As the school year is about to begin, we are making school supply lists, cutting out coupons, and trying to buy our children the latest fashions…There are numerous articles, blogs, checklists that address ways to prepare our children for the upcoming school year. I would like to take a different approach and blog about stocking my freezer with delicious wholesome anti-inflammatory foods that will help keep my children healthy and prepare them for a cold-free, feel good school year. And there is no better time than now. The weather is beautiful and the added daylight hours provide the perfect opportunity to get out to visit farmers markets and local farms to pick your own healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables.
I have a few favorites I stock up on during this time of year. I buy them for both, enjoying in the moment and freezing them for future use.
My favorite power packed and delicious pick is the blueberry. Blueberries are bursting with flavor and provide so many antioxidant properties that help us fight cancer and memory loss. Ranked only second to strawberries in terms of popularity, cultivated blueberries are full of phytonutrients such as anthocyanins, which gives them their deep blue pigment. Blueberries are a delicious snack or they are a great add on ingredient to your morning smoothie. I personally like to freeze them in a zip lock bag so they are ready to use during the school year. My children love the morning protein shakes that I create and rave about the taste. What is great is that the rich color of the blueberry hides the chopped raw spinach I add to their shakes.
Another wonderful, healthy fruit is the blackberry. Like blueberries, blackberries also contain anthocyanins (pigment producing antioxidants). The blackberry’s claim to fame is its dark, rich color which aids in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.
(Maybe add a little more about blackberries) I alternate between blackberries and blueberries with my morning smoothies and protein shakes. When freezing blackberries I do the same as I would with blueberries and strawberries. I do not wash prior to freezing as to maintain their freshness and preserve their nutritional value.
The last fruit I would like to mention with its powerful antioxidant properties is the raspberry. This tiny fruit is a member of the rose family and in just one cup it delivers over 50% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C. When in season, I stock up and freeze in Ziploc bags. Studies show that frozen raspberries will maintain their antioxidant benefits just as fresh berries would.
One of my favorite recipes is really simple. Whip frozen bananas in a blender until they become a consistency like ice cream; slightly puree fresh berries and pour over the frozen blended bananas. It is a perfect delicious, healthy whip of wonderful fruits.
The options for local produce are plentiful. Local and organic is best, but even local non organic is going to have a higher nutritional value than organic from across the country. Once its picked it starts to lose its nutritional value.
Fresh Vegetables are also plentiful this time of year.
My favorites with proven health benefits:
Green vegetables such as spinach and Broccoli. Spinach has an extremely high nutritional value and is rich in antioxidants. It is a good source of vitamins A, B2, C and K, and also contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium all of which provide anti-inflammatory benefits, strong bones, and healthy eyes.
Broccoli is full of fiber and vitamin C, it is also rich in vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and phyto-nutrients. Broccoli has anti-inflammatory benefits, helps keep bones strong, and supports a healthy immune system.
Chopped raw spinach and broccoli can easily be frozen for future use in airtight containers. During the year I use the frozen pieces of spinach and broccoli in protein smoothies, sauces, soups, omelettes, casseroles, or meatballs.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and phytonutrients that support heart, bone, and joint health. Using tomatoes in your favorite sauce recipe is the perfect way to freeze for future use.
At AAIR, we have taken incorporating fresh and local fruits and vegetable another step. We have embraced an anti-inflammatory wellness program. We are ditching processed foods, wheat, Gluten and foods with high fructose corn syrup. Incorporating fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods to our daily diets. We also believe it is very important to decrease as much as possible caffeine, dairy, and alcoholic beverages. Thus, Increasing our energy level, improving our immune system, preparing us for the upcoming cold and flu season that goes hand in hand with the beginning of school.
If you would like to learn more about our anti-inflammatory and wellness programs please visit the tab on our website
There are so many options when buying all of these healthy fruits and vegetables. I have listed a few local markets and their times and locations:
1. Matthews Famers Market: Wed 9a-12p ; Tues evening 6p-8p; Sat 8a-2p
2. Atherton Mill and Market: Tue 3-7 p.m; Wed 11 a.m.-7 p.m; Sat 9 a.m.-2 p.m; 2104 South Blvd. (in the former Charlotte Trolley barn), http://charlottetailgatemarket.com/default.aspx
3. 7th street market: Wed-Fri 7 a.m.-7 p.m; Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; individual vendor hours may vary, 224 E. 7th St., 7thstreetpublicmarket.com
4. Meeting street market at Elon Park : Tuesdays 4pm-8pm
5. Unity Farms farmers market: Wed and Sat 9-3, in the parking lot of Robertson Farms plaza located in the Blakeney area of South Charlotte.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs offer a weekly selection of seasonal produce from more than two dozen farms within fifty miles of the city, plus add-ons including meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Know Your Farms. www.knowyourfarms.com
Backyard Produce www.backyardproduce.com
Absolute Organics www.absoluteorganics.com