The summer solstice on 20th June officially marks the start of summer, although with such a hot May you could be forgiven for thinking it has been here for a while!
With the onset of summer, nature brings a further array of deliciously healthy and nutritious foods to enjoy.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyers shares her five favourites.
More romantically named zucchini by the Italians and Americans, courgettes are a great and versatile summer food. They’re a type of small, young marrow with tender edible skins. As with most fruits and vegetables, many of their nutrients are actually found just under the skin hence they’re best eaten with the skin on.
Courgettes are a good source of beta-carotene which is turned into immune-boosting vitamin A in the body as needed. As with other ‘green’ vegetables they also supply a particular carotenoid, zeaxanthin which is great for the eyes. They’re also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C and brain-boosting folate. Folate is essential for good functioning of the nervous system which is really useful especially right now when many people are struggling with anxiety.
One of the loveliest summer recipes is grated courgette with linguini, lemon juice, garlic, basil and chopped chilli peppers; it makes a fantastic al fresco treat!
It’s not always a go-to vegetable as it’s slightly trickier to prepare. However, why not change things up a little and benefit from its wonderful taste and health benefits? As an additional benefit, artichoke often conjures up thoughts of the Mediterranean which we might not be able to visit for a while.
Artichoke is prepared by discarding the outer toughest leaves to get to the heart. It can then be sliced and either grilled or boiled and served with lemon butter or hollandaise sauce. Alternatively, it can be bought ready prepared and added to pizzas, salads or pasta dishes.
Artichoke’s main health benefits seem to be from its potential to support liver function and reduce cholesterol levels. It also helps feed the friendly gut bacteria, a good balance of which is essential for overall wellbeing.
Another green super food, watercress is one of the healthiest salad vegetables with a distinctive peppery taste. In traditional medicine it was used as a kidney and liver detoxifier, just like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family. Furthermore, it’s a great source of minerals especially iron, as well as beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Watercress makes a great summertime soup with Jersey Royals (also in season right now). It is also great in salad with rocket and Parmesan or with other strong flavours such as orange.
Wild Sea Trout
It’s important to look for ‘wild’ which naturally contains astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant, and the reason for the dark, pink colour), plus the flavour is vastly better than in its farmed counterparts. Some of the best wild sea trout is caught off the Welsh coast, although it’s also fished in European waters.
Sea Trout is an excellent source of super-healthy omega-3 fats which are needed for the heart, brain, skin, hormones, and joints.
At this time of year, sea trout is absolutely delicious cooked on the barbecue and also works well marinated with orange dressing. It makes a wonderfully healthy summer meal alongside Jersey Royal potatoes and plenty of salad leaves.
Another vegetable we often associate with the Mediterranean, especially Greece, is aubergine (also known as eggplant). Interestingly, it’s also widely grown in the UK. Aubergine is still widely used in traditional Ottoman dishes such as Imam Bayildi (aubergine stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes). The deep colour of its skin signifies plenty of anthocyanins – powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against degenerative diseases. Aubergine also contains plenty of fibre and folate.
Aubergines are a great summer food because they’re delicious chargrilled and added to other roasted vegetables or in a salad with roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. The only downside is that they tend to soak up plenty of oil so do make sure you use healthy olive oil so at least you’re getting some heart-health benefits.
So, enjoy the amazing colours, tastes and nutritional benefits the new summer season brings.
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