Fresh is best! How to eat seasonally this summer

There are any number of opinions on which diets are best to follow. Some people believe that a vegan lifestyle is necessary for optimal health, while others think a caveman’s diet fulfills our omnivorous dietary requirements. What many scientists and nutritionists do agree on is that a diet rich in seasonally available produce is nature’s way of providing us with the nutrients we need. Summer is the time to make the most of nature’s bounty by feeding your family fresh, in-season produce. 

Fresh IS BestMarket full of fresh produce of all different kinds.

It’s tempting to buy your favorite fruits and veggies year-round. But produce that is out of season has been picked early and transported long distances to your local grocery store. The crops are chilled during transport and then artificially ripened in a hot house. The flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits are affected by this process, and the result is limp, lackluster produce. When you choose fruits and vegetables that are in-season, however, they are harvested at their prime. Produce harvested in season tastes sweeter, is crisper and fresher, and is even more nutritionally potent.

The Way Nature Intended

Each season brings produce that supports our bodies in unique ways. For example, citrus fruits, which are high in Vitamin C and excellent for boosting our immune systems, ripen in the winter, when our bodies are taking a beating from colds and flus. Summer fruits, on the other hand, are chock full of beta-carotenes that protect skin from sun damage. Syncing your diet up with the season helps meet our biological needs naturally. Not only that, but a seasonal diet is environmentally friendly! Eating fresh, locally available fruit and veggies reduces the demand for out-of-season produce, which means less energy wasted on transportation and refrigeration to ship produce. 

What’s in season now?red cherries in a pink bowl.

In June, look for: 

  • Stone fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines, and cherries. 
  • Strawberries, raspberries, and honeydew melons
  • Cucumbers, asparagus, and zucchini
  • Green beans, broad beans, and peas
  • Garlic, onions, scallions, and chives
  • The last of the leafy greens: lettuce, spinach, chard (don’t worry, they’ll be back in the fall!)
  • Root vegetables: radish, carrots, and early potatoes. 

This summer, turn to locally sourced seasonal produce to feed your family. You’ll be able to taste the difference, reap the health benefits, and support a sustainable environment all at once!

The Best Foods For A Healthy Vagina

Did you know that a balanced pH level of a vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5? When pH levels are not in this range, bacteria can thrive, and cause different infections, such as a urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI. Some signs that your pH levels are off are: an unusual odor, more than usual discharge, and discomfort/pain from a UTI. Aside from proper vaginal care like good hygiene, safe sex, and regular doctor visits, there is something else you can do to keep your vagina healthy.

What You Eat & Drink Plays A Role

You have most likely heard that eating cranberries or drinking cranberry juice can aid in UTI recovery. This is true, and many other foods can help promote a healthy vagina.

3 sets of caucasian hands holding a handful of cranberries
Cranberry juice can help you prevent and relieve urinary tract infections.
  • Cranberry Juice– Cranberries have a lot of acid compounds that fight off bad bacteria, and as stated, cranberry juice can help you prevent and relieve urinary tract infections. It contains antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin C, which will also help boost your immunity. 
  • Sweet Potatoes– Loaded with vitamin A and beta carotene, sweet potatoes can contribute to making uterine walls strong. These vitamins have been linked to help aid in fertility and reproduction in women. Also, sweet potatoes help produce more hormones that helps you stay energized.
  • Apples A study conducted in 2014 found that women who ate an apple a day had better sex, and had more lubrication than women who did not. The polyphenols and antioxidants in apples stimulate blood flow to a woman’s vagina, and boost arousal. Apples contain a chemical that resembles the female sex hormone estradiol, which protects against vaginal dryness.
  • Lemons– The acidic nature of lemons helps maintain the vagina’s healthy pH levels, as well as protect the cells from damage.two lemon halves sitting on top of a squeezer
  • Probiotics– This is especially good for your vaginal health! Probiotics balance pH levels, prevent infections and yeast infections, and help with PMS symptoms. The live cultures in yogurt provide “good bacteria” in your body, and produce chemicals like lactic acid that inactivate or kill other infection-causing organisms.
  • Green tea– This kind of tea has polyphenolic catechins that can help prevent UTIs. 
  • Soy– The phytoestrogens in soy help keep your vagina lubricated. It also helps with women who are dealing with low estrogen levels, which causes vaginal dryness. Make sure to eat soy naturally from foods such as edamame, and tofu.
  • Garlic– Garlic is antimicrobial, and can help prevent vaginal problems such as itching, odor, discharge, UTIs, and yeast infections. 
  • woman's hands holding two halves of an avocado
    Avocados aid in vaginal lubrication.

    Avocados– Avocados provide vitamin B6 and potassium to support healthy vaginal walls, and prevents vaginal dryness, itching, and burning. They help keep the vaginal walls naturally lubricated.

  • Dark chocolate– The antioxidants, magnesium, methylxanthines, and amino acids dark chocolate has boosts libido, soothes nerves, and releases the feel good chemical, dopamine. 

Adding these foods to your diet will benefit you both physically, and vaginally. It is important to keep your pH levels between the healthy levels in order to prevent bacteria from growing and causing issues. UTI’s and other conditions can be avoided as long as you properly take care of your vaginal health, including eating the right foods!

