Summer Superfoods: Stone Fruits

Summer Peaches

The summertime stone fruits are piled high in the farmer’s markets and they taste so good that it’s easy to forget how good they are for you! Peaches, plums, and nectarines have more than just their pits in common – their health benefits are similar too, working to fight obesity related diseases and boost cardiovascular health.

Peachy-Keen

A ripe peach is like nature’s candy, and at roughly 68 calories per fruit, you can eat candy all day. In addition to their low-calorie, high fiber, diet-friendliness, peaches are also rich sources of vitamins: A, C, E K, six B-vitamins and beta carotene. Vitamin A and beta carotene help with vision, whereas C and E are antioxidants, and K is essential for blood clotting. Thiamin, riboflavin, B-6, niacin, folate, and pantothenic acid are also in peaches, supporting nerves and cells.

But one of the most important nutrients in peaches is potassium which helps eliminate toxins from the body, prevents kidney stones and bone loss, and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. In fact, it’s recommended that adults have 4,700mg of potassium every day (one peach contains 333mg).

Plum Delicious

Studies are showing that plums and other stone fruits have bioactive compounds that may fight metabolic syndrome (when obesity and inflammation converge to produce serious health problems). Scientists are looking at the phenolic compounds for anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic properties.

Organic nectarines

Noble Nectarines

Whenever you have a bright orange fruit, you know you’re eating something that is high in beta carotenes – an antioxidant that protects against free radicals and converts to vitamin A (used to support skin, teeth, bones, and tissues).

Peaches, plums and nectarines are in peak season right now, so run out to your local farmer’s market and enjoy them at their best!

Out with the Pyramid, In with the Pie Chart

Remember that food pyramid they taught you in school? Since 1980, the U.S. government has issued new Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, off of which the food pyramid is based. In the 1980’s, when Carbs were King, you had grains and cereals at the bottom, but the pyramid has changed a lot with developing research over the past thirty years. In fact, the pyramid has disappeared in favor of a pie-chart. No, actual pie is nowhere on their chart.

The new Guidelines make an interesting read. They’re more individualized than ever before, with a brochure that includes headings like “Eat the right amount of calories for you” and “Be physically active your way.” As for the dietary suggestions themselves, you can sum them up with:

  • Eat less meat
  • Eat more seafood and beans
  • Stay away from sugar and added salt
  • Drink more water and less soda
  • Choose whole-grain cereals, breads, rice and pasta
  • Ensure fruits and vegetables take up half of your plate

However, the Guidelines still throw Coconut oil under the bus as a bad “solid fat” like palm kernel oil (ignoring recent studies on the many health benefits of coconut oil), and they treat all sugars – whether High Fructose Corn Syrup or Maple Syrup – as equally undesirable. The guidelines make no mention of artificial sweeteners, or alternative sweeteners like stevia or agave nectar, which is a shame.

Just for fun, here’s my idea of a food pyramid – Intelligent Gourmet Style!

Vegetables First Food Pyramid

What is your idea of a healthy plate, pie chart, or pyramid?

 

Summer Superfood: Figs!

Grilled fig rosemary skewers

Figs are practically dropping off their trees by this time in summer – but don’t let the bounty overwhelm you. There are so many ways to use these melt-in-your-mouth fruits to sweeten summer salads, throw on the grill, make jam, or even add an exotic flavor to lemonade!

But first, let’s look at what these summertime superfoods can do for your health.

  • Figs are a rich source of fruit fiber, which not only helps with weight loss, but could also help reduce breast cancer risk.
  • Potassium-rich foods like figs help our bodies balance the salt we eat, helping to prevent or stop hypertension.
  • Figs are also a source of calcium , helping to prevent bone loss.
  • Black Mission figs have poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants, similar to red wine.
  • Figs contain B-complex vitamins like niacin and folates.
  • Dried figs are more dense with minerals including calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and zinc than fresh figs.

Now, what can you do with figs this summer? I like my figs sweet and simple. 

  • Try tossing fresh figs with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, then roasting them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Use to top a salad, or as an accompaniment to a cheese plate.
  • Fire up the grill and, using rosemary sprigs as skewers, grill your figs and let them infuse with rosemary flavor! This makes an outstanding dessert, especially when served with vanilla ice cream.
  • Blend fresh, ripe figs with lemon juice, sugar and water for a peach-colored lemonade that is as healthy as it is pretty.

Not So Naked: What’s Really in Store Bought Juice

Rainbow of juices

I just read an article saying what we’ve known all along – the “juice” you buy in stores is nothing compared to what you can do at home with your own juicer (or what we do in the Intelligent Gourmet kitchen!). You simply cannot mass produce fresh, high quality juice. And the Naked Juice brand is no exception.

PepsiCo (owners of Naked Juice) just settled a lawsuit for $9 million for false advertising – it turns out these $4 juices aren’t “all natural” at all. PepsiCo will be removing that claim, and the “Only the freshest, purest stuff in the world” from its labeling. So what is in there? GMOs and synthetic ingredients like zinc oxide, ascorbic acid, and calcium pantothenate (which comes from formaldehyde).

Compare that with our ingredients:

Intelligent Gourmet juice ingredients

And our label:

Arugula Rocket

This week I’m writing a guest post for Hot and Healthy Mom on summer produce juicing recipes, so stay tuned for some great tips!