Burgers, potato chips, fudgy brownies. All summer, you go from barbeque to barbeque, stuffing yourself with fattening foods. Or maybe you eschew carbohydrates in an attempt to slim down. Either way, if you feel lethargic or tend to run out of steam by the end of the day, your eating habits could be to blame. The solution? Head to the farmer’s market or the produce section at your favorite grocery store.
During warm summer months, you should reach for “cooling” carbohydrates—namely, fresh fruits and vegetables—for quick, easy energy, explains Ryan Redman, co-director of Dharma Marga Vedic Healing in Hailey. Especially helpful in boosting energy levels: watermelon, grapes, peaches, cucumbers and other foods with a high water content. Also, to minimize heat in the body, bitter vegetables such as kale and collard greens work very well in supporting the body’s ability to remain cool on long, hot summer days. High-fat and high-protein foods, such as red meat, fried foods and heavy desserts, are harder to digest, so they’ll generate heat and tax your body, adds Redman who, with his wife and business partner Paige, holds Ayurvedic-based cooking classes four times a year. “Eating whatever is in season is a good rule of thumb,” he says.
To stay light on your feet, Scott Freeborn, N.D., a naturopathic physician in Ketchum, also advocates filling up on locally-grown produce. “In my opinion, the American diet is backward,” he says. “People tend to eat more meat in the summer, but it should be the opposite.” For a protein fix, Freeborn suggests sticking to fish and lean poultry. “If you eat light, and avoid fried foods and heavy animal products, you’ll have more energy and stay cooler throughout the day.”
Becky McCarver, R.D., the dietician at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum, agrees that antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies are the way to go, especially if you work out a lot. Exercise places stress on your body, she notes. Foods rich in antioxidants, which also include whole grains and nuts, can help protect your muscles and tissues from oxidative damage, so you regain your energy more quickly. Whole foods are always the way to go, rather than a supplement. Dried beans, berries, artichoke hearts, apples, pecans, plums and Russet potatoes are some of your best bets.
When it comes to maximizing energy, Dr. Stephan Siele of Ascension Holistic Health in Ketchum says it’s important for each of us to identify our individual “superfoods.” Doing so involves screening the cone cells of your eyes which enables your nervous system to perceive color using a sheet of colored acetate to determine your complimentary color, he explains. If you’re in the yellow-green family, your superfoods include corn, yellow peppers, broccoli, avocado and green grapes. If you’re in the blue spectrum, you’ll want to eat more blueberries, black olives, blue plums, blackberries and black grapes.
Either way, you really can’t go wrong. So next time you need a pick-me-up, don’t grab an iced coffee and a cookie. Instead, try snacking on fresh strawberries or piling your plate with greens.