Summer is a time of growth and activity. Gardens are blooming, bees are buzzing and growers are producing foods that are perfectly compatible with a lighter summer diet. We look forward to seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, and it seems natural to want to consume foods that are at their peak and grown where we live. The overwhelming availability of choices in giant grocery stores can be an obstacle to natural nutrition for many people. Wal -Mart is even introducing organic food to its customers. How can anyone know if organic food provided to megastores is consistent with our needs and values?
Some startling results: In 2005, the Region of Waterloo Public Health Department conducted a study to measure the environmental cost of growing and transporting food items to our dining room tables. The study concluded that the imports of 58 commonly eaten foods travel an average of 4,497 km to Waterloo Region. That accounts for 51,709 tons of greenhouse gas annually. Scientists estimated that switching from imports to locally produced foods could save nearly 50,000 tons of green house gas emissions a year or the equivalent of taking 16,191 cars off the road. Thats a pretty convincing argument for buying local.
Seasonal superfoods: Seasonal vegetables are amazing superfoods that are high in Vitamins and minerals , and low in fat. The Latin word for vegetable means to enliven or animate. Green vegetables are especially high in chlorophyll which has revitalizing effects, provides internal nourishment and detoxifies our system (the liver in particular). Even fresh vegetable juices (mmm, chilled and accompanied by fresh veggies and dips) have high concentrations of vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked kale has only 50 calories, nearly 10 grams of carbs, several grams of protein, 2-3 grams of fiber, nearly 8000 IUs of Vitamin A, 150-200 mg of Calcium , 30 mg of Magnesium , 2 mg of iron, 300 mg of Potassium and 100-150 mg of Vitamin C . The best warm salad recipe I ever tasted came from Mollie Katzens Moosewood Cookbook and had kale, collards and mustard Greens as the main ingredients. (For recipes just Google Moosewood). For something a little exotic, consider edible seasonal flowers. These include nasturtiums, borage and marigolds. For spicy additions to summer salads try mustard, radish or watercress flowers. The flowers of many common herbssuch as rosemary, dill, oregano, chives, sage and marjoram are also edible salad ingredients.
Pick your berries: Summer berries top the superfood list for their lovely colourful, juicy, tasty qualities. Alone, or paired with fresh summer greens, berries are delicious, low in calories and an excellent source of Antioxidants. The anthocyanin in berries has many times the stress-fighting power of Vitamin C, and berries are high in fibre and vitamin content. Almost all fruits become alkaline in the body when broken down, so eating fruit supports our acid-alkaline balance. Combining certain vegetables and fruits with nuts and beans creates what scientists call food synergy. For example, combining the vitamin C in tomatoes with spinach ensures maximum absorption of the iron in the spinach. Adding a good fat like walnuts or avocado to a salad can increase the benefits of the beta carotene in the greens. The disease-fighting nutrients in one food work synergistically with a companion nutrient in another food.
Enjoying your salads: So, that delicious summer salad, with its grapes, apple, cranberries and walnuts and leafy greens really is full of bioactive plant phytochemicals that are providing you with more than just a mouth-watering meal. Isnt it grand that nature provides us with exactly the right foods, just when we need them?
Anne Brownell, B.A., Assistant Manager at Natures Source in Oakville. She is enrolled in the Registered Holistic Nutritionist Program at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.