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6 Superfoods for Summer 2011

The best resources that a health conscious consumer can gather this Summer are some good web bookmarks for research, a list of favorite super foods, and a passion for fresh produce. The beauty of Summer is in the vegetables and fruits that are fresh from the tree, field or vine.

There are also fresh and organic meats, seafood and fish in abundance in the Summer. With an abundance of farmer’s markets, fresh picked fruits and vegetables can be bought by the pound and at the lowest prices.

Super foods are foods that pack in a lot of nutrition, replace saturated fat, have lots of good fiber, replace processed sugar with natural sugars. Many super foods offer chemicals and minerals that fight everything from high blood pressure to cancers. Others provide essential nutrients that keep eyes healthy, keep cells growing, control the thyroid and cancers and that help the heart. And there is much more.

Most of the super foods can be easily prepared in ways that make the taste buds happy while filling the stomach.

Super Cereals: Oatmeal and fortified baked goods.

Many store bought cold cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, but are also fortified with way too much sugar. Summer might be the time to start mixing in lower sugar organically grown cereals that are high in fiber and other nutrients.

Oatmeal is the top super food in the cereal category, and provides loads of soluble and non soluble fiber. Fiber is essential for maintaining heart health by keeping cholesterol levels down. Also, fortified breads and low fat, low sugar baked goods will provide fiber, iron and calcium.

The trick is to avoid those high fat and sugary baked goods and cereal bars that are a tempting, fast and easy treat in Summer. If there are no nutrition labels at the farmer’s markets, it might be best to stick to the store products.

Dark Leafy Greens and Broccoli:

Collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens need to be cooked, but can pack in tons of nutrition with little fat. Collards are fairly mild greens that are delightful to eat alone or to sneak into other foods. Spinach and mixed field greens can make for light, fresh salads. Some oil may be needed to help the body to break down some of the nutrients in the dark leafy greens that are believed to fight several types of cancer and to provide iron, folate and fiber.

Broccoli adds vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, folic acid, calcium, iron, and potassium in good quantities with only a cup or two per person a few times per week. Broccoli is not liked by all, but it can be cooked, chopped, marinated, chilled and tucked away in a variety of foods.

Super Fruits: Apples and Strawberries

Apples and apple juice can be mixed into a host of foods to provide a flavanoid called phloridzin which helps with the bones. Apples are good for helping with some asthma conditions and for fighting many kinds of cancers. Whether enjoying a nice plate of sliced apples and cheese or mixing apple juice into more expensive juices, a savvy shopper can get plenty of good food into everyone.

Strawberries are also a super fruit. About 10 of them will provide plenty of fiber, Vitamin C. and Potassium. Potassium helps with preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Other Summer super fruits are blueberries, plums, dried plums (prunes), cranberries, blackberries, bananas and cherries.

Super Meats:

Red meat provides protein, zinc, and iron. If meat is completely off the table, then those nutrients need to be supplemented by plants and other foods that have them.

There are abundances of seafood and freshwater fish in the Summer. Fatty fish provide Omega-3 fatty acids, which are very heart healthy. Omega-3 Fatty acids decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of plaque, and can slightly lower blood pressure.

Good fatty fish: Alaska Wild Salmon

Avoid or limit: shark, swordfish, king Mackerel, and Tilefish. Tilapia and catfish have high levels of bad fatty acids.

Enjoy: Canned tuna (light), Shrimp, Pollock, Salmon (fresh, frozen), Catfish, Cod, Clams, Flounder or Sole and Scallops.

Super Dairy:

Hands down, yogurt and Greek yogurt are the best to have on hand. These offer lower fat alternatives to heavy creams and whole milk for sauces, dips and desserts. A bit of flavored yogurt can take a fruit smoothie to a new level.

Eggs have a bad rap and should be eaten for a “high quality” protein that is full of and have Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Eggs also have choline for brain function and two kinds of carotenoids to help the eyes.

Summer is a good time to try some alternatives to whole milk, heavy cream, cheese and butter. There is soy, rice, almond, coconut and other alternatives to milk. For drinking, Summer is a good time for adults to ease down to 2 percent or 1 percent milk.

Super Oils:

Whole Living has a good introduction to healthier oils, which can be essential for adding nutrients, helping with digestion, and breaking down some minerals in super foods. The beauty of Summer is that all sorts of oily plants, fruits, nuts and seeds will be fresh pressed to create a wide range of special and very tasty oils. There will also be an array of flavored oils. The trick is to find the ones that have the good fats and to avoid the bad ones.

To help with the Summer super food information kit, here are some websites that are easy to navigate and that give good diet and nutrition information:

Smart phone and mobile applications have comprehensive sites, and bar code scanners that can read labels and get access to huge nutrition databases. It is good to have one or two of these apps for finding information while on the road.

The Mayo Clinic has a huge, yet easy to use and friendly interface for information about all kinds of foods that will be available this Summer.

About.com also has a giant, user friendly site that will help both beginning and advanced amateur nutritionists with answers.