The boost of summer sun can make us feel healthier, but it’s also one of the riskiest times for skin cancer

Watermelon

Watermelon will help keep you hydrated © iStock

Eat better

Broad beans

Broad beans are definitely underrated. ‘As well as providing a source of protein, fibre, vitamins A, B6 and C, potassium, manganese, folate and iron, they also contain levodopa, a chemical the body uses to produce dopamine [the neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and motivation system],’ explains Jane Mitchell, creator of the Jane Plan diet.

Simply boil, then serve buttered with a Sunday roast or add to pork- based meats, such as bacon, pancetta and chorizo.

Blueberries

Blueberries, with their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, have been linked to heart health, cancer prevention, enhanced brain function and improved eyesight.

‘Some studies have suggested that the antioxidants in blueberries could even help to delay the ageing process,’ says Dr Sally Norton, GP, NHS weight-loss consultant and founder of vavistalife.com.

‘Pop a handful into a smoothie or on top of some natural yogurt and granola for a healthy breakfast option.’

Strawberries

Strawberries are in abundance in summer months. ‘Apart from the beautiful depth
of colour they bring to your salads and smoothies, strawberries are a valuable source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, packed with vitamin C, a source of fibre and a healthy dose of potassium and folic acid,’ explains Jane.

Add to everything from pancakes to cereals, or simply serve with cream.

Broad beans

Broad beans are definitely underrated.

‘As well as providing a source of protein, fibre, vitamins A, B6 and C, potassium, manganese, folate and iron, they also contain levodopa, a chemical the body uses to produce dopamine [the neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and motivation system],’ explains Jane Mitchell, creator of the Jane Plan diet.

Simply boil, then serve buttered with a Sunday roast or add to pork- based meats, such as bacon, pancetta and chorizo.

Watermelon

Watermelon is the ultimate summer snack. ‘It has a high water content, but also contains good levels of electrolytes, such as potassium, that help to regulate water balance in the body and keep us well hydrated,’ says nutritionist Amanda Hamilton (amandahamilton.com).

‘There’s nothing sweeter than snacking on a juicy slice of watermelon, but it’s also a great addition to a salad as well. I love the taste combination of watermelon with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

‘Finish the dish off with a drizzle of olive oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt for a delicious light lunch.’

Scallops

Scallops are high in protein and rich in nutrients – vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper, phosphorus and selenium. They’re usually sold removed from their shells as, unlike mussels or oysters, only part of the scallop is eaten.

Look for ones that are plump, firm and moist with a sweet aroma. Some scallops are soaked in water, which increases their weight but impairs flavour and texture.

Unsoaked scallops should be creamy or slightly off-white. They’re cooked to perfection when they’re opaque and just firm. Slicing into two thinner discs can help if the scallops are big.

Oatcakes

In winter, we tend to crave fatty, calorie-rich foods to keep us warm. But in summer, lighter snacks and meals are a much better and more appealing choice.

‘Oatcakes make a fantastic summer snack or light breakfast topped with feta and cucumber slices, or tomato and houmous,’ says Amanda.

‘They also contain magnesium, which is essential for energy – and two-thirds of us are not getting enough of it. Oatcakes are also a great choice for summer picnics instead of a calorie-laden, high-GI baguette that will give you a blood-sugar rush!’

Sour cherries

Tart cherries have been found to contain high levels of antioxidants – the benefits of which include anti-inflammation, better sleep and improved sports recovery.

‘Reports have suggested that an increased intake of these cherries could help to reduce certain post-workout side effects, such as muscle aches, inflammation and weakness,’ explains Dr Sally Norton.

Use them to make a pie or tart – or pack a few into your lunch box for a healthy mid-afternoon snack at work.

Woman swimming

Improve your summer health by taking up swimming © iStock

Do more

Swimming

Swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises for strengthening the heart, helping it to become more efficient and leading to better blood flow.

Summer is the perfect time to swim in open water, but make sure you stay safe. Only swim at an established open-water location. Visit h2openmagazine.com for a list of open-water events
at recognised venues.

The website can also give you contact details for your local triathlon club.

‘Never swim alone,’ advises Jo Mitchinson, National Masters Open Water medallist. ‘Tell people where you are going and wear a bright-coloured swimming cap so you are highly visible.’

