Summerfest! The Healthy and Unhealthy Foods of the Season!

By Parul Kharod

This is the season for picnics in the park and potlucks at the poolside. It is also the season for farmer's markets.

There has been ample research on the benefits of eating high fiber foods such whole grains and beans. There is no doubt that we do not eat enough vegetables. Summer is an ideal opportunity to incorporate a variety of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables into wholesome salads and chaats.

Health Benefits of Whole Grains:

• Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).
• Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
• Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis.
• Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness (satiety), which prevents excessive snacking.

Health Benefits of Pulses and Beans:

Beans pack a nutritional punch. They are a low-cost way of getting a lot of nutrients. There is plenty of research showing that eating beans and legumes on a regular basis helps with maintaining health and preventing chronic diseases.

Beans are a source of good carbohydrates. Since beans have more fiber and protein, they have a low glycemic index, making them a good choice for people with diabetes.

Beans are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibers. The soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol. The insoluble fiber helps to combat constipation, colon cancer, and other digestive health issues.

Beans are a good source of cholesterol-free plant-based protein. Regular intake of beans is extremely important worldwide as they provide a good source of protein at a low cost compared to animal protein sources like beef, pork, and chicken.

Beans are good sources of potassium, a mineral that promotes healthy blood pressure levels. Beans are excellent sources of copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium, and a rich source of iron.

Dry beans are an excellent source of the B vitamins thiamin and folic acid and a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B6.

Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables:

Fruits and vegetables have tremendous healing powers. They are full of disease fighting, immune building phytochemicals and antioxidants.

• Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can supply a complete range of vitamins and minerals.
• Each color is caused by a specific set of antioxidants. Eating rainbow of colors - red, green, yellow, orange, blue, purple, and even white, can help fight different chronic diseases.
• Eating a large quantity of vegetables daily can help you feel full without eating too many calories.

This is also the season of grilling and cookouts. Cooking meat at high temperatures, like grilling, can cause chemical reactions that release toxins in the air. We get those toxins in the body by eating grilled meats. Grilling vegetables has not been associated with the production of these harmful chemicals.

Harmful effects of grilling

• When cooked at high temperatures, compounds in red and processed meats (such as hot dogs and hamburgers) undergo biochemical reactions that produce carcinogenic compounds. Epidemiological studies show that eating charred meats may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
• Most people prefer the blackened crust and charred meats. This char has been shown to be full of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when meat and high heat are combined to create a blackened crust.
• Barbecue smoke contains another type of toxins called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These toxic chemicals can damage the lungs.
• When meats are cooked to a high temperature, a chemical chain reaction can occur that creates inflammatory products called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These chemicals cause cellular level stress, inflammation and speed up aging of the cells. Our body cannot digest or get rid of these compounds easily. Over time, AGEs accumulate in the organs and cause damage.

Bottom-line: Eat more plant-based foods and avoid red and processed meats, especially if they are grilled.


Mediterranean Chickpea Salad


1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed (19 oz.)
1 cucumber (diced)
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
1 avocado (diced)
4 cups baby spinach
1 tbsp. lime/lemon juice
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper (to taste)


• Combine chickpeas, cucumber, parsley, avocado, and baby spinach together in a large salad bowl.
• Combine the lime/lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper , and whisk well
• Add the dressing to the salad and toss gently

Lemony Millet


1 cup Millet
6-7 green chilies
4 dried red chilies
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. Chana Dal
1 tsp. Urad Dal
2 tbsp. Peanuts
2 sprigs Curry Leaves
1 Lemon
½ tsp. Turmeric Powder
1/8 tsp. Hing (Asafetida)
Salt to taste
2 tbsp. Oil


• Put the millet in a pressure cooker, add 2 cups, water, and cook for 2-3 pressure whistles.
• Heat oil in a pan, and add the mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal and peanuts.
• Once they start to splutter, add the split green chilies, red chilies, curry leaves and hing and fry for a minute.
• Then add the turmeric powder, cooked millet and salt and mix well.
• Switch off the flame and add the lemon juice to it and mix very well.


Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at