Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

WHAT'S IN SEASON FOR SUMMER Issue #85 06/14/11

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Seasonal Summer Produce

By Cecilia H. Lee

Ah, summer! The word conjures up images of warm, lazy days sunning on the beach, running through sprinklers, and reclining in a hammock in the shade catching up on a good book. The start of summer is also good news for those of us who want to be able to squeeze into our bathing suits by eating all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available during the season.

Picnic with Fruit

No matter where you live, these hot days are good for some delicious foods—which also happen to be good for you. Here's a list of some of the things you'll find in the produce aisle of your grocery store, or in your local farmers' market.

  • Apples. Different varieties come in season starting in mid- to late summer and right on through autumn. Be sure to eat them skin and all to get the best health benefits.
  • Apricots. Originally from China, apricots are not only delicious, but they're also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. Look for fruits that are plump, firm, and uniform in color.
  • AvocadosAvocados. Though their seasons vary, summer is a good time to find ripe avocados in your local stores. High in monounsaturated fats, they also contain vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, plus a couple of those B vitamins.
  • Basil. Summer is the best season to enjoy this aromatic herb—a great ingredient to liven up pastas, sandwiches, or salads.
  • Blueberries. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, a handful of these babies are great when you toss them into a low-fat smoothie or on top of some yogurt for a nutritious snack.
  • Carrots. Not only are carrots good road-trip snacks, they also have pro-vitamin A carotenes that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Chard. Like spinach, chard is low in calories and contains phytonutrients including syringic acid, which inhibits carbs from breaking down into simple sugars, thus warding off issues like diabetes by keeping blood sugar steady.
  • CherriesCherries. Cherries are high in vitamin C and potassium, and if you go pick them yourself, you'll get the additional benefit of some good old-fashioned exercise.
  • Corn. A summer BBQ staple, its folate and B vitamins can contribute to improved cardiovascular health.
  • Cucumbers. Cucumbers are great for your skin, muscles, and connective tissue, plus they're chock-full of water, fiber, and vitamin C.
  • Eggplant. The beautiful purple skin found on these late-summer vegetables is good food for your brain.
  • Fennel. This Mediterranean bulb is rich in vitamin C and phytonutrients, especially anethole, which a 2000 University of Texas study showed to have some anti-cancer effects.
  • Figs. Fresh figs available during the hot months are a great source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
  • Garlic. Volumes have been written on the benefits of this stinky bulb, which include how good it is for heart health and how its antiviral properties may be able to help keep us from getting sick.
  • GrapesGrapes. Great for snacking, they're low in calories and contain the heart disease-fighting phytonutrient resveratrol, normally associated with red wine.
  • Green beans. Steam these crisp vegetables for a healthy side dish that's filled with carotenoids, which are great for your heart and more.
  • Lemongrass. Used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking, this citrusy herb is high in folic acid and has been shown to have antioxidant and disease-preventing properties.
  • Lettuce. Not all greens are equal, so go for the mixed greens, romaine, or red leaf lettuce for the best benefits in your salads.
  • Mangos. Though higher in calories, one cup of diced mango can provide 75 percent of your daily vitamin C recommendation.
  • Melons. Cantaloupes and honeydews should be heavy for their size and give off a sweet, melony smell. And watermelons aren't just refreshing, they help hydrate you and give you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Nectarines. Look for firm fruits with smooth skin, and enjoy them for their delicious flavor and vitamin C.
  • Okra. Delicious grilled or in gumbo, this summer vegetable has an abundance of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and folates.
  • Onions. Onions are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which means good news for your cardiovascular system.
  • Oregano. Found in cuisines from the Mediterranean to Mexico, this herb is great for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.
  • Peas. These delicious and easy-to-eat legumes help support blood sugar regulation.
  • Peppers. Originally native to Central and South America, these spicy and sweet beauties contain lots of natural antioxidants.
  • Plums. Related to other stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and apricots, these antioxidant-rich fruits are also great for helping with iron and vitamin C absorption.
  • Rhubarb. Rhubarb is good for more than just pie—it's a high source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Spinach. As Popeye can attest, spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, rich in lots of vitamins, and especially in iron and calcium.
  • StrawberriesStrawberries. Most strawberries are grown in California and Florida, where the peak growing season is April through June. Most other places will see local berries in July, just in time for an Independence Day celebration. Grab a bowlful and get ready for off-the-chart levels of vitamin C and fiber.
  • Summer squash and zucchini. Usually in season between May and July, these relatives of the melon are great for your heart.
  • Tarragon. This culinary herb has been used in medicine throughout history for such things as stimulating appetite and alleviating insomnia. It's also great for calcium, manganese, iron, and a bunch of vitamins.
  • Tomatillos. Little green cousins of gooseberries, these summer vegetables are high in niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin C.
  • Tomatoes. Vine-ripened varieties of tomatoes are in season from July through September. They're high in lycopene, a great antioxidant.

Cecilia H. Lee is a food and travel writer, an artist, and a chef. A James Beard Award nominee, she has authored several books. Her latest, Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, includes delicious, nutritious Mexican recipes you can make in just 30 minutes or less. When she's not climbing a mountain somewhere, Cecilia writes, eats, and gardens in Los Angeles.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 20th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Could Getting Moving Be Your Muse?

