The secret powerhouses of your Paleo diet, vegetables are your nutrient superheroes. They are packed with phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals and should form an important foundation of your Paleo diet.
Not all vegetables are grown (or created) equal and while the wild world of global trading has allowed us access to many different vegetables year round, somehow they just taste better when you purchase them in season and literally days after they have been harvested. Choosing seasonal and local ensures optimal nutrient density as once deprived of light (especially when being cold stored and transported over long distances); vegetables begin to lose their nutrients rapidly.
Organic farming practices ensure your vegetables are free of chemicals and genetic modification, but again, once transported can be less nutritious, although still better than conventionally mass-farmed produce.
Here at Pete’s Paleo we work directly with several farmers on both coasts who are growing their produce organically and are making a difference in their community. You can read more about them here.
Getting to know your local farmer, belonging to a CSA or visiting and supporting your regional farmers’ markets will not only provide you with the best produce, but provides these hard-working folks with the ability to continue to nourish you and your family.
Eating seasonally need not be bland, boring or repetitive. Pete’s summer menu options have a wide variety of seasonal vegetables along with some fruits, all locally sourced, organically grown and packed with nutrients. We even have a vegetarian only option for the paleo meal plans if you don’t eat meat or if you love cooking your own meat but need some help with the veggies.
Using what the farms have available seasonally, and even weekly, can provide ever-changing options that you can easily choose and prepare at home too.
Summer vegetables include:
Asparagus are rich sources of folate, dietary fiber, protein, copper, potassium, and vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B6, A, E and C. They support blood sugar regulation have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may even prevent several types of cancer.
Choose stalks that are rounded, not fat or twisted. They should be firm with closed purplish or dark green tips.
Store your asparagus upright in a cup of water in the fridge or with the ends wrapped in damp paper towel. Eat your asparagus within a day or two of purchasing. They are delicious steamed until they turn a bright shade of green and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
Beets contain magnesium, vitamin C, fiber and folate.
Choose beets that are heavy for their size, with no surface cuts or nicks.
Enjoy your beets raw in juice or salads, or you can cook them in a variety of ways: steamed, stir fried or roasted. (They are best with a squeeze of lemon juice and some butter.)
Blackberries are full of antioxidants, fiber, folate and the anti-inflammatory vitamins C, K and E.
Choose fruits that are black in color, an indication that they are fully ripe. Sniff the berries, ideally they should smell slightly sweet. If they are too sweet smelling, they are overripe. If they do not smell like berries, they are under ripe.
When storing blackberries, avoid containers more than 5 inches deep as the berries at the bottom will be bruised. A small pan does the trick!
Carrots are rich sources of vitamin A, beta carotene, and fiber.
Choose stiff and unbending roots. If they are limp, they are not fresh. If the tops are attached, they should be fresh and bright green.
Remove the greens when storing carrots and keep your carrots wrapped loosely in plastic in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. New carrots need only be scrubbed and eaten raw or steamed until tender.
Cauliflower has cancer fighting abilities, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, B vitamins and Vitamin K and can support digestion.
Choose cauliflower with creamy white curds and firmly attached, bright green leaves. Avoid cauliflower with loose sections or brown spots.
Take the stem off your cauliflower, and keep it in an opened plastic bag in the fridge. It will last at least a week. Best enjoyed raw, lightly steamed or pureed.
Rich in vitamins and good for heart health, garlic lowers blood pressure, has antiviral and antibacterial properties, prevents cancer and aids in absorption of iron.
Choose smooth, blemish-free garlic bulbs with no sprouting or signs of decay.
Garlic burns quickly, so when adding minced garlic to your cooking, add it in closer to the end, and never toss right into a hot pan or it will turn bitter.
Ginger reduces gas and bloating, helps with nausea, and is anti-inflammatory, an immunity booster, relieves heartburn and eases migraine pain.
Choose ginger root heavy for its size. It should smell spicy, and it should be firm with smooth skin. Avoid wrinkled ginger.
Freeze your ginger root for easy grating allows fresh powdered ginger to always be on hand.
This nutritional superfood contains fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, liver health, calcium, sulfur and I supportive of digestion.
Leaves should be brightly colored and crisp with no signs of wilting.
Toss kale leaves into salads, stir fries and soups.
Phosphorous, fiber, folate and vitamins A, C and K are all found in lettuces.
For best freshness, avoid heads with wilted leaves.
Keep living lettuce in its original packaging and wash just before you use it. Enjoy lettuce raw in salads or juices.
Mushrooms are often used to replace and supplement meat due to their meaty texture and umami flavour. They contain protein, selenium, copper, potassium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, zinc, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, antioxidants and B vitamins.
When choosing mushrooms, look for light-colored gills and tight undersides.
Store your mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the fridge for no more than ten days. Enjoy raw or cooked and remember to save the woody stalks for flavoring stocks.
Packed with fiber, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C and calcium, pineapples support digestion and can aid in the breakdown of proteins.
Try pulling a leaf from the top center of the pineapple. If it comes out easily, the fruit is ripe.
Pineapple is delicious raw or grilled in both sweet and savory applications.
Fiber, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin C are nutrients found in this delicious root.
Choose rutabaga with purplish skin and avoid those that appear bruised or blemished. If there are green shoots coming from the rutabaga, it is overripe.
Rutabagas are delicious in soups, baked (rutabaga fries!) or mashed with sweet potatoes.
Spinach is well known for its nutrient density including B vitamins, vitamins C and E, omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene, glutathione and an endless list of additional minerals and phytonutrients. It fights heart disease, macular degeneration, cancer and cataracts!
Reach for dark green leaves that are not bruised, wilted or slimy.
To get more leafy greens into your diet, add a few handfuls of organic spinach to your morning (or afternoon) smoothie.
- Summer Squash (yellow squash and zucchini)
Summer squash provides vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, magnesium and potassium.
Choose zucchini or yellow squash that are less than eight inches long and firm, with bright skin.
These vegetables are very versatile and can be grilled, steamed, roasted, spiralized or eaten raw.
Tomatoes are your richest source of the antioxidant lycopene.
Choose deeply colored tomatoes that are firm and free of wrinkles that have a sweet aroma.
Tomatoes can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled or sautéed. They should never be stored in the refrigerator as they will lose their flavor.
Besides being delicious, turnips contain fiber, calcium, potassium, manganese, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E. They are anti-inflammatory and aid digestion.
Choose small turnips that are firm to the touch, have green, leafy tops and are free of scars or soft spots.
Add chopped turnips salads, soups and stews or roast and enjoy on their own.
- Vidalia Onions
These sweet, summertime onions contain vitamin C and chromium.
Look for bulbs that are firm with no visible signs of decay. Skins should be dry, and the onions should not be sprouting.
Vidalia onions should not be eaten raw but are delicious when cooked, on their own or added to a dish.
It is important to get some vegetables in at every meal throughout the day. Many of our ancestors ate greater variety of plant foods than we eat and variety is important to get all the nutrients these plants have to offer. Branch out a little bit, try something new. Visit your local farmer’s market, get to know the folks who grew the food, find out what is in season and begin exploring.