Summer: the holy grail for great weather, long days and fresh produce. Many fruits and vegetables ripen into beautiful colors and even more delicious flavors during these hot months. In-season produce not only has more nutrients, but is also more delicious than when grown out of season. Discover the nutritional benefits of summer produce and try a few of our favorite recipes to take advantage of summer’s spoils.
Broccoli, and its many other variations, is low in calories while being fat and cholesterol-free. An abundance of vitamin C exists in this cruciferous veggie, which is needed for growth and repair of body tissues. Bonus nutrient alert: broccoli contains sulforaphane, which has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer.
If you’re on the high-end regarding blood pressure, consider adding cherries to your diet. They contain potassium, a natural blood pressure reducer. Cherries may also combat cancer due to their nutrient-rich