Mother Nature is offering up some of her most awesome gifts right now in the form of… food!
Those who know me, know I am somewhat obsessed with food–especially fruits and vegetables. And most especially the ones I get at a certain farm stand nearby.
Each spring when the farm stand opens for the season, I pop a bottle of champagne and set off some fireworks. And every autumn when it closes, I go into a week of mourning, closing the blinds so I can weep in private. (Alright, I may be exaggerating just a little bit.) I really do love it, though.
I love it because truly fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs taste a hundred times better than what the supermarket offers. When something is picked practically in your backyard and eaten within a couple of days, every bit of natural flavor, along with the vitamins and minerals it provides, remains.
As a Wellness Coach a huge part of my training included in-depth education on food and nutrition. The biggest thing I learned was that your body is a machine, and the fuel that makes it run best is high quality, fresh whole foods. Summer is the best time in our neck of the woods to load up on the nutritious superfoods that give us the most bang for our buck.
So what makes something a superfood?
Superfoods are rich in compounds like antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids that are considered beneficial to your health. They can help lower cholesterol, keep blood sugar levels steady, and provide essential nutrients your body needs to repair and ward off sickness.
There are many superfoods. In general, I like the advice to “eat a rainbow.” Each compound that gives fruits and veggies their color contains important phytonutrients, so mix it up! I’ve compiled a list of the things you can pick up at farm stands in southeastern Pennsylvania throughout the growing season. I also included a little bit about what makes them super.
The good stuff begins to arrive at the end of May and doesn’t stop until November, giving us the opportunity to eat like kings and queens for six full months.
Look for these at your local farm stand:
Berries: Berries, especially blueberries, are high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Antioxidants neutralize some of the free radicals that damage your DNA, which is what you need to help stave off many of the diseases of aging. They also can lower your cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.
Leafy greens: Leafy greens are especially delicious at the beginning of the growing season and at the end. Kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, and turnip tops, are excellent sources of fiber, folate, zinc, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. Try them in smoothies with fruit and berries, or sauteed with olive oil and garlic.
Garlic: Garlic contains vitamins C and B6, manganese, selenium, and other antioxidants. Recent research suggests garlic may be effective against high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, colds, and some cancers. It improves circulation and serves as an anti-fungal and an anti-microbial, too.
Try garlic scapes (the stem and flower bud of the garlic bulb), which are available in late spring and early summer. They can be added to stir-fry dishes, made into a pesto, or roasted with other ingredients for a milder but fresh garlic flavor.
Cruciferous vegetables: Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, Bok Choy, cabbage, arugula, broccolini, daikon, kohlrabi, and watercress may all have similar properties. One of the big reasons to eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables is that they may help to lower your risk of getting cancer. They may also help to protect against cardiovascular disease, because they are linked to lower levels of inflammation in the body.
Root vegetables: Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, and carrots may contribute to preventing diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other chronic health conditions thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antimicrobial properties. As a bonus, they are also gluten-free, making them a good choice for people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
These are just a few of the great foods you can find right here in this area! So, pop the champagne, light the fireworks, and get down to your local farm
Until we meet…