One of The Best Summer Indulgences …

Every season brings activities that seem exclusive to that time of year. Summer is no exception. Many foods are also quintessential to the season. In the summertime, you need to look no farther than a roadside stand or your local Farmer’s Market. The choices seem endless. Many farms also welcome guests. If you have one near you, put the family in the car and enjoy a visit. Walk in the orchards. Pick your own. Or pick one of the baskets that will surely be waiting. The fruits and vegetables of summer are beautiful, fragrant and delicious. It’s a delight to the senses, from farm to table. But the very best part of these summer indulgences is that they are good for us, too!

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There is no plausible way to cover them all, short of writing a novella. But let me share a few examples. The links below can provide additional information. Let’s start with peaches. And, yes, I am partial to SC peaches. In a study from Texas A & M, results showed that peaches (no matter where they’re grown) can fight Chronic illnesses like Diabetes and Heart Disease. These fuzzy beauties can also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL). Peaches provide an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin C. And that is beneficial in combating the formation of free radicals known to cause Cancer. Vitamin C can also reduce wrinkles. Are you listening, girls?

Watermelon isn’t just for kids. It is a nutrient-rich food that any age can benefit from eating. And everyone seems to enjoy it, too. Around 92% of watermelon is water. This provides needed electrolytes in the summer’s sweltering heat. Another heads-up for the athletes, out there … Amino acids, like L-citrulline, found in watermelon can reduce muscle soreness. Vitamins A and C are great for healthy skin and hair. Remember that C is a wonderful antioxidant. And the fiber in watermelon aids in healthy digestion.

Okra isn’t just a “Southern thing”. It boasts many healthy benefits like fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, protein, thiamin, etc. These things promote good heart health and strong bones. You’ll find antioxidants in okra, too.

Yellow veggies like corn, summer squash, peppers, beans, golden beets, etc., offer many nutritional benefits. The “Yellows” provide us with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins (A, B, C, E & K), etc. Antioxidants fight inflammation, among other things. They boost your immune system. Manganese strengthens bones. These veggies are also heart healthy. Some can clear toxins from the kidneys. Others aid in lowering bad cholesterol and blood-pressure. They can even help with fatigue!

Cherries are another great indulgence, of summer. They offer a load of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Just 1 cup of  these little gems (approx. 21 cherries) is less than 100 calories and can provide 15% of your daily Vitamin C. That’s healthy snacking! Cherries can slow the aging process, help to combat many Chronic illnesses, lessen joint pain, lower bad cholesterol, etc. Cherries and cherry juice have been shown to lower the risk of Gout attacks. Tart cherries are one of the few foods that provide Melatonin. This is a hormone that aids the sleep-cycle. And we can all appreciate a good night’s rest!

If you are looking for a fun activity, or a way to introduce new foods to your family, plant a garden or visit a Farmer’s Market. I have very fond memories of summers that are long past … their delicious bounty … and the adventures that transpired. Every year, amid the long days and warm weather, they come come back to me and always put a smile on my face …

I remember the Rainier Cherry tree, in my uncle’s backyard. My cousins and I would pick those cherries every morning, right after breakfast … still wearing our pajamas … our bare feet running through the dew-laden grass. I remember my grandma’s garden — lush with goodness and envied by many. And I remember the gardens that we planted, too — though ours were never as outstanding as hers.

What we didn’t grow, we found at the local Farmer’s Market. I always enjoyed taking those shopping trips with my Mom … smelling the fresh fruit, making selections, trying new recipes. Even now, I can remember my mother and grandmother teaching me the fine arts of canning … freezing … even drying. We were an industrious bunch — breaking beans, shucking corn, peeling peaches and laughing. No matter the task at hand, there was always a lot of love and laughter … fruits, vegetables, chutney, chow-chow, jams, jellies. Our freezers and pantries were proudly stocked. Those are some of the lessons that you never forget. And making them were some of the best Summer indulgences.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274620.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311977.php

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/yellow-vegetables#golden-beets

https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cherries

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/19809/seasonal/summer/vegetables/

Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

 

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The Sweet Truth …

Exploring the health benefits of honey …

At a time when some species of bees are being listed as endangered, we are also seeing a growing health trend — honey! Or, to use a cliche, “What is old is new again”. Every gardener, from novice to seasoned pro, has seen their share of bees. We have shooed them away … taken a sting or two … and still managed to appreciate their role in pollination. Some of us have enjoyed their honey in our tea, on a warm biscuit or scone, etc. For decades, this has been a matter of preference. But, now, many are finally embracing what ancient Egyptians knew thousands of years ago. Honey is more than tasty. It’s actually good for us!

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The medicinal uses for honey seem to be endless. Many may surprise you. It has been used to treat wounds; skin problems, i.e. Eczema, Dermatitis and minor burns. A study, done with children, actually found that honey suppressed their coughs better than dextromethorphan (a drug that is considered a cough suppressant). It has also been proven to fight staphylococcus. 

