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Foods of the Season - July

Summer is the time of the year when we should make the most of what the season has to offer and reward our bodies with the nutrient-dense and high quality foods it deserves.

Local fruit and vegetables are plentiful in our farmers’ markets, supermarkets, allotments and gardens. And this abundance of fresh and delicious produce makes it easy for us to avoid dull and tasteless sustenance and choose nutritious meals and snacks instead. 

Not only is it the season when our taste buds come alive but this wonderful feast of gorgeous flavours and bright colours also allow us to stay in balance with nature and our local environment. Not to mention the fact that summer scores serious points in terms of ease and comfort. When is there a better and simpler time to maintain our healthy eating habits? Summer offers no excuses! 

Eating with the seasons ensures that we buy fruit and vegetables at their best, both in terms of taste and value as they are harvested when ripe. As a result, they hold more nutrients and are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

Moreover, there is no other period when these just-picked ingredients feature so predominantly into our food shopping and daily lives. We feel inspired to try out new recipes, be more adventurous in the kitchen and create light dishes that the whole family will indulge in – whether it’s at a picnic, garden party, festival or barbecue. 

So why not seize the moment, take advantage of what nature’s bountiful crops have grown and reap the health benefits? 

Here is a sample of what you’ll find near you this month: 

Aubergine

This spongy and firm vegetable, also known as eggplant, hails originally from south-east Asia but it is now grown across the globe.

In Britain, we are probably most familiar with the pear-shaped dark purple variety with its glossy skin. But this succulent addition to any meal comes in various colours, shapes and sizes – from purple to violet, stripy white and purple, white and even yellow, to bulbous, oval and elongated. 

All varieties share a fleshy interior that soaks up oil and spices beautifully when cooked. Aubergines are divine when oven-roasted or chargrilled as they add a wonderful texture and flavour to light summer salads and other dishes. Throw them in with some roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, pulses and fresh herbs, and you won’t look back. 

High in soluble fibre and a good source of vitamins B1 and B6 as well as potassium, the aubergine also finds a starring role in the smoky and delicious Middle East dip, baba ganoush. 

The aubergine also has strong antioxidant properties that fight against free radicals, which are “now widely confirmed” to play a central role in aging, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a study published last year in the European Scientific Journal. 

Experts there also found that nasunin, a molecule concentrated in the aubergine’s purple skin which acts to inhibit “antigiogenesis, (development of new blood vessels), a process implicated in several diseases, including cancer,” is not only “present in very few foods” but that the eggplant “contains significantly more.” 

How about trying this Mediterranean inspired dish this month?

Beetroot, buckweat and aubergine salad

Beetroot

This really alkaline root vegetable, which typically has a rich purple colour, might wreak havoc on our hands but it’s so worth it as it’s been called a “health food titan.” Just wear some gloves when handling them and you’ll avoid the stains! 

If you’re not keen on wearing a pair of Marigolds, you’re in luck. Its stainless cousin, the golden (or yellow) variety, can now be found across the UK. 

Beetroots have a natural sweetness, which lends itself brilliantly to an array of savoury dishes including salads, soups, risottos and dips. It also works well in juices and even cheesecake! 

Rich in fibre and packed full of vitamins A and C, and minerals including calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium as well as manganese, beetroots have been historically used medicinally to treat a range of ailments such as fevers, constipation and skin problems. 

This vegetable, which belongs to the same family as chard and spinach, has a cleansing effect and is known to help to detoxify the liver and gall bladder. Experts say its nitrate content may also help to reduce blood pressure. 

Here are some sumptuous seasonal recipes for you to savour:

Vitality beetroot and nectarine juice 

Beetroot and walnut dip

Beetroot and berry cheesecake

Cucumber

As the old saying goes: there is nothing “as cool as a cucumber.” Light, crunchy and refreshing, it undoubtedly makes for a great summer snack, whether that’s a juice, smoothie, salad, soup or fancy sandwich at a garden party or picnic. 

Part of the melon family, which includes squash, courgette and watermelon, the cucumber is ostensibly one of the most cultivated vegetable in the world. 

Cucumbers are mostly water - about 95% - so it’s a highly hydrating food for the body and a great thirst quencher. Eaten either raw or pickled, they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. 

High in potassium, magnesium and fibre, cucumbers have several health benefits. Studies found that they can help to regulate blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, promote joint health and digestion as well as play a role in cancer prevention. 

A slice on the eyes is also said to reduce puffiness thanks to the cucumber’s anti-inflammatory properties. And its essential nutrients, namely sulfur and silicon, help to stimulate hair growth.

By Chantal Ouimet – Honestly Healthy Editor

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