It's summer time and produce is fresh and easy! What better time to stock up on nutrients after a cold winter with the beautiful array of fruits and veggies that flourish at this time of year.
Here are 10 amazingly vitamin rich foods to include in your diet to ensure that you never run the risk of deficiencies, not to mention helping out your brain, heart, vision, joints and just about everything else by consuming them....
#1 - Dark Leafy Greens
Dark green is the key with examples of amazingly vitamin rich, leafy vegetables including spinach, mustard greens, beetroot greens, turnip greens and kale as just a few. Adding these to a salad will give you high amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and carotenoids.
Mustard greens themselves have an incredible array with vitamin A, C, E, and B6, folate, dietary fibre, tryptophan (no this is not the radioactive rock that can kill Superman!), manganese, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and copper all being found in this green.
#2 - Asparagus
These fleshy spears are extremely high in vitamin K and folate and is also high in protein for a vegetable. It is also a superior source of vitamins C, A, B1, B2 and B6. It's high in essential minerals as well including copper, phosphorous, potassium, iron, manganese and magnesium. Plus, asparagus is also a natural diuretic that provides benefits for the heart and also prevent birth defects (thanks to folates ability to protect against spina bifida!)
#3 - Blueberries
The blueberry is one of the healthiest fruits in the world. It has incredible amounts of vitamins C and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, dietary fibre and riboflavin. Because of its dark blue/red flesh, it contains some of the most potent antioxidants around.
The phytonutrients contained in this amazing berry help to destroy free radicals that damage the body's tissues. They can help prevent heart disease, cancer, dementia, ulcers, varicose veins, cataracts and glaucoma. Blueberries also have anti-inflammatory abilities that can also protect brain cells from damage.
#4 - Other Berries
Berries are abundant in summer so consider having a berry fruit salad first thing in the morning or for a mid day snack. Cranberries are proven natural healers of the urinary tract (number one in fighting UT infections!) and as a digestive aid. They have incredible amounts of vitamin B2 alongside a few other B vitamins. They also host high levels of fibre, vitamin C, iron, manganese and copper.
The raspberry is rich in tannins, elagic acid and flavonoids. With potent antioxidants and antimicrobials, research has suggested that the mighty raspberry can even help fight cancer. They are high in fibre, vitamin C, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate, manganese and impact minimally on blood sugar levels.
Strawberries are well known for their phenols, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Jam-packed with more than 12 essential minerals and vitamins, strawberries are very high in vitamin C and K and in dietary fibre.
#5 - Rock Melon
Although this beautiful melon peaks in summer, it is often available all year round. It offers an excellent supply of beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamin C. One cup of rock melon has under 60 calories, but is already well above the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. The orange flesh of the rock melon boasts vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, folate and great source of dietary fibre.
The B vitamins combine to make a great energy producer for the body, helping to control carbs and blood glucose levels through processing the carbohydrates and slowing digestion with its fibre content.
#6 - Spelt Grain
Just two ounces of this ancient whole grain contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin B2. Though largely unknown to many, spelt can be found in cereals, crackers, breads and baked goods. Your local health food store will have it in the form of grain, flakes or flour. It has a wide range of nutrients for a whole grain including an excellent source of niacin, thiamine, manganese and tryptophan. It also packs a decent amount of fibre, zinc, copper, protein and iron.
#7 - Broccoli
Broccoli is a nutritional wonder. The exceptional nutritional value of broccoli is most visibly seen in its vitamin K levels. It is also very high in vitamin A, folate and dietary fibre not to mention protein, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. This is a vegetable not to be missed! Who said Mum was an idiot?
#8 - Lentils
Lentils can provide an upward of 80% of your daily value of iron in one cup! The same amount of this amazing food contains 230 calories and hardly any fat. Whilst its iron levels will boost the body's energy and help prevent anaemia, its fibre content will stabilize your blood glucose levels and also net you four B vitamins, seven other essential minerals and a heaping amount of protein. All of the mighty lentil's nutrients can be found in high levels.
As a note of interest: the history of lentils dates back 8,000 years! Found in archaeological sights in the Middle East, it is possible that lentils could be one of the first foods ever cultivated.
#9 - Black Beans
Also known as Mexican or Spanish black beans, they have a phenomenal source of molybdenum, a trace mineral that detoxifies sulfites in your body. Black beans (like most beans) are good for your heart, and contain an excellent source of dietary fibre, folic acid, magnesium, and polyphenols that bring down cholesterol levels. They are also high in vitamin B1, tryptophan, phosphorus, iron, manganese and potassium. Each cup of black beans carries 15g of protein too!
#10 - Brussel Sprouts
Although a tough vegetable to get any child to consider (or adult often for that matter), the active constituents of Brussel sprouts are cancer fighters, great for skin, boosts the immune system and ensures the colon stays healthy. Best boiled or steamed, they contain gigantic amounts of vitamin K as well as high levels of vitamins C, A, B6 and B1, and fibre on top of a good amount of 14 other major minerals and vitamins.