By: David Younkins, Certified Health Coach on May 12th, 2022
4 Summer Vegetables to Add to Your Diet
Lifestyle & Wellness | School of Metabolic Health | Wellness
Summer is rapidly approaching, and with that comes a fresh crop of vegetables hitting their stride.
Just like any time of year, there are particular plants that are more in season at a certain time of year. It can be beneficial to our health to eat those vegetables that are in season at the time they are in season because of their nutrient contents.
In other words, you can often get a local tomato or squash or something in the summer. It will have been picked recently, and it will not have had much time to degrade its nutrient content, as opposed to something that's been shipped across the country.
Today, we'll go through four different vegetables that are of particular importance to get into your diet over the summer and actually have benefits for the summer particularly, whether it's sun protection or healing and all kinds of other things.
Importance of Water, Antioxidants, and Color
One thing you'll notice with all of these is that they contain water. They're all about 85% water or higher. So you're getting a lot of hydration from each of these, which is important in the summer.
All of these have some kind of antioxidant in them, right? Vitamin A, vitamin C, and some phytochemicals. These types of things is can help prevent oxidation, which is kind of like rust. If you imagine rust on a piece of metal, that's what antioxidants do. Prevent that rusting from happening in your body. They're really beneficial for all kinds of bodily processes.
Also, I tried to choose four different vegetables that are different colors. What we find is that there are newer chemicals that we've discovered called phytonutrients, or life nutrients. Each of them has its own color. A lot of times, in many cases, the color of the vegetable is from the phytonutrients.
For instance, tomatoes are red. There's a phytonutrient called lycopene in the tomato that makes it red. And so oftentimes you can tell the nutrient content of a vegetable by how vivid the color is.
Now, these are technically a fruit, but I'm going to call them vegetables because a lot of people think of them as a vegetable.
You usually don't eat a tomato like an apple, sometimes people eat a Hanover tomato like an apple, but a lot of times we put them with our salads and we couple them with vegetables.
Tomatoes are red, often, or green, greenish-yellowish, but they have a number of helpful constituents.
One of those is vitamin C, which I'm sure you've heard of. That's great for wound healing, oral health, your gums, teeth, that type of thing. If you're dealing with an injury, vitamin C is a great nutrient to get.
It's also got vitamin A, a little bit of that in there as well, which you've probably heard is good for night vision, vision in general, replacing some of the cells in your eyes. But also it's good for skin health and skin repair, which is, of course, important in the summertime, as we're tanning and so forth or going to the beach.
It also has potassium in it. A lot of these vegetables will have potassium, but potassium is great for muscle contraction or cramping. If you often get a lot of cramps, you might want to eat a tomato.
It's good for nerve conduction as well and also even blood pressure regulation. So we'll talk more about potassium, but that's one that is present in tomatoes too.
Also, we've mentioned it already, but a tomato has a phytonutrient called lycopene. And lycopene is really kind of cool. It helps with heart health. It helps lower your bad cholesterol, your LDL, and it helps raise your good cholesterol, your HDL.
Also, lycopene helps reduce photodamage or skin damage from the sun. So isn't that kind of cool? If you go to the beach and you maybe go out a little too long, lycopene in tomatoes can help with some of that repair of your skin.
So that's tomatoes, as we said, those are red, obviously. Squash can be yellow, or green sometimes, but we're going to say for now it's mostly yellow.
Again, you've got potassium in your summer squash. So just to mention it one more time, a lot of times our Western diets tend to be high in sodium and low in potassium, right? We get a lot of salt or sodium in processed foods and chips and things like that.
We don't get enough potassium, so all this potassium is a good thing. And it helps with, like we mentioned, muscle contraction, cramping, all that good stuff. And with the hydration too.
It's also got vitamin A, which we mentioned, and it has two interesting phytonutrients, really they're kind of like flavonoids, you might call them, called lutein and zeaxanthin, which is kind of a long one.
You'll often find these two things in eye supplements. Lutein, you'll definitely see it in those supplements, but it's present in squash. And it does also protect your eye from sun damage.
These two flavonoids also help prevent macular degeneration, just like a lot of the supplements with those constituents do as well. So pretty cool for the eyes.
Also, squash has one flavonoid called quercetin. It's also present in apples. You'll see that a lot as a supplement too, but it's also just present in squash. Quercetin is good for the immune system.
It also has anti-allergenic properties to it. If you get a lot of allergies — sort of an overactive immune system, asthma, these types of things — I'm not saying squash will cure you or anything, but it does help with providing some healing against allergies or immune issues like that, so.
Now, there are also beets. These tend to be purple or maybe a dark red. Beets have a lot of interesting constituents to them.
It's got a B vitamin called folate, which you've probably heard of. Folate is really important for cell division. Every time our cells divide, it helps reduce inflammation in your body.
Beets also have pectin, which is a soluble fiber, which helps feed the good bacteria in your intestines.
It's also got some nitric acid rather, which gets converted into nitrous oxide. It helps with opening up blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. That's why people like to drink beet juice.
And it also has what's called betaine, which helps protect your cells from all kinds of environmental stressors. It helps with liver function and digestion. Some people take betaine as a supplement for digestion.
One thing to keep in mind is that beets are a little higher in sugar. They're not like a Pop-Tart or anything, but they're higher in sugar. So be careful to not eat huge amounts of them, but they do have a lot of great ingredients to them.
Our last vegetable is one that I have learned to like — it's called okra. I'm sure you've heard of okra. It's green, typically.
Like a lot of these vegetables, okra has fiber in it, insoluble fiber, which means it sweeps out your digestive system, helps lower cholesterol, and all kinds of good stuff there.
Okra has vitamin A in it in the form of beta carotene, which is a form of vitamin A.
It's got vitamin K in it, too, which you don't hear about as much. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and healing and just repair, things like that.
Again, you've got your potassium in okra. And lastly, an interesting, kind of a bioflavonoids, I guess. It's called hyperin.
And of course, like a lot of these phytonutrients, it has anti-cancer properties and is anti-inflammatory. It's also anti-viral and anti-oxidant. So a lot of good "antis" in okra, as well as the fiber and the potassium and the vitamins and minerals.
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