This weekend, freedom takes on an even more poignant meaning as we reach an important milestone: Independence Day, the first major holiday in over a year that we can celebrate mask-less, at full capacity, and with as many friends and family members as our hearts desire. It is a time for safely rejoicing and celebrating all that we have our endured over the past year. This week, Wellness Wednesday is not only going red, white and blue, but providing you with tips for enjoying happy, healthy cookouts this weekend.
Star-Spangled Fruits and Veggies
Aligning with the spirit of the holiday, this week I did a deep dive into the healthiest red, white and blue foods. Across the board, phytonutrients are the real superheroes behind both plant and human health. According to this article from Diplomat Pharmacy, “phytonutrients are chemicals that help plants thrive and defend themselves against predators,” but they also are very beneficial for humans, too. Moreover, phytonutrients provide different benefits depending on their hue.
The Red …
The phytonutrients included in red fruits and vegetables include ellagic acid and lycopene. Consuming this (natural) color, along with vitamins A and C, which are found in abundance in many red fruits and vegetables, can help fight disease and cancer, reduce inflammation, enhance the immune system, regulate hormones, and protect skin, hair and nails.
For those looking to up their vegetable intake, Healthline’s list of 11 healthy red vegetables includes beets, red bell peppers, red chile peppers, red leaf lettuce, red onions and red potatoes.
A self-described berry and cherry enthusiast, I can’t talk about red without mentioning the incredible benefits of strawberries, cherries and raspberries. Healthline considers berries “among the healthiest foods on earth” because they are packed with both fiber and antioxidants, improve blood sugar and insulin response, help reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels, and are even believed to be good for your skin. Read the full article here for more details
The best thing about berries is that there’s so many ways to consume them: in a smoothie, on top of a shortcake, as a fruit salad or even added to a green salad. So ditch the cake or cookies and get creative (and colorful) with a fruit-filled dessert this weekend.
White foods offer their own unique benefits. According to this article, they contain chemicals that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, are high in potassium — which promotes heart and muscle health — and contain folate, which protects the body against cancer and aids in the production of new blood cells.
An article from The Healthy lists “13 white foods that are healthier than you thought” — mushrooms, cauliflower, milk, oysters, Greek yogurt, garlic, potatoes, turnips and popcorn are all included. Yup, you read that right. Popcorn made the list because it “has a mere 30 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 35 calories per cup [and] if you lightly butter it, you’re only looking at 80 calories per cup.”
Potatoes, too, are a healthy carb that shouldn’t be omitted from your diet. They are a great source of potassium, vitamin C, thiamin, and vitamin B6, so don’t feel bad digging into that potato salad at this weekend’s cookout. Just go easy on the mayo.
… and Blue!
Continuing on our patriotic wellness journey, blue foods are also worth including in your diet. According to Fresh Baby, “the main phytonutrient [in blue foods,] anthocyanidin, helps to decrease inflammation in the body’s cells and may protect against heart disease. Blue foods also contain minerals including copper and iron, vitamins C, K, B-6, B-12, and fiber.” Their list of healthy “blue” fruit and vegetables includes blueberries, blackberries, purple potatoes and cabbage, eggplant, plums and prunes. Healthline’s list of blue foods with “powerful benefits” adds elder berries, concord grapes, and blue tomatoes.
And if you’re worried about sugar intake after reading about all these fruits, check out this previous Wellness Wednesday discussing the benefits of sugar when consumed via fruit. And if I’ve inspired you to bring some fruit to the cookouts this weekend, I strongly encourage you to try this festive fruit salad arrangement — all you need to do is cut up some fruit!
We’ve only covered three colors of the rainbow, so if you’re looking for a little more, Everyday Health offers a thorough and entertaining summary of the health benefits of foods of every color.
GOOD READS: COOKOUT EDITION
Whether you’re hanging out beachside or poolside, turning on the oven or firing up the grill, we want you to have a safe and exciting Independence Day weekend. Making up our good reads section this week is some great tips from around the web for both enjoying and hosting a cookout.
Healthy Cookout. Eating right doesn’t need to ruin your holiday. This article from Eat Right offers some helpful, easy tips for making your cookout foods healthier. My favorite tip? Grill your dessert!
Ultimate Guide. Hosting your first cookout? Or, hosting your first in-person get-together in over a year? Diane Garcia of Just Cook offers an “ultimate guide to hosting a summer cookout” in 2021. The article offers unique recipes and menu ideas, and tips on how to prepare food before guests arrive and how to fire up the grill during party time.
Food Inspo. Looking to spice things up with some new dishes this weekend? This article offers 50 great Independence Day recipes, with everything from appetizers to desserts. So whether you’re hosting the party or simply bringing an appetizer, there’s inspiration for everyone.
BBQ Reading. A few years ago, our editor Doug Sparks recommended numerous books that will help you perfect your summer cookout skills, and you can check out his article here. Even if you can’t finish them before this weekend’s holiday, they’ll help you improve your grilling game all summer!
Unique Traditions. Read about some unique ways that people celebrate the Fourth of July in this interesting piece from Bloomberg. Hear from Indian-, Mexican-, Asian-Americans and more as they describe their personal celebrations as well as what the holiday means to them.
And I can’t leave you without a classic song to get ready for the weekend …