I don’t know about you, but I have been waiting for summer to start for months. We have had so much rain and so many cool days in Denver that it has felt more like April than July. But summer is finally here and that means longer days, fresh fruit, and summer entertaining! Summer is the most wonderful time to explore your local grocer or farmers’ markets for bright colors and fresh flavors. Whether a couple of friends stopped by after work or you’re planning a dinner party for twelve, having fresh fruit handy will make you the host with the most.
Personally, when I go all out I decorate the table with all sorts of fresh flavors, put together a fresh spritzer or cocktail, and serve piles of grilled fruits and veggies. But if you’re having an impromptu gathering, try laying out any fresh fruit – raspberries, blueberries, freshly sliced pears – add some walnuts and a little cheese, then drizzle with honey. Or fire up the grill and top with fresh veggie or fruit skewers. Don’t be shy, add anything to these skewers! Perhaps you and your friends need to gab about work over a cocktail after a long day at the office? That’s easy, too, have seltzer, fresh fruit and herbs on hand to add pop to any beverage. Summer is in full swing, so get inspired!
Summer is the perfect time to find fresh fruits and vegetables, including some you may have never tried! Farmers’ Markets are in full swing, and the abundance of summer produce may surprise you. Along with fruits and vegetables, many markets also offer local meats, eggs, cream and butter, honey, flowers, spices and herbs – along with products distinctive to your area! What’s nice about going to a local market is these ingredients are in season and at their ripest, meaning most delicious and bursting with nutrients; plus, you can find fresh ideas to inspire your staples. For instance, I always have lettuce on hand – romaine, arugula, maché – and with all the fresh produce available, I’m able to come up with fresh, new ideas! This weekend, I made a salad with fresh arugula, prosciutto, lemon, sliced grapes and pears, shaved parmesan, and a splash of olive oil… So light and refreshing! Tonight’s dinner includes fresh squash on the grill drizzled with locally harvested honey and topped with grilled pear and melon slices – delicious!
Interested in seeing what your local farmer has? Check out these links for ideas!
Young children are consuming larger than healthful amounts of sodium according to current research presented via the American Heart Association.1 Nearly 75% of packaged meals and snacks designed for children ages 1 to 3 years are high in sodium; some meals contain 40% of a toddler’s daily limit for sodium! Although packaged and processed foods are notorious for high sodium content, these results are striking since large amounts of sodium early in life may increase preference for salty foods and excess salt consumption is directly linked to high blood pressure. Indeed, about one in three adults (31.9%) over the age of 20 has hypertension, or high blood pressure, which increases risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.2
Although these data are alarming, there is a simple solution: Decrease processed food consumption by adding more fresh fruits and veggies every day. A diet high in fresh or plain, frozen fruits and vegetables protects the heart.3 Keep it simple! Make more fresh foods at home, starting with fruits and veggies as the foundation for every meal. Add or mix in fruits or veggies to foods your family already loves, such as sandwiches, cereals, and sauces. Need an even simpler solution? Add one piece of fruit as a snack each day and you’re one bite closer to heart health!
1 American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/127/12_MeetingAbstracts/AP253?sid=9a73903b-2517-4164-b859-ff621b4749cd
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 data http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/hyprtens.htm
3 Circulation, American Heart Association http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/127/12_MeetingAbstracts/A001?sid=bbf3aeff-f191-4aa0-803a-ea58f2ff4bfd
My father has battled cancer for a couple years, recently being diagnosed with another type that dramatically affects his immune system. This has been a life-changing struggle for my family and for me, personally and professionally. Everyday, I teach the ins and outs of nutrition for health, wellbeing, and to preserve quality of life; cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, falling closely behind heart disease. Fortunately my father has been able to maintain his quality of life despite painful treatments and signs of depression, and I am thankful for this gift every day. So, I ask you, what are you doing to preserve your quality of life?
I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining a healthful weight, finding time to be physically active, and including more fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, but brimming with key nutrients that preserve wellbeing – water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whole plant foods are also packed with phytonutrients, naturally occurring compounds that offer a multitude of benefits including antioxidant functions that may fend off chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Plus, the research I have read suggests that, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, more is better. So do something good for yourself today, pick up a pear and ponder the good things in life.