Try comfortable, no-fiddle wide-vision goggles (£23.99). And if you fancy trying your hand at open- water swimming, why not enter a Great Swim in 2016? Check out greatswim.org for the distances available.

Tennis

‘This is a particularly popular sport in the UK, and for very good reason,’ says Melody Coleman, personal fitness and swim coach (bodyprojectpt.com). It’s a fun and social way to get fit and has the benefit of short bursts of intense speed followed by short recovery periods, much
like interval training.

‘It’s a fast-paced game, which will work your whole body hard! Double up to share the challenge with a teammate,’ she advises.

Visit the Lawn Tennis Association’s website for advice on finding local clubs, coaching and tournaments.

Beach games 

Group activities such as cricket, rounders or volleyball can be a light-hearted and competitive way to get active.

‘Organising community games with friends and family or spontaneous games on holiday can also be a wonderful bonding experience,’ says Melody.

Bat and ball games work your trunk, upper arm and shoulder muscles, while sand helps reduce the impact on your joints, improving your lower-limb strength and increasing the stability of the muscles around your ankles.

Even tossing a Frisbee around is moderate aerobic exercise that works upper and lower body muscle groups.

Outdoor/park gyms

Many parks and open spaces now offer open-air gym equipment for public use.

‘Typically, these facilities will include a manual treadmill/cross-trainer, a leg press and a sit-up bench allowing you to mix cardiovascular exercise with resistance work,’ says Melody.

Bring a towel to cushion your body when seated on metal equipment and try this workout, resting between each move:

D 10-minute walk to warm up, increasing your speed gradually.

D Arm circles, trunk rotations and leg swings to stretch and activate your muscles.

D Treadmill/cross-trainer/bike/other cardio for 1 min. Leg press or similar machine for 1 min.

D Shoulder press/press-up/similar machine for 1 min. Lunges for 1 min.

D Pull-down/row/similar machine for 1 min.

D Repeat this circuit once, twice or three times for a 10, 20 or 30-minute workout.

Stay well

Try a stress app

Using technology to help us relax might feel like a paradox, but it’s surprisingly effective for some.

The Pip (£145, thepip.com) measures stress reactions via skin (electrodermal activity). As you hold it between your thumb and finger, it allows you to ‘see’ your stress levels, so you can visualise what you’re feeling, as you’re feeling it.

The four different accompanying apps (‘Four Steps to Mindfulness’, ‘The Loom’, ‘Relax & Race’ and ‘Stress Tracker’) teach you not only how to recognise stress, but how to reduce it.

Meanwhile, the Muse headband (£220, Amazon.co.uk), which also syncs to your phone, is described as the mental equivalent of a treadmill, exercising and training your brain to become aware of your distractions.

Be mindful

Do you eat breakfast in a daze, shower in a trance and brush your teeth on autopilot?

Try to focus on what you’re doing instead. So, if you have a cup of coffee, smell the fragrance, feel the warmth of the mug, use all the senses to be ‘in the moment’.

Meditation requires some investment, but studies show that it can actually rewire your brain to permanently reduce stress levels while increasing feelings of contentment.

Read a mood-boosting book

The ‘Reading Well Mood-boosting Books’ scheme is a national promotion of uplifting titles, including novels, poetry and non-fiction – all recommended by readers and reading groups which, experts hope, will help those with depression, anxiety and stress.

Titles include The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce and Us by David Nicholls. They are part of the ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme, supported by the Department of Health.

To find out more, visit reading-well.org.uk.

Health Hotspot

D Food poisoning cases double over the summer mainly thanks to the great British barbecue. So always make sure any barbecued food is thoroughly cooked before eating.

D Be careful cooking food on the barbecue – it can be toxic as cooking at high temperatures causes the formation of potential carcinogens.

Marinating the meat for around four hours beforehand can substantially reduce the levels of harmful chemicals. Try a mix of apple cider or balsamic vinegar, red wine and lemon, or lime, garlic and herbs.

D Six million of us jet off on holiday without travel insurance yet, despite fears of theft, lost luggage and missed flights, the most common reasons for claims are illness and injury.

In fact, medical bills for British holidaymakers who fall ill abroad have almost doubled in the last decade with average claims costing over £900.

Cup of coffee

Take the time to really enjoy your daily cup of coffee © iStock