By Denis Faye

For the first couple decades of my life, I looked at exercise as a "need-to-do" activity, as opposed to a "want-to-do" activity. Then, one fateful night around my 25th birthday, a disheveled Australian showed up at my door with an ancient surfboard and announced that at dawn, like it or not, I was going to learn to surf.

Man Surfing

The next morning, exercise became my muse. My life changed forever.

Runners on a TrackIn high school, my sports life was typical. Football, track, swim team. I have the unfortunate combination of being fiercely competitive and deeply lacking in physical aptitude, so these activities were overwhelmingly frustrating. I tried hard and rarely succeeded, a constant disappointment to the crowds, the coaches, and myself. On graduation day, I vowed never again to know the feeling of a missed tackle as my entire school looked on. I walked away from organized sports.

In college, I continued to jog a little because I knew I "needed" to. Also, it's hard to screw up when you're jogging. Yet I loathed it. It hurt my knees and it bored me. Eventually that petered out and 4 years later, I entered the workforce at a stout, dumpy 220 pounds. Sure, I hit the gym occasionally, typically around New Year's, with the belief that this was going to be the year I turned things around, but it never happened. A few weeks of early-morning elliptical trainer workouts were all I needed to become bored out of my mind and return to the chubby security of my snooze button.

Man WorkingMeanwhile, my career prospered. As I said, I'm competitive and therefore somewhat ambitious. White-collar opportunities and white-collar money presented themselves, not that I'd expected them. As a film studies major, I'd spent my college years surrounded by creative people, and I assumed I'd follow in their bohemian footsteps. But by age 25, I was deskbound 5 days a week, making more money than any of my friends thanks to my lucrative job in advertising. And one more thing: I was miserable. My career had become just like exercise. A "need-to-do" 50-plus hours of weekly drudgework.

To keep my spirit from breaking completely, I took on some pro-bono clients, including the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to cleaning up the oceans. I had yet to surf at that point, but I've always loved the ocean, so it was a good fit. I took to the volunteer work like, well, a fish to water. Weekdays were for my "real" job. Nights and weekends were spent helping an itinerant band of wave-riders save the planet.

Then a problem cropped up. I couldn't surf. That meant that I wasn't part of "the tribe," and that wouldn't float. It was then that I decided I needed to learn how. George, a grizzled Aussie longboarder who had taken a particular liking to me, retrieved a dilapidated old plank from the depths of his storage shed and brought it over, at about 11:00 PM, as I recall. The next morning, at 5:00 AM, George and a minivan full of surf bums showed up at my door. At 6:00 AM, I had my first saltwater baptism.

Surfing didn't come naturally to me, but my companions were unrelenting, and so was I. Yet all that time, there was no pressure. We all had fun whether I shredded it up or not. One of the beauties of surfing was that for the first time in my life, I had found a fun, exciting physical activity I could learn at my own pace, with only one person to compete against: myself. No one hassled me to "win" out in the water. We were just there for a good time and a little exercise. Eventually, I got the hang of it.

Soon, I started participating in other sports with my band of weekend warriors. Rock climbing, mountain biking, sailing, camping. I was becoming an outdoor sports junkie and it felt great. Exercise inspired better eating and soon I was a svelte 170 pounds—the thinnest I'd been since junior high.

On our many surf trips down the coast, work would eventually factor into conversation. For all my action-figure ways, I was still primarily a desk jockey. None of my sports buddies made the money I did, but they were all happy in their professional lives. Some were small-business owners. Others were teachers. Some worked construction. Ambition meant something to a few of them, but intuition meant more to all of them. When it came to careers (or anticareers), they did what they wanted to do.

Surfing had taught me who I really was. I had become fit and comfortable in my own skin. I knew I needed to be comfortable in my job too. I resigned my corporate position and began the career I'd always wanted to do: journalism. In time, that career folded into what I do today: writing about and helping people with fitness and nutrition.

Today, I don't make the money I made scaling the corporate ladder, but I'm happy. Exercise helped me find that path. I'm not criticizing white-collar work; I'm just admitting that it wasn't right for me. Furthermore, I'm also not telling you that you need to take up an extreme sport to find your bliss, but if exercise is something you do because you "need" to—or if you don't do it at all—find an activity that excites you, be it volleyball, yoga, aerobics, or weightlifting. Embrace it. Let it motivate and inspire you. It'll take you to good places, and if you're lucky, it might turn your life around.

I could write about it all day, but I just got a call from George. If you'll excuse me, the surf's up.

See you in the lineup.

Related Articles
"6 Reasons Yoga's Great for Guys"
"5 Fun Summer Beach and Water Sports for Fitness"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 20th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Recipe: Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry BuckleHere's a delicious, guilt-free dessert that combines the healthy goodness of steel-cut oats with sweet, antioxidant-rich blueberries. Enjoy!

  • 2/3 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: Honey, stevia, or raw sugar (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a small glass baking dish. Mix well. Bake for 20 minutes. (Or you can microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes.) Allow to cool slightly before serving. Makes 2 servings.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes (including mixing, baking, and cooling)

Nutritional Information (per serving, without optional sweetener):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
153 5 g 26 g 5 g 5 g <1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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