July is an easy month to keep healthy with the abundance of fruit and vegetables in shops and markets and is cheaper because it’s in season … so no excuses to not eat well. My top 5 are:
So often ignored and thought of as ‘a bit weird’, radishes put a bit of fire in the belly and are a member of the cabbage family. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and you can eat both the roots and the leaves. Buy them by the bunch and munch away as they are an understated salad vegetable. The radish boosts digestion by stimulating the flow of bile in the liver as well as having a cleansing and decongesting action on the gallbladder. Nutritionally they are high in potassium (so indicated in lowering blood pressure) and the leaves or tops contain calcium and vitamin C. They can be thinly sliced and added to salads or added to a juice and are especially good with apples and celery. Another idea is to gently braise them in butter and vegetable stock. Turn off the heat, add some fresh watercress and you have a delicious accompaniment to meat or fish.
There’s nothing bland about beetroot, from the rich deep red colour to the juice which will stain anything it comes in contact with – we know we’re in for a nutritional treat. Beetroots can be eaten raw or steamed, both the root and the leaves. I like to grate them into a salad; they add a crunchy, texture with a slight peppery punch – as well as adding a blast of colour. Beetroot contains iron, B vitamins and a unique set of antioxidants called betacyanins which not only aid liver function but also neutralise and excrete toxins. Many athletes will juice beetroots for their health benefits; beetroot juice tastes sweet and earthy and combines well with carrots.
Punnets of raspberries and strawberries are one of the symbols of summer. July is the month they arrive and, depending on the weather, with a bit of luck they will be around until September. Raspberries are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate. They are also high in a range of antioxidants – the riper the berry the more antioxidants – so another excuse to eat liberally. One of the antioxidants is the anti-inflammatory compound ellagic acid which has cancer protective qualities. The leaves are high in tannins and a tea can be made out of them that can tone and strengthen the uterus especially useful in the last two months of pregnancy.
Strawberries are synonymous with Wimbledon, with picnics and summer barbeques. But eat when in season – that is June to August and forget about them the rest of the year. Strawberries are grown all over the world but do not store well – hence those supermarket strawberries you buy in March are generally tasteless. Nutritionally they are high in vitamin C, manganese, folate, potassium and B vitamins. Like raspberries fresh strawberries are antioxidant rich and contain the beneficial flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol which can prevent the unhealthy LDL cholesterol oxidising in the blood and damaging artery walls, also known as atherosclerosis – a great reason to eat daily over the summer months.
If like me you have an allotment you’ll never be short of courgettes or marrows (a mature courgette) as other allotment owners are forever trying to get rid of them. This is because of all the vegetables courgettes seem to arrive all at once in a glut. I even resorted to making marrow chutney last year to use mine up. Courgettes aren’t the most dynamic tasting vegetables because of their high water content but don’t give up on them, they contain vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, folate and beta-carotene so are full of nutrients. They are useful as both a diuretic and laxative and can help regulate blood sugar levels as well as reduce cholesterol. The whole plant is edible from the skins to the seeds and can be added to salads in thin strips or eaten as crudités with dips. Stuffed marrow is an old fashioned dish my granny used to make filled with mince and onions, but if you want to zip it up add some grains and pulses too. Courgettes do well in a juicer and you can always wow your friends by adding the flowers to a salad for a blast of colour.
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