I do not know about you, but for me summer is the best period in terms of nutrition. It’s the time when all of my favorite fruits and vegetables are coming out, foods that offer us nothing more than nutrients; foods whose colors and scents can make us feel better. Some of these foods are already on the market and currently are at their best season. Do not, therefore, ignore them and take advantage of their beneficial properties.
Strawberries are very rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and have anti-inflammatory properties. They contribute to the proper protection from high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, heart disease, and the proper functioning of the brain. Furthermore, it is a natural bleaching of teeth, because of the malic acid they contain (enzyme contained in most toothpastes). Aspartic acid found in strawberries help boost metabolism. Because strawberries are among the most burdened with pesticides fruit, it is advisable to prefer organic.
How to consume: You have countless options. Beyond raw, you can use them in sweet tarts, cheesecakes, your breakfast along with yogurt or milk and cereal, in smoothies or fruit juices, even in green salads.
Blueberries have high nutritional value. Instead, they are low in fat, sodium and calories, which place them in the first step of a healthy diet. They are rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and B-carotene, sugar, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, inorganic acids, metal salts, pectin and fiber. According to a survey of Tufts University blueberries rank as the number one (between 60 fruits systematically tested) in antioxidant and anti-aging properties, almost 40% more than in red wine, which is largely due to anthocyanins contained.
Moreover, blueberries help to treat urinary tract infections, prevent allergies, to combat “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and atherosclerosis, control of hypertension etc. due to the phytoestrogens the fruit and leaves of the plant contain. It has been scientifically proven to be particularly effective in the treatment of diabetes (alternative to medical treatment – which in any case should not be interrupted). Also, their consumption enhance night vision, and memory.
First, tomatoes are very rich in lycopene, a phytochemical with a strong antioxidant that protects cells against free radicals which damage DNA and lead to the development of chronic diseases. Recent studies linking lycopene to protect against various cancers and particularly that of the prostate.
- Tip: According to surveys, the majority of the lycopene intake derives from tomato products (eg tomato paste, tomato juice, tomato sauce, etc.). The lycopene contained in tomato juice absorbed more easily by the body, compared to the lycopene found in raw fresh tomatoes. This is because when tomato is grated into juice or pulp, largest amount of this substance is released. Also, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when the tomato is cooked with vegetable fats (eg. olive oil), that’s why tomato sauce is an ideal anti-cancer food.
Also, studies have shown that tomatoes help reduce total and LDL “bad” cholesterol, while maintaining cardiac function in good order.
How to consume: Greek salad and tomato pasta sauce is not the only ways to benefit from the nutrients of tomatoes. Make a spicy cold tomato soup or enjoy the juice of a Virgin Mary.
One of the most versatile summer foods, zucchini can be cooked in a thousand ways. Low in fat and calories but very rich in nutrients, can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. It is very rich in fiber, vitamins A and C and folic acid and act as powerful antioxidant. Moreover, phytonutrients contained in zucchini help reduce symptoms that result in benign prostatic hypertrophy.
- Tip: Now that zucchini is at its best, is best time to taste their flowers. Greek cuisine is rich in such recipes.
How to consume: I would agree that the fried zucchini is a real delicacy, but I would advise you to avoid them. Beyond boiled, you can try them roasted in the oven or the barbecue and add them to your salads. It is a wonderful accompaniment to grilled meats. Add them, also, in savory tarts or pies. Finally, try them in a savory or a sweet cake or muffins and you will be surprised by the result.
Cherries & Sour Cherries:
Besides delicious, cherries and sour cherries have many benefits for our body. They contain a large amount of vitamin C and B vitamins, niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), folic acid (B9), and smaller amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium and protein. They also contain anthocyanins which fight free radicals and render these fruits as powerful antioxidants and anti-aging. Moreover, they are rich in vitamin A. Kaempferol and quercetin contained in cherries and sour cherries, improve memory, concentration and vision. When eating cherries, greater production and secretion of digestive substances occurs, something that is beneficial for the functioning of our digestive system. They have anti-inflammatory properties and help the liver and kidneys to get rid of toxic substances.
How to consume: Raw, in tarts, juices and smoothies, to biscuits, jelly, cakes and many other delicious sweets. Try this granola with dried sour cherries; I’ m sure you will love it!
Apricots are rich in potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber. Moreover, their large vitamin A content makes them very beneficial for eye health. Moreover, apricots contain carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin), which due their orange color. Ripe and dried apricots have higher carotenoid content. Vitamin C and flavonoids contained in apricots make them a powerful antioxidant. They, also, contribute to the health of the digestive system and fight constipation, the smooth functioning of the heart by reducing LDL «bad» cholesterol and they act as ancillary to those who suffer from anemia.
How to consume: Raw, on your breakfast with yogurt, cereals and nuts, in tarts, cakes and other recipes for desserts, juices and smoothies. You can, also, make dried apricot jam without added sugar, as a healthier option.
The strong point of vine leaves is the large amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C and copper contained in them. Moreover, they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin C, B vitamins (B1 – thiamine, B2 – riboflavin, B3 – niacin, B5 – pantothenic acid and folic acid), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese , protein and fiber. They are ideal for diabetics because of their low glycemic index and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
How to consume: Apart from the delicious dolmades gialantzi, try them stuffed with bulgur, minced meat or eggplant. You can also wrap fish like anchovies and mullet with vine leaves, or wrap a roll of lamb or minced meat.