Summer foods for the summer heat

Summer is the time to shed layers of clothes, and a few kilograms. There is always the choice of opting for a stringent dietery regime, but what about simply enjoying all the wonderful foods the season brings? You will still slim down and do wonders for your health.

It is naturally easy to eat lighter during the summer, and you can do so without feeling deprived. With four-and-a-half cups of fruit and vegetables and three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy each day, you will be getting plenty of naturally low-calorie foods that are high in fibre, calcium and important nutrients.

Fruits and vegetables have extra nutritional benefits you may not be aware of as they contain antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may slow ageing, protect against cancer and stroke, improve blood pressure, and keep your heart healthy; and just about all are low-calorie, so the waistline stays in check – another big health benefit.

Tomatoes and peppers

Ready to slim down with summer foods? Start your summer “diet” with tomatoes and peppers for vitamin A and C. A medium tomato, for example, is low in carbohydrates and has only 35 calories but gives you 40% of the vitamin C and 20% of the vitamin A you need for the day.

A diet rich in tomatoes has been shown to decrease the risk of prostate and digestive tract cancer because tomatoes and processed tomato products have high levels of a nutrient called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that gives some fruits and vegetables their colour.

Lycopene may prevent, as well as treat, several types of cancer. Research suggests it also may help prevent the LDL “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream from being converted to oxidised LDL that can form plaques in arteries and increase the risk of heart attacks.

Peppers also have antioxidants and plenty of vitamin C, even more than tomatoes and beta-carotene, which can help boost the immune system. A half cup of fresh peppers has only 20 calories.

Berries and yoghurt

Nothing means summer like the colorful array of berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries satisfy your sweet tooth, and are rich in nutritional bonuses, such as vitamin C. Strawberries have the most vitamin C of any member of the berry family. Berries are rich in a substance called ellagic acid that is considered to slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Berries may also help prevent urinary tract infections and are a good source of fibre, helping to lower cholesterol. Some studies with blueberries show they can help improve memory. Their per-serving calorie count can be as low as 45 calories.

Yoghurt is a protein source, contains about 30% of the recommended daily value in calcium and it has been shown that a low-calorie diet including three servings of dairy a day can help promote weight loss. It is also high in live active organisms called probiotics that can boost immunity, prevent yeast infections, and keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy.

Beans and mangoes

Beans or legumes are nutrient-rich and great sources of fibre, iron and protein.

These small, tasty treasures can help you feel full longer, and substituting animal protein for beans in a meal can lower calories, saturated fat and provide zero cholesterol. They are particularly high in soluble fibre, which helps blood cholesterol levels.

Most beans are an excellent source of folate, a very important substance as adequate amounts of folate may help keep the heart strong and are fundamental for expectant mothers, since studies show folate helps reduce certain birth defects in a growing baby. Mangoes have some big advantages over other fruits containing more fibre than most, which helps to curb the appetite. They are low in calories, fat and sodium, contain no cholesterol, and have more carotenoid and bioflavanoids than any other fruit. These powerful antioxidants are good for a healthy immune system and help repair the cell damage that can lead to disease, such as cancer.

Mangoes are loaded with potassium, a very important mineral needed to help regulate blood pressure and heartbeat.

Last but not least … wonderful water

Probably the most important “food” of any diet is water. It is essential. It may have no nutritional value, but it is a catalyst for the majority of bodily functions, including digestion, metabolism and cell function.

Water is also the key for helping those trying to lose weight as it controls hunger, especially when it’s included in foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits.

Water-containing foods like fruits, vegetables and soups are encouraged for weight control because water increases the volume of the food and lowers the amount of calories.

The adult human body is 60% water and, on average, a typical daily diet includes about four cups of water in the food you digest but nutritionists advise drinking another eight glasses of water daily to keep your body functioning like a well-oiled … sorry … a well-hydrated machine.

Best healthy wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice

By Dr Maria Alice
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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve