Summer Health Rx

I love summer. It's is a great time of year to recharge your diet and your health. Eating seasonally throughout the winter can make it difficult to get excited about your next meal of roasted yams or stuffed squash, but in the summer the palette of colors comes alive with seasonal summer fruit and vegetables. We have more energy in general, boosted by the extra hours of daylight and the appearance of the warm, energizing sun. Our activites tend to take us out of the gym, and into the outdoors, which makes it easier (and a little less scary) to try new things. Take the opportunity this year to create some habits for your family that are fun, flavorful, and healthy, and that will pave the way to good health throughout the year.

"Superfood" is a super-trendy word that is generally used to describe foods that pack a significant nutritional punch. Many of these foods are seasonal in the summertime, so what better time to stock up on your favourite, try some new soon-to-be favourites and get creative. Superfoods tend to contain the highest amounts of vitamins and minerals in their raw form, but you can minimize the loss of essential nutrients by only lightly steaming, boiling, or stir-frying them. It can be difficult to get kids (or adults) excited about eating their veggies, and summer is the perfect time to get creative about serving them in new, fresh, and tasty ways. Here are five ways you can revitalize you health over the spring and summer months with new (and old) foods and activities:

1) Bright Berries - Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, acai berries....what do all of them have in common? They are jam packed with antioxidants and other vitamins. They are also low in calories, high in fiber, and are delicious. Blueberries are the star of the berry world, and are a wonderful example of a food that grows abundantly locally. I like to buy in bulk from a local grower and wash and freeze several pounds that I can use throughout the winter. They are delicious on their own as a fresh or frozen snack, a wonderful addition to salads, a key ingredient in healthy protein shakes, and an easy way to add some natural sweetness to your desserts. Tip: Go to a local blueberry farm and pick your own berries with your family. We used to pick cherries when I was younger and, despite some whining at the time, it was really fun to eat cherries that we picked ourselves.

2) Eat Your Greens - There are so many wonderful green veggies that flourish in the summer - I couldn't even mention half of them so I'll stick to a few of my summer favourites. Kale has become my new favourite superfood. New to me, that is, as kale has been around for over 1600 hundred years. It's resilient and hearty. Kale is full of fiber, carotenoids and flavonoids which will all improve your digestion and reduce your risk of cancer. Another superstar in the green vegetable world is the artichoke, which is also full of fiber and several essential vitamins and minerals. In addition to these two, there are many different types of greens that are full of nutrients, including butter lettuce, arugula, broccolini, spinach, and the list goes on. They are most potent in their raw form, but you can flash fry them until they're bright green to aid with their digestion while retaining their flavour and texture. Tip: If available, join a CSA and be surprised with greens you may never have heard of. If you don't have access to a CSA, go to your local market and try a new green vegetable every week.

3) Tropical Fruits - I try not to eat too many tropical fruits during the winter months (unless I'm in the tropics, of course). I like to indulge in these fruits occasionally in the summer months, when they grow more readily. I try to find them from North American sources, but will buy them from smaller organic farms in the tropics. They are, of course, full of antioxidants but tend to be higher in sugar than the fruits grown in our area. Tip: Add them to oatmeal or cottage cheese for a change-up.

4) Source Locally - Almost as trendy as the term "superfood", the idea of sourcing your food locally has become the subject of novels, memoirs, television shows, and news reports. Obviously it can't work for everyone, but at the very least it's important to be aware of where your food is coming from and trying to support local farms and markets. It's a great project for the whole family, learning what foods grow where, visiting farms, and picking your own produce. Tip: Find a farm that will allow you to spend four hours working to allow you to see how they operate, and to develop an appreciation for what goes into producing the food you eat.

5) Step Outside the Gym - Not only are these foods a lot more fun to eat in the summertime when they're fresh and plentiful, but it's also more to fun to work them off doing any one of the number of activities that are available to you, particularly in an area like Fernie. It's a great place for you and your family to try something new every summer - biking, golfing, walking, swimming, hiking. The options are endless. Tip: Whatever the sport is, join (or start) a club so you and your family can be committed to weekly, or biweekly adventures and share the experiences with like-minded people.

If I talk a lot about eating fresh, local, and ideally organic fruits and vegetables it's because it's so important. It's the only way to really get in all of those vitamins and minerals without taking a multivitamin, not to mention the antioxidants which have demonstrated protective properties for your cells. It's also important to be aware of what's on your food, what effects those chemicals can have on you, and where your food is coming from. Of course it's almost impossible to eat this way all the time, but using the summer bounty as an opportunity to get excited about living healthily will result in your kids being more excited about making the same choices and will promote healthier choices for them as they grow into adults. Show them how fun exercise can be, how tasty and exciting healthy foods can be, and how good it feels to be healthy and they'll want to carry the habits with them through life.

Happy Summer - Play Safely!