Nashwell 02 02.2By Holly Ladd

Summer is here again and with it comes an excellent opportunity to clean up your diet. Over the winter we tend to eat heavier, bulkier foods to help us deal with the colder temperatures and they work, but now with the heat, our bodies are looking for lighter, cooling fare. Farmer’s markets are filling up with local produce and the grills are ready for the highest quality meats and veggies, so this is an easily accomplished goal.

Eating Seasonally
Our bodies tend to work better when we eat seasonally. By that I mean eating the fruits and vegetables that are in season and in a way that complements the climate. In summer that means lots of cooling salads, refreshing, hydrating beverages, and a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is not a time of year to load up on carbohydrate-loaded grains, which tend to be heavier on the body or with sugar-laden foods that deplete the immune system and rob the body of energy.

Benefits of Eating Fruits and Veggies
Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients like potassium and magnesium, folic acid, fiber and anti-oxidants. They are protective to your health and help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and some cancers and are low in calories, so you can load up on them. Plus, trust me, once you start loading up your diet with vegetables you will see changes to your energy levels and moods.

Here are some of the vegetables that are in season over the summer and ways to prepare them and store them so they keep the longest:

Cucumbers:  Delicious and cooling, cucumbers are a good source of anti-oxidants, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C & K and phosphorus. They are great as a base for vegetable juice, sliced up in a salad or sliced in a glass of water. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Eggplant:  Shiny and purple, eggplant is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and manganese. It’s great simply sliced, rubbed with olive oil and grilled, or grill it whole, scoop out the inside and make the middle-eastern dip baba-ganoush. Store eggplants in the crisper drawer for 5-7 days.

Okra:  These pods pack a nutritious punch, especially when they are not overcooked. Okra is a good source of protein, riboflavin, niacin, iron, zinc and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. While you may be used to okra in gumbo and deep fried, my favorite way to prepare it is to rub with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 415 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. This way you aren’t adding harmful fats to the okra preparation and still get a delicious dish. Pick small, tender pods and store in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Zucchini Squash:  This is the Italian Stallion of summer squash in that it’s so versatile. Zucchini is a nutrient powerhouse as well as being a good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, potassium and manganese. Zucchini is delicious rubbed in olive oil and grilled, or sautéed with some tomatoes, onion and corn. It can also take the place of pasta when put through a spiralizer raw and served with a fresh tomato sauce or pesto. Select zucchini that is free from bruises and scars.  Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and do not wash until you are ready to use it.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to summer vegetables and fruits. Why don’t you use this summer to explore new vegetables and new ways of preparing them and see what you like the best? By September your body will be thanking you for all the goodness that you fed it over three months. Bon appetit!

Holly Ladd is a Holistic Health Coach who works with people one-on-one and in groups to help people reclaim their vitality and energy through easy and gentle dietary and lifestyle changes and specializes in calming autoimmune symptoms. She was trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and taught by leaders in the wellness field like Dr. Mark Hyman , Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Walter Willett, Deepak Chopra and more. You can follow her on Facebook at Holly Ladd Health Coach or visit her website for more information. She is also a member of the Nashwell Group of Professional Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches.