Top Ten Foods to Try in the Spring/Summer Season

Christina Miller: MD, Integrative & Functional Medicine, Nutrition Education Trainer

It’s time to rethink your palate and how fresh food can jumpstart healthy living. Summer is a great time to experiment with seasonal foods, reimagining them in new recipes and understanding their real health benefits.

At the Aspen Club, we’ve compiled a few of our fresh summer favorites that you might find at the local farmer’s market or your own garden, to inspire you to live and eat well!

  • Kale: Kale has hit tables across America as the new super food. Low in calories, 36 calories per cup, and high in fiber, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, and antioxidants, kale can be eaten raw, massaged with oils, and dressed in dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, and cucumbers. It is a cool and filling treat. Kale is also delicious dried or baked into kale chips, as a healthy substitute to chips and dip at parties and summer gatherings. Kale is easy to grow in Colorado, flourishing in farms and at-home-gardens.
  • Asparagus: In the late spring and early summer, a great farm-fresh food is asparagus. When eaten soon after picked and brought home from the market, asparagus is still alive for a few days after being picked. Its metabolic activity continues for 48 hours. When consumed in that window, asparagus is extremely high in vitamin K and folate. This low-calorie food (only 40 calories/1cup) is sweet, tender, and delicious. It is also versatile – thrown on the grill drizzled with kosher salt and a dash of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil or pureed in a warm, spring soup for a cool, rainy evening, asparagus always hits the spot!
  • Peaches: It just wouldn’t be summer without Colorado peaches. Sweet and delicious, peaches are great for hair and skin. Packed with vitamins A and C, peaches regenerate skin tissue and have been shown to have a positive effect on the scalp as well. Many health-conscious eaters find peaches to be the perfect sweet treat – filling and nutritious, it hardly even feels healthy!  Want to mix it up? Throw those peaches on the grill with a touch of honey and serve with a touch of organic ice cream or a dash or whipped cream – it makes the perfect dessert.
  • Peppers: While the Rockies may not by synonymous with growing peppers, it can be done and with very interesting and intense flavor profiles. Peppers have been shown to boost metabolism. They are also an excellent source of antioxidants to neutralize free radicals in the body. Chopped up with onion, garlic, a splash of lime, and tomatoes (the next on our list of great, fresh foods), homemade salsa is a healthy and delicious way to eat healthy this summer.
  • Tomatoes: An afternoon at the farmer’s market or garden center will impress upon one the incredibly wide variety of tomatoes there are available for snack, cooking with or to serve in a fresh salad on a warm, summer day. This summer, take advantage of the abundance of varieties and experiment with new flavor profiles. Commonly known to be an antioxidant, tomatoes are also packed with Alpha-lipoic acid. This acid has been shown to aid in converting glucose into energy, which can help control blood glucose. This is critical for diabetes patients but also very helpful for those using the glycemic index for weight control.
  • Strawberries: Strawberries are one of the wonders of the summer farmer’s market, and with over 600 varieties, there are plenty of new variations of an old favorite. Strawberries served up hulled and fresh contain anthocyanin, a type of flavonoid, which can reduce the risk of heart attack. When eaten regularly beginning at an early age, strawberries have many long-term health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.
  • Snow Peas: Snow Peas are one of the all-time best summer foods, especially when picked fresh from the vine. Sweet and tender, these peas and their edible shell are traditionally associated with Chinese food but add flavor and spark to any salad or sauté. High in vitamin C, Snow Peas offer a healthy boost to anyone with a summer cold or simply looking to boost their immune system.
  • Cantaloupe: Another summer favorite, cantaloupe has a fresh, rich flavor, but it deserves a mention on the list due to its high levels of vitamin C and A. The flesh of the cantaloupe is containing rich vitamin A in the form of carotenoids, a great way to consume beta-carotene. At parties and summer gatherings, the cantaloupe flies off the plate as fast as it’s cut, proof positive that cantaloupe is one of summer’s favorite snacks!
  • Swiss Chard: It has become a popular green adorning salads and side entrees recently. Often dismissed due to its somewhat distinctive flavor, chard is a wonderful green, and it is easily grown in Colorado. Chef John, from FoodWishes, offers a cotechino and Swiss chard dish that is perfect for the sometimes-cool Aspen evenings. In this recipe, the flavor of chard compliments the Italian pork sausage, drawing out its own flavor and contributing to the larger flavor profile of the dish. Swiss chard, in addition to adding a unique flavor to the world of greens, also offers an incredibly high level of antioxidants, making it uniquely healthy.
  • Fresh Herbs: They are often overlooked at the farmer’s markets for their more colorful competition. However, the aromatics of fresh herbs in the kitchen and in home-cooked food, is second to none. Additionally, fresh herbs offer a wide variety of health benefits. Rosemary, peppermint, parsley, oregano, and many more can help with inflammation, pain, and discomfort as well as many attributed healing properties. Herb gardens are easy to grow in pots, right in the ground or in a well-lit window.

Farm-to-table cooking in Aspen this time of year is viable and a sustainable way to live. It’s not just good for the earth, it’s good for you too! Join us as Aspen Club for healthier eating and exercise tips. You can also view more fresh and healthy recipes and tips from Aspen Club nutritionist, Christina Miller, MD at www.eatandlivehealtfully.com.