As we ring in another Independence Day, let’s embrace our freedom by choosing real food.  The average person makes over 200 food decisions every day, according to the book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.  Why not make healthy choices available at your July 4th gatherings?  Whether you’re celebrating on a patio, pool, beach or lake, there are endless ways to add healthy food flair.

What’s more patriotic than a red, white and blue fruit salad?

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With strawberries and blueberries ripe for the picking now, let’s embrace these two delectable naturally sweet treats.  Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C and research reveals that they have over 40 active antioxidant compounds including anthocyanins – which give them their ruby red cloak and help them prevent many chronic diseases.  Did you know that strawberries are named for the original mulch – straw – used near the plants?  Go crazy with strawberries as a cup only has 45 calories, plus a good amount of fiber with 3 grams.

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Blueberries are also jammed with powerful anthocyanins – hence their rich blue skin color – which helps defend our cells against damage and disease.  Also, rich in vitamin C and fiber and only 80 calories per cup, these are a great choice to pop in your mouth on hot summer day. Interestingly, young blueberries start off a pale green and mature to reddish-purple before ripening to vibrant indigo blue.

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Coconut is a hot commodity these days – and not just in the tropics.  With coconut meat, water, milk and oil used globally, this fruit is a staple in many people’s diets.  (FYI: Coconut is not a nut, but a fruit called a “drupe” as it has a hard outer shell encasing a seed.)  Through the ages the coconut has been revered an elixir for a multitude of ailments, however, modern nutrition science has yet to clearly substantiate it as a “superfood” as it’s high in saturated fatty acids (albeit the better medium-sized molecules), thus it’s questionable whether eating a lot of coconut bodes well for heart health or not.  As with everything, moderation is key – 1/4 cup of flaked, unsweetened coconut has 100 calories and 10 grams of  total fat, of which 9 grams are the saturated type.

From a culinary standpoint, shaved coconut meat on a salad or a bit of coconut milk in a curry imparts such delightful flavor that should not be denied.  Plus, coconut water is jam-packed with potassium sans the fat, which is good news for your blood pressure.  So, I say leave coconut off of a pedestal and put it on a step stool to a healthy, balanced diet.

Strawberry, Coconut and Blueberry Medley

 

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Makes 6 servings (1/2 cup each)

Ingredients

3 cups organic strawberries*, rinsed, hulled and sliced

3 cups organic blueberries*, rinsed

1/4 cup coconut, flaked and unsweetened**

1 whole lemon, halved

1 Tablespoon honey

Directions

In a medium bowl, gently toss together the strawberries, blueberries and coconut.  Squeeze the lemon halves into a small mixing bowl until all of the juice is captured.  Add the honey to the lemon juice; whisk gently until combined.  Drizzle liquid mixture over berries and coconut and gently toss again.  Serve cold as a side dish or as a topping for yogurt or a slice of angel food cake.

*To eat more clean, choose organic berries. Since they are thin-skinned, the pesticide residue is higher when conventionally grown.  Take a peek at the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

**I use Bob’s Red Mill Flaked Coconut – no sweeteners or sulfur added (to preserve it).

Nutrition Information (per serving):   Calories: 93, Total Fat: 2 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Trans fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 2 g, Total Carbohydrate: 21 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 15 g, Protein: 1 g  

Enjoy eating simply,

-Vicki