you buy from local farms, you can find fruits and vegetables that are just as nutritious as their organic counterparts, with one distinct advantage: locally grown produce doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles across the globe, as some organic foods are shipped. The extra time spent on a plane or truck can make them more costly, yet less nutritious.

Summer food preparation is quick and simple
When it’s cold outside, stews, soups, and slow-cooker meals are best. But these take time to prepare and cook. Summer is all about quick and easy meal preparation. Your body craves raw or lightly cooked food, which means less time for you in the kitchen. This gives you more opportunities to get outside and enjoy summer’s simple pleasures.

There is more than meets the eye in colorful summer foods
Summer fruits and vegetables grow in a variety of beautiful colors that make food more pleasing to the eye. The more beautiful your plate looks, the more pleasure you receive from your meal. The more pleasure you feel, the less likely you’ll overeat. But the appearance of these colorful fruits and vegetables is far more than skin deep. These colors are nature’s way of advertising the phytonutrients and special, healthy chemicals, they contain. The more color, the better!

Design the perfect summertime meal plan. Get tips and tricks for making healthy and tasty meals in your own kitchen. Learn what foods you should eat to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and lose weight. Try the more than 175 tasty recipes I have assembled in “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook” that appeal to a variety of budgets, taste preferences, health goals, and lifestyles.

Mark Hyman, MD is a physician and widely acclaimed book author. He is Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and serves on the board of directors of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. He is the founder and medical director of The Ultra Wellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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