Summer is an incredible time for healthy eating because so many nutritious vegetables are in season – and many of them are easy to grow in your own garden. Of course, if you’re not much of a gardener, you can always pick them up at your local grocery store.
Your summer harvest includes a number of especially heart healthy vegetables, so it’s time to chow down. Here are 4 of the best summer foods for cardiac health. You’ll enjoy them even more – and gain greater health benefits – while they’re in season.
- Tomatoes: Easy to grow in large pots or a small garden plot, tomatoes come in a range of colors and sizes, but they all share the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene can help lower cholesterol and foster cellular health and healing. Tomatoes have a relatively long growing season, so expect the best to ripen around June or July and remain abundant until early October.
- Carrots: Carrots are a summer favorite with kids and adults alike because of their sweet taste and satisfying crunch. But they also are rich in free radical fighting carotenoids that reduce your risk of heart disease. Encourage carrots as a snack by placing carrot sticks and low fat dip within easy reach between meals.
- Asparagus: As compared to carrots, asparagus tends to be an adult taste as they’re somewhat bitter, but asparagus also contains large amounts of vitamin B6. B6 reduces homocysteine in the body, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. Bell peppers can also reduce homocysteine and tend to be more kid friendly.
- Broad Beans: Broad beans aren’t eaten very often in the U.S. but are more common in cuisines from other parts of the world. Also known as fava beans, these beans are packed with vitamins and can help reduce blood pressure. The leaves can also be eaten in salad.
Recipes For Every Taste
If you’re not sure what to do with the bounty of summer vegetables, you might consult with your doctor, a nutritionist, or a licensed nurse practitioner – their training typically includes basic nutrition. Or you might take a cooking class to learn more about the easy, healthful recipes you can make at home. Many of today’s most popular cookbooks are also focused on healthy eating.
When all else fails, the easiest ways to integrate vegetables into your diet is to add them to your usual favorites. Pile them onto pasta dishes, add them to pizza, or add a few new flavors to your salad. Summer vegetables can also be combined into delicious salsas or added to tacos.
By getting into the habit of cooking with vegetables during the summer month when they’re at their freshest, you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for the benefits of these heart healthy foods as well as for their contributions to your culinary repertoire.