Summer Vegetables – Some ABCs

I am not a gardener. I worked at becoming one off and on for years before yielding to the fact that gardening in anything larger than patio pots does not give me pleasure, or enough good harvest to keep me engaged and enthused.

I am a strong proponent, however, of a diet laden with fresh, raw and minimally processed vegetables, and am delighted every year as the growing season approaches and they become more abundant in general, and more easily available from local organically grown sources.

Also, I’m delighted to have in my life, many people who love to garden, many of them near me, and I love cheering them on, knowing that I can enjoy their bounty. It’s a good life.

Summer vegetables abound, no doubt. It’s the perfect time to “lighten” up your diet with fresh seasonal foods that are so rich in health benefits. Vegetables decrease inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of diabetes, improve immunity, neutralize free radicals, improve gut health, in weight management, and more. More  benefits here.

Check out some ABCs of Summer Vegetables

As

Arugula. Dark leafy greens are, in general, the richest in vitamins and minerals of all the vegetables. Arugula, one of them, is a member of the cruciferous family, along with radish, cabbage and broccoli. It has a peppery, slightly spicy flavor and makes a great base for salads.

Along with other dark leafy greens that tend to be “bitter”, arugula is a wonderful support for gut health. It has abundant dietary fiber and phytochemicals that help lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. It is especially high in vitamin K which improves insulin resistance, supports bone health, and may also help lower blood pressure.

Arugula, with its crisp, crunchy texture, makes a great addition to salads and wraps.

Asparagus. This is one of the first plants to signal that spring has arrived, and is also one of the few perennial vegetables, meaning that it shows its tender spears every year for up to twenty years. It is the best vegetable source of folic acid and contains the prebiotic inulin that aids digestion and helps keep the gut healthy.

Asparagus is full of the antioxidant vitamins C and E, which, along with the flavonoid rutin, protects against a number of chronic diseases. The high concentration of insoluble fiber in asparagus helps digestion by adding considerable bulk to stool, making it softer and easier to pass through your intestines.   It is also a natural diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess fluid, salt, and toxins in the kidneys.

The three colors of edible asparagus – green, purple, and white offer some nice variety to your plate.

Bs

Beets. Formally know as beetroot, this vegetable has been cultivated for both its roots and leaves since the third or fourth century B.C. Originating in the Mediterranean area, it spread to the Near East.  While it was originally known for its medicinal properties, it became the more familiar food that we know today in the Christian era.

The dietary fiber in beets can improve the digestive system and support weight management. Also, beets contain inorganic nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the bloodstream.  This high concentration of nitrates can help manage and/or lower blood pressure, thus having a positive effect on heart health.

When shopping for beets, don’t just look at the condition of he leaves, (which are also nutrient rich “bitter” greens). If beets remain in the ground too long, they become tough and woody, and can be identified by a short neck or deep scars.Once rejected soundly by George W Bush, broccoli has become a highly acclaimed “superfood” by many scientists. It is pungent and slightly bitter and is considered cooling.

Broccoli. To call broccoli  “nutrient-rich” is an understatement. It abounds in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins B2, C, and K, pantothenic and folic acid, boron, calcium chromium, iron, potassium, selenium, and sulfur, in addition to many antioxidants that protect against breast, cervical, colon, esophageal, lung, and stomach cancers.

Broccoli is one of the best cancer-fighting foods on the planet. It also has immune-stimulating, antiviral, diuretic, and anti-ulcer properties. It aids in the digestion of fats, moves blockage and stuck energy from the liver, and helps regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. It also helps prevent constipation, high-blood pressure, nearsightedness, neuritis, obesity, and toxemia. Superfood, indeed!

Broccoli is most nutritious when eaten raw, thus retaining all its valuable anti-cancer compounds. One note of caution – broccoli can inhibit iodine absorption, so people with low thyroid function should ensue adequate iodine intake. See more about iodine intake here.

Cs

Celery. Falsely believed to be a “negative-calorie” food with little nutrition, celery is actually an antioxidant powerhouse. It has vast anti-inflammatory effects, especially regarding the digestive tract. It contains apiuman, a polysaccharide that improves the stomach lining and decreases the risk of  stomach ulcers.

Celery is 95% water, with high levels of electrolytes essential to maintaining healthy blood pressure and proper nerve function. It is high in natural sodium, which makes it a good thing to eat particularly in hot weather, when we sweat out so much salt. (Reach for celery, not Gatorade!)

Because the commercial celery crop is subject to intensive chemical “support”- it is often grown in nitrate fertilizers, leaving the leaves blanched, the plant compromised nutritionally. Choose organic celery, and varieties that are darker green, (more nutritious – chlorophyll) and select stalks that are not cracked, damaged, or wilted.

Celery is a great substitute for chips. Spread raw almond butter or hummus into celery stalks for a snack, chop it into salads, or combine it with other fruits or vegetables such a carrot or apple for a satisfying juice.

Cucumber. Because cucumber is cooling in energy, eating it in the summer can truly be a heat relief. Hence, the phrase “cool as a cucumber.” It’s a real thing. Although it is not considered highly nutritive, (it is 96% water), cucumber contains erepsin, an enzyme that helps digest proteins and kill tapeworm.). It also contains phosphorus, potassium, vitamin E, beta-carotene,, and folic acid.

Cucumbers are both diuretic and laxative. They help moisten the lungs and are considered therapeutic for people suffering from acne, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, skin and stomach inflammation, sore throat and sunburn.  By reducing uric acid levels, cucumbers aid in dissolving kidney stones.

Cucumber can also help to heal from the outside. Mashed cucumber applied topically cools burns, wasp stings, and tired, swollen feet. As a facial it clears up acne and encourages wrinkle-free skin.  And who hasn’t seen the ads for spas and getaways with cucumber slices placed on puffy, tired eyes for reducing redness and inflammation.

Cucumbers are good sliced, chopped, or juiced. I like the way they taste in green smoothies, and often add them there during the summer when they are plentiful, and easy local finds. I never turn down the gift of a friend’s garden cucumber or six.

Did I mention that I don’t garden? It’s true. I do, however enjoy a plethora of fresh, raw, organic, locally grown vegetables all summer. Start with some ABCs, enjoy the whole alphabet as you go along.

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