Alongside of tomatoes, watermelon has moved up to the front of the line in recent research studies on high-lycopene foods. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that’s especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well.
~The George Mateljan Foundation
Mid-July, the sweet spot of summer, has arrived. As the thermometer soars the vegetables in the garden flourish, the roses climb, and the lilies in our front yard burst open in flames of color. While the humidity has been difficult to tolerate with temperatures in the 90s the past few days, I try to dig deep and recall what February was like in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That instantly takes the whine out of my voice and helps me welcome the heat.
In addition to having a weak cup of green tea each morning (I gave up coffee a few weeks ago), writing in a journal, taking our dog Phoebe for a short walk (before it gets too hot), and tending to the plants outside, a couple of weeks ago I added yoga to my morning routine. Like writing, I find it helps me set the tone for the day and find my balance both physically and spiritually. Over five years ago after my husband Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, his neurologist would not clear him for running or lifting weights. She did tell him that yoga would be acceptable and that she highly recommended it for his rehabilitation. Mike laughed. I rolled my eyes at him and rushed out and bought him three Rodney Yee DVDs from Target. Desperate to get in some physical activity, Mike relented and was hooked from his first mountain pose. I remember him commenting on what a fierce work out yoga was, “I really broke out in sweat. It reminded me of some of the PT we did when I was in the Army.”
For a few months Mike and I would start our days by doing 20 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning together (I think Mike loved it because it guaranteed 20 minutes of silence without my probing questions, “bright ideas,” and chatter). Though sadly, because of hectic schedules, we stopped doing yoga together. A couple of weeks ago I dug out the DVD and decided that I wanted to build yoga practice back into my routine (maybe Mike will join me). When I go back to teaching in the fall I hope to continue to incorporate yoga into my mornings.
This morning when I was doing the forward bend sequence, Yee said something that deeply resonated with me and I have been thinking about ever since. To paraphrase, in a gentle voice he reminded, allow yourself to be in your body, not in your mind. Like poetry, yoga allows us to slow down and concentrate on the moment. It may extremely difficult to shut our mind down and focus on our breathing and the stretch and sway of our bodies, but it is powerful when we attempt to do so. It helps profoundly to let the stress, anxiety, questions, and mile long to-do lists melt away (even if it is just for twenty minutes).
I believe that this philosophy of listening to my body is something that I discovered that I needed to be more aware of when I started Weight Watchers. In fact, six years ago TODAY was the day that I made my goal weight. Often in meetings I share with my members that many weight management experts talk about how it is important for one to discern between food cravings that happen from the neck up and those that occur from the neck down. I try (not always successfully) to listen to what my body NEEDS instead of the cravings that my head WANTS. This year I decided that my mantra would be, “Quality, not quantity,” when it comes to food and I think I have done a great job sticking to my plan to see food as fuel and nutrients. Well, except for the past couple weekends…
The past two weekends have been overflowing with family, friends, laughter, sodium laden food, beverages, steamy temperatures, and not enough water or fresh fruit and vegetables. I knew the moment that I stepped on the scale Monday I would cringe. I did. With hot weather and sodium it is normal for my body to retain water and I found myself up five pounds. Instead of throwing in the towel and feeling miserable and guilty, I created a plan to move more and start rehydrating myself properly. Today I can happily say that three days into the week and I am back at the weight I was Saturday for my weigh-in and I am continuing to hydrate and stay active.
Plain water is not a struggle for me (when I am mindful), and I normally drink multiple glasses a day, but I also know that our bodies get an abundance of water from fresh fruit and vegetables. So to help myself stay hydrated in this heat I am also consuming a green smoothie in the morning and one after dinner for my evening snack. Because I was so mindful of water retention the past couple weeks I have been eating a lot of cucumbers on salads because they contain properties that help our bodies ease bloating. When I shopped this week I also picked up a watermelon (because what can possibly be more refreshing in the stifling heat when you do not have air conditioning?) So I came up with a recipe that combines both cucumbers and watermelon and it was so cool and revitalizing that Mike and I both drank two (okay, maybe I had three 😉 )
This summer I have been finding my body craving green smoothies that are not very sweet. This smoothie is an example of one that contains less sugar. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie I recommend the addition of a frozen banana or another higher sugar fruit such as grapes, a peach, mango, or pineapple. The fresh mint could also be omitted but if you have some in your garden I recommend throwing in a handful to further enhance the freshness. A small amount of fresh basil or rosemary would also be a wonderful flavor addition to this drink.
The texture of this smoothie was very light, and it is more like a juice, than a thick smoothie. You could add more ice if you wanted it thicker and if you are not a fan of green smoothies this combination would be delicious without the greens. The taste of the cucumber is very dominant so if you want the taste of the watermelon to over-ride the smoothie I would recommend going extremely light on the cucumber.
WATERMELON & CUCUMBER SPLASH GREEN SMOOTHIE
- 3 Cups of Spinach (or greens of choice. I have been plucking turnip greens from my garden and love them in smoothies. Beet greens, radish tops, and carrot tops also are superb out of the garden.)
- 3 Cups of Watermelon
- 1/2 Cup of Cucumber (I left the seeds. Again, you might want to experiment with the cucumber and watermelon ratio to discover what your taste buds find pleasing)
- Fresh Mint
- Juice of 1/2 a Lime (use zest to amp up the lime flavor)
- Chia Seeds (I added 2 Tablespoons. They are high in Omega-3 and make the smoothie more filling)
- Handful of Ice Cubes (since the water content of the cucumber and watermelon is so high I did not add water but used ice to make the green smoothie cold. You could also chill it for a bit in the refrigerator before drinking. Coconut water would be a phenomenal addition to this smoothie since it contains properties that help rehydrate.)
This combination of ingredients made 32 ounces. It is so light and fresh you may find yourself wanting to make a double batch to keep in the refrigerator. It would keep well for a couple of days (it may separate but would still taste terrific) and would be a welcome relief in the heat.
If you are interested in trying some other green smoothies, check out these green smoothie recipes. Are you interested in other cucumber recipes? Here is recipe for a plant-based Creamy Cucumber & Dill Dressing and Cucumber Gazpacho Soup.
You also can find Produce with Amy recipes on Pinterest. Please consider joining the conversation at my Produce with Amy facebook page.
I hope you make time today to listen. Listen to the sky, the wind, the water. Steep yourself in silence or the gentle rhythm of birdsong. Listen to what your body is telling you that it needs. Are you getting enough sleep? If you are feeling sluggish do you need to drink more water or get up and move and stretch? Do you think that adding more fresh fruit and vegetables into your meals and snacks might give you an energy boost? How about replacing that nightly indulgence of ice cream with a cold and creamy green smoothie? Stop and listen to your body. Enjoy each ray of sunshine because before we know it the sweet spot of summer will have slipped away. Cheers to plants, healthy routines, and for the wisdom we gain on this journey. Most importantly, remember that you are worth the time that you make for yourself! Namaste.