Don’t you just love summer? Outdoor living strengthens our connection to nature and exposes us to sunlight — two things that are scientifically proven to help us feel happier. Here are some of the golden rules to help you have the best summer yet.
Isn’t it great how nature provides us with what we need, just when we need it? Now that it’s time to make sure we stay hydrated, the market stalls are bursting with the plump, juicy fruits of summer. Dehydration is a real health hazard during the warmer months, especially for those who tend to lose body fluids quicker — children, older adults and endurance athletes. Staying hydrated is a fundamental part of any summer activity, whether it’s a strenuous workout, long jog, beach volleyball game, or brisk walk along the coast. Even if you’re just sitting in the car on a long, hot car ride, you’re still sweating more, so it’s easy to fall behind on your water intake.
Fortunately, since many summer fruits and vegetables are over ninety percent water, we don’t have to drink it all — we can “eat” some of it too. Cucumbers, strawberries, melons, peaches, cherries, apricots, salad greens, courgettes, radishes, celery, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and spinach all contribute considerably to our fluid intake, helping us avoid the headaches, poor concentration and sluggishness that are typical signs of dehydration.
And did you know that reaching for a piece of cucumber or watermelon after a workout can replenish your body twice as effectively as a glass of water or a sports drink? That’s because fruits and veggies provide us with natural sugars, amino acids and electrolytes that are lost in exercise, boosting the body’s absorption of fluids and preventing muscle cramps — without any of the artificial chemicals commonly found in sports drinks.
Most people find that they naturally gravitate towards cool, refreshing, hydrating produce to replenish and quench the summer heat. One of the big advantages of eating nutritious, high-water-content foods is that they can satisfy hunger with fewer calories. Since fruits and vegetables are at their best, they provide ample inspiration for delicious smoothies that can take the place of a meal. Many offer functional benefits that are particularly relevant for the season.
For example, freshly made smoothies are an excellent way to keep skin dryness at bay, especially if you include raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. These antioxidant-rich berries contain alpha-hydroxy acids, natural exfoliators that help regenerate cells and prevent premature aging of the skin. Make sure to add some healthy fat, like avocado, coconut oil or almond butter. It enhances texture and richness, helps curb cravings and facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. I like adding hemp and chia seeds as they contain protein to support skin structure and help maintain muscle mass. They also help replace calcium and magnesium — two important minerals often depleted by sweating.
Being outside is a great way to top up on vitamin D as the sun is the best natural source of this essential nutrient. Just be sure to take a balanced approach to sun exposure. More time at the beach means you need to take special care with your skin. Don’t let high SPF sun creams give you a false sense of security. Many popular sun protection creams focus too much on blocking the UVB rays that cause sunburn, while doing too little to protect us from the UVA rays that penetrate much deeper and can cause a lot more damage, both in terms of skin aging and serious forms of skin cancer. Studies show that we’re now more likely to stay out in the sun longer because we don’t see any obvious signs of burning. That means we’re absorbing higher levels of dangerous UVA rays. To make matters worse, many sunscreens contain chemicals that can damage skin tissue. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a brand without parabens or dioxanes.
Smart tips for outside eating
And what would summer be without outdoor barbecues and picnics? Fill up on the healthy things first, no matter how decadent the other offerings are. Stay one step ahead by bringing your own hamper of light, refreshing whole-grain salads and dips like tzatziki and hummus, along with crudités and lots of fruit, to help you eat healthy at the beach and stay clear of temptations at the ice cream stand. When barbecuing, use a marinade. Ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juices, herbs, spices and olive oil are high in antioxidants that help reduce the carcinogenic chemicals produced when grilling meat.
Once you’re finished eating get everyone moving for a game of Frisbee or tag! I know that when I move away from the table I’m less tempted to keep eating. And summer is a great time for trying out new activities and exercises. When possible, ditch the car and take in the outdoors on foot or bike.
Stay cool by taking advantage of nature’s supermarket this summer. Fill up on wholesome, health-promoting fruits and veggies and your taste buds and your body will be happy. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, find some time to disconnect yourself and have some “you” time this summer!
Here’s a great summer recipe from The Clever Kitchen:
Gluten Free Asian wraps with Peanut Free Satay Sauce
Ingredients for 6 wraps:
For Miso Dressing
25 ml water
1 tbsp miso paste
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
For Asian Coleslaw
½ shredded red cabbage
1 handful chopped coriander
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup bean shoots
1 packet rice paper wraps
1 sliced avocado
3 shredded spring onions
2 handfuls Spinach or Mesclun salad leaves
Whizz all the ingredients of the Miso Dressing together. Try adding some fresh chopped chili or chili flakes for a kick! This dressing will last a few days in the fridge so can also be used on salads or steamed vegetables. Mix all ingredients together and coat well with the Miso dressing.
Soak rice wraps one at a time in warm water until soft (about 30 seconds), transfer to a clean tea towel and dry with a paper towel. Put a few spinach or salad leaves in the middle followed by some avocado and spring onion and topped with the Asian coleslaw. Gently wrap up from the back into a roll, tucking in the sides as you go. The wraps should stick together and hold (you should end up with a neat little wrap — with a bit of luck!) It takes a little bit of practice but once you get the hang of it, it becomes much easier. Happy Wrapping!
For peanut free satay sauce
3 tbsp light tahini
1 tbsp coconut milk
25 ml water
juice of 1 lime
60 ml Tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp sesame oil
¼ tsp cayenne (optional)
Add all the ingredients for the satay sauce to the container of the hand blender and whizz until a smooth consistency is reached.
The peanut free satay is a fab dressing with minimal oil. It can be kept in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week and can be used as a marinade for chicken or a dipping sauce. Add to any salad and spice it up with a little more cayenne.