Herbs: Just Tasty or Something More?

Cooking with herbs: Health Benefits

We’ve all been there. You’re in the kitchen, grabbing food, and hurriedly throwing it in the pot while a hungry group of friends stares at your back.

But how often do you sacrifice healthy meals for quick ones??

More people are realizing how closely diet affects their overall health nowadays. Considering the amount of people struggling with weight loss, irritable bowel syndrome, or even simply an upset stomach, it is easy to see why. Research shows that food can not only fill our stomachs but can also heal our bodies. As Hippocrates says: “Let food be thy medicine.”

And the best medicine comes from our gardens.

Rosemary, For Nose and Allergies

Ah, Rosmarinus officinalis,  our lovely perennial herb that makes chicken (or tofu) so, so tasty. Rosemary gives a savory, earthy flavor to your meals. Some call it “woody” or compare it to mustard. But what exactly do these needle-like leaves do for our body?

This attractive plant contains phytochemicals such as rosmarinic acid and camphor.  Camphor was used in ancient India as a medicine for fever; its benefits are the ability to reduce fever and aid with swelling. The small amounts in rosemary can also help with congestion.

herbs health body benefits
The delicious smell of rosemary can make your house inviting as a bonus benefit!

The rosmarinic acid, of course, is the main player here. It’s anti-everything bad for you: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial.

Next time you’re sick consider adding rosemary to your chicken noodle soup, or add a dash to any meal for additional health benefits with a delicious flavor!

Thyme, For Protection

When it comes to standard kitchen fare, thyme is a reliable standby in the herbs and spices rack. This herb imparts a subtle aroma, likened to mint. Not only does it play well with others, but it also doubles the antibacterial properties of whatever you’re cooking.

The active ingredient here is thymol.  This fierce antiseptic was used to soak bandages in ancient times to guard us against infection. Now how do we use it? In mouthwashes. That’s right. Thyme is in that bottle of Listerine.

If it’s helping keep your mouth clean, what lovely things is it doing for us farther inside?

Garlic, For Heart Health

A close cousin to the onion, garlic has been used for thousands of years as a food and medicine. This garden gem will set off your spice sensors with its warm taste. Usually, you’re going to want to roast it to mellow it out. Other than its warrior nature against things like the common cold (Seriously folks, rosemary, garlic, hot water. It knocks it right out of me.), the plant can also be used to help your heart.

The powerhouse is allicin which is activated by crushing or chopping garlic and letting the air reach it. Allicin reduces cholesterol levels in the blood and regulates blood pressure.  Research suggests an effect on muscle soreness, and the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. Is that a reach? Of course, but it’s nice to think about.

Garlic is so easy to work with. You can roast, fry, or eat it raw if you’re feeling adventurous.

Basically, you’re doing yourself a favor by ordering that garlic bread. Tell them I sent ya.

Turmeric, for Inflammation

This herb grows wild in South and Southeast Asian forests, and it gives curry its bright orange color. The herb is aromatic and more on the bitter side. Some compare it to ginger with a dab of orange. It’s found easily in stores in a ground powder form. This was something easy for me to grab during a grocery run and slap into a dish at home.

Born in Ayurvedic medicine, the herb adds a beautiful flavor to most savory dishes as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. This comes from a phytochemical inside called curcumin, and also where the vibrant color comes from.

Looking at our traditional Western diet, we could all use a little turmeric at our side to fight inflammation. Sugar is great but wow does it swell us up.

Lemon Balm, for Sleep & Digestion

This herb is one you’ve probably seen as an essential oil, but you can also use it in food. “Balm,” or “Mint Balm,” not to be confused with “Bee Balm,” is from the mint family. This may be used more in sweet dishes and teas, but anything (like fish) that could use some uplifting lemon notes to its flavor profile would benefit.

Lemon balm also contains rosmarinic acid, but with its other eugenols, tannins, and terpenes, the plants overall chemical effects are changed. Instead of just anti-everything-bad-for-you, it’s a soothing effect that helps you sleep. Lemon balm is still the main ingredient in Carmelite water which is still for sale in German pharmacies to this day.

A close friend suggested a simple recipe of cooking heirloom tomatoes with lemon balm and goat cheese. It’s a light, refreshing dish you can serve by itself, or with some toasted bread, similar to bruschetta.

Coriander(Cilantro), for Vitamins

While I’m one of the small percentages of people that taste soap when I eat this herb, I still try to include it in my diet. It’s also included here simply because it’s healthier than people realize. Similar to the earlier lemon balm, this plant has a lemony flavor, but it also has notes of orange, nuts, and a general spice aroma.

Native to Iran, coriander grows wild all over Western Asia and Southern Europe. Studies have shown that the plant’s leaves contain major amounts of vitamin A, C, and K, plus a large helping of beneficial dietary minerals. If you want, you can also use the seeds in your cooking. While they have less of those vitamins, they do make up for it in fiber, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

cilantro healthy herb cooking
Cilantro is as fresh and green as your helpings of spinach or kale, with just enough vitamins in it!

Basically, you’ve got a great arsenal of supplements all ready for you either growing in your garden or easily picked up at the store. Try a new recipe, and you may find something delicious and nutritious. Your body will thank you.