For those living with Chronic illnesses, consider these facts … Honey can inhibit the development of Cancer. A 2008 study found that natural honey lessens cardiovascular risk factors in both healthy and high-risk patients. Those who took part in the study had reduced total cholesterol. It reduced their LDL-C, Triglycerides, Fasting Blood-glucose and CRP. Honey also increased their HDL-C, without increasing body weight (even in overweight patients)! The benefits of the prebiotics in several honeys, i.e. sourwood, alfalfa, honeydew, clover, eucalyptus and others, has been documented. This aids in healthy digestion. In lab tests, honey has even been shown to hamper the growth of some food-borne pathogens, i.e. E.coli and Salmonella. Tualang honey has, in studies, improved the quality of life in COPD patients. And the antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties of honey are beneficial to patients with a myriad of illnesses, i.e. Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Autoimmune illnesses, etc. Honey is even considered helpful to weight loss.

If many of you are finding this just too good to be true, I welcome you to visit the reference links at the end of this post. The sweet truth is that honey does contain sugar. But, unlike Refined Sugar, honey isn’t “Empty Calories”. It offers the body an abundance of good things. Honey provides the body with beneficial nutrients and minerals, i.e. potassium, iron, fiber, protein, water, fiber, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, folic acid, niacin, vitamins C and B6, riboflavin, etc. It offers amino acids, enzymes, thiamine. Some honeys may also provide magnesium, iodine and nickel. Nutrients help to dissolve fats and cholesterol. This doesn’t eliminate the need for exercise, but it does help to create a healthier you.

While scientists and doctors continue to explore what honey can do for us, it must be noted that honey should not be given to infants, under 12 months of age. Honey can contain spores. These are not harmful to older children or adults. But young infants have systems that are too delicate to ingest them.

It’s May. Spring is in full-swing and summer is a little more than five weeks away. Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are open. Take a moment. Stop by. Indulge your senses with the sights and smells of the fresh produce. Explore the crafts and other items. Take a healthier approach to your shopping and your eating. Have some fun, in the process. And, by all means, don’t forget the honey! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/medicinal-uses-of-honey#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23298140

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406168/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361217300963

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/animal-product/benefits-of-honey-in-weight-loss.html

http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/

* Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash

Seeds & A Healthy Garden …

Spring is in the air, for most of us. With it, there always seems to be that surge of Spring fever that hits this time of year — an opportunity to rid ourselves of the old and bring in the new. We visit garden centers … plant seeds … fertilize soil … and nourish all that grows. Then, we cross our dirty fingers and say a prayer — hoping for a good outcome. Our lives — our bodies — are gardens, too. Remember? Though it would be easier to care for them, on a seasonal basis, it isn’t the best of choices.

If you have a Chronic illness, you know this all too well. It is a 24/7 job just trying to keep up, i.e. symptoms, treatment, doctor’s appointments, routine tests, medications, side-effects, surgery, therapy, etc. Somewhere on that long list, you have to fit in your work schedule … time for your friends and family … even some exercise. You have to avoid too much stress, when your illness seems to literally breed it. You may need to limit, or omit alcohol. And your diet may also need fine-tuning. Some days, it feels pretty overwhelming. Other days, you just want to give up. You may even console yourself by saying, “I can’t do it all!” But if you have a digestive condition like Diverticulitis … managing your diet is key to managing your disease and your life. You have to do better than try. You must prioritize how you eat.

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Diverticulitis is an inflammation, or infection, of the diverticula (small pouches) in the walls of the intestines. Abscesses can develop, as well as perforation of the bowel. The disease may present itself as acute or chronic. In its acute form, Diverticulitis is one or more attacks with periods of stability in-between. Chronic Diverticulitis never clears completely. It is a daily health issue. With time, the disease can cause a variety of complications. Often times, surgery is required.

Exercise, diet and fluid consumption (especially water) play intricate roles in managing Diverticulitis. If you have been diagnosed, you should try to exercise for 30 minutes on most days. It will promote normal bowel function and reduce pressure on your colon. A High-fiber diet will reduce your risk of a disease flare-up. Fiber in your diet absorbs water. This will aid in eliminating wastes from the body.

It was once thought that seeds and nuts aggravated Diverticulitis. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has proven this to be untrue. There was no correlation between eating nuts, seeds or popcorn and uncomplicated diverticular disease. There was also no significant association between ingesting fruits with small seeds, i.e. blueberries, strawberries, etc., and complications to Diverticulitis. So, by all means, enjoy such foods.

All of these steps promote a healthier colon. And a healthier colon equates to a happier you. Once you are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, lifestyle changes are often beneficial to your overall well-being. There are no cures. But you can choose to make the most out of every day. And choices matter. Maintain a healthy garden and enjoy living!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ajronline.org/doi/full/10.2214/AJR.07.3597

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16885698

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371758

https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diverticulitis-basics

https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/who-says-you-cant-eat-nuts/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis/eating-diet-nutrition

* Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash