by Jill Northrup (Naturopathic Medicine graduate, not yet licensed)
Summer is here! Along with the warmer temperatures and longer days comes fresh Ontario produce. In addition to being better tasting, local produce from your farmer’s market is far more nutritious. Eating with the seasons is also environmentally friendly, with reduced transit times producing a smaller ecological footprint, and faster farm-to-table time. This minimizes the loss of vitamins and minerals that comes with removal from the soil and sunlight exposure.
Here are five highly nutritious in-season produce items, beginning the month of July:
Blueberries: July and August
Blueberries have a reputation for being one of the most brain-healthy foods, and rightfully so. Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanin, responsible for the deep blue pigment, which reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, which are implicated in virtually every chronic disease, ranging from cardiovascular disease, to cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Blueberries also have a low glycemic index and load, meaning they don’t spike blood sugars, making them a great fruit option for those monitoring blood glucose.
Garlic: July to October
Garlic’s health benefits largely come from allicin, a compound which promotes cardiovascular health by lowering lipids and preventing clotting, and supports immunity through anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity. To enjoy the health benefits of allicin, garlic should be crushed or minced and added to food when it’s nearly done being prepared.
Tomatoes: July to October
Look for vine-ripened tomatoes. Why? Vine-ripened tomatoes grown locally have twice as much vitamin C in comparison to hot-house tomatoes! Vitamin C supports the immune system, functioning as an anti-histamine and reducing cellular damage by acting as an anti-oxidant. When cooked, tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, a carotenoid with anti-oxidant activity that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Cabbage: July to October
As a member of the brassica family, cabbage contain numerous anti-cancer phytochemicals, some of which are responsible for its’ characteristic odour. Cabbage is also a great low calorie source of fibre, which is important for maintaining digestive health and regularity, and regulating appetite. Cabbage is also a great source of vitamin K, which is crucial for blood clotting.
Okra: July to October
Okra is another great source of fibre, and interestingly, is one of few foods containing the essential anti-oxidant, glutathione, which is essential for immune function and liver detoxification. Okra’s texture is due to its high mucilage content, which helps to reduce and soothe irritated membranes in the digestive tract.
These are only a small selection of some of the produce that becomes available in Ontario beginning in July! Although nutrient dense, not all foods are suitable for everyone – talk to your naturopathic doctor to determine what foods are best for you, and whenever possible, support the local economy, the environment and your health by choosing local in-season produce this summer!