As spring turns into summer, we happily look forward to sunny, warm weather and longer days in which to enjoy the great American outdoors. In fact, it is official. Summertime is good for you. Research has shown that the risk of heart disease peaks during winter and reaches its low point during the summer.
Why is summer so good for us and how do beets contribute to our good summer health?
Fresh Beets, Fruits, and Vegetables
During the summer months, there is a wealth of tempting fresh fruits and vegetables available in stores and markets. A diet full of fruit and vegetables tends to be lower in calories and higher in nutrients. Beet leaves, a tasty addition to a summer salad, are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant which protects eyes from cataracts. Moreover, drinking refreshing beet juice provides high levels of dietary nitrate which may reduce the over-stimulation of the nervous system that happens with heart disease. As temperatures rise, we are more likely to crave juicy fruits such as watermelon or mango. Fruits with high water content help us to eat less and feel more satisfied during meals and a recent study suggested that eating watermelon is linked to lower blood pressure. Other healthy summer fruits such as peaches, nectarines or plums may fight metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors increasing the probability of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
The Great Outdoors
During the summer months we spend more time outside. A recent study showed that people who spent at least 30 minutes in nature every week were less likely to have high blood pressure or depression. With favorable weather, outdoor holidays such as camping are popular and it is easy to eat nutritious food when camping. Beets are a great camping food as they are easy to transport as well as being tasty. Try grilling beets, halloumi and orange for a great campfire meal, or after setting the leaves aside to be included in a salad, wrap the beets in foil keeping the skin on and roast in the campfire for 30 minutes. Beets are delicious, easy, and packed full of nutrients!
Grow Your Own Beets
Gardening is good for you by improving strength, flexibility and endurance as well as reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious medical conditions. Long summer days and warm weather are perfect for gardening, so why not try growing your own beets?
Beets are easy to grow, thriving in medium to light soil. Sow from March to July, 2cm deep in rows that are 30cm apart. Beets are remarkably pest and disease free. All that is needed is to keep the weeds down and to ensure they are well watered; they will be ready to harvest at the end of the summer. There really is nothing better than a freshly harvested beet that has been quartered, drizzled in olive oil, and roasted in the oven, delicious! Looking for ideas? Try these roasted beet recipes: Easy Roasted Beets with Crumbled Gorzonzola, Beet and Peach Salad with Basil and Goat Cheese, and Rosemary Roasted Beets and Carrots.
Increase Endurance With Beet Juice
Favorable summer weather means that we are more likely to spend time outside running, cycling, or walking contributing to improved cardiovascular health and increased muscular strength. The perfect complement to exercising is thirst-quenching beet juice. Research has shown that drinking beet juice when exercising may increase endurance. This is due to the high levels of dietary nitrates in the juice which increases muscular efficiency allowing exercise at a higher intensity with the same level of effort. Furthermore, warmer weather and exercise means that we sweat more. This is no bad thing as sweating is the ultimate detox, flushing out potential pollutants from our bodies. Beet juice will help increase cardiovascular function and provide necessary hydration during the warm summer months.
Vitamin D Top Up
Spending time outside during the summer tops up our Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is produced by the body as a response to exposure to the sun and promotes calcium and phosphate absorption which is important for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It may also protect against a range of conditions including cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D can also be taken as supplements or good dietary sources including fish oil and fatty fish.
Summertime is a great time of year to be healthy by eating fresh fruit and vegetables, including beets. Sunny weather encourages us to spend more time outdoors camping, gardening and exercising. We are also able to take advantage of the sunny weather to top up our vitamin D levels. Let’s hope we have a great summer ahead to take advantage of these health benefits.
Article contributed by freelance writer, Jane Hope.
Photo(s) Credit: Shutterstock and Pexels.