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Cleaning up with summer’s bounty

Summertime has always been associated with ease, play, fun and adventure. Living in Southwest Colorado, it’s also connected with abundance and fresh produce. The farmers market and stands are spilling over with summer’s bounty. Grocery stores are chock-full of locally-raised, farm fresh fruits and vegetables. There couldn’t be a better time fine tune how we nourish ourselves.

The most common allergens are gluten/wheat, dairy, soy, corn and peanuts. If you’ve ever been curious about whether you have food sensitivities, now is an easier time to let them go and see how you feel. Cutting those five food groups out for at least 30 days, jot down a simple symptom journal. Write down three to six things – like energy, digestion, mood, sleep – and give them a one to 10 rating each day. As you track how you are feeling, you might start to notice trends as you are eating a more “clean” diet. Then, when you add each food back in (one at a time), you might notice those symptom patterns shift so keep recording it until you’re done experimenting. If you do react to a certain food, consider eliminating or reducing that in your diet moving forward. At the very least, you’ll know how that makes your body feel and can make a more educated choice in the future.

When we think about cleaning up the diet, we often think of things we should get rid of. How about reversing that approach, and seeing how much we can fill our plate with nutrient-dense goodies? Given that access to fresh, flavorful food is that much easier this time of year, loading up on raw, live foods is almost inevitable.

Try reaching for a peach or handful of cherries for an after-dinner treat. Dust off the homemade ice cream maker and use whole-fat coconut or oat milk as a base instead of cow’s milk. Have your eggs over fresh greens and sprouts to get extra energy to start your day. Dip snap peas and sweet farm carrots into hummus or guacamole instead of chips and crackers. Keep cherry tomatoes in a bowl on the kitchen counter for a between-meal snack.

Eating foods in their raw state provides higher nutrient levels because they’re not lost in the cooking process. Whole raw foods are rich in phytonutrients, enzymes and antioxidants. Research shows that phytonutrients can help reduce the risk of all sorts of chronic diseases and cut down on inflammation. They may help slow the aging process, enhance eyesight and improve brain function.

Raw foods tend to alkalize the body. When the body is in an alkaline state, it is better able to absorb nutrients and get rid of toxins more efficiently. Raw foods contain naturally occurring enzymes designed to help break down that particular food and receive more of its nutrition. Plus, they give us a ton of flavor and high crunch factor many of us crave.

So indulge yourself this summer! Grow a pot of herbs and garnish your meals with them. Have baskets teeming with fresh fruits to tantalize your taste buds. Get creative with where you’re throwing in vegetables. Nourish your body with summer’s bounty for your mind, body and spirit.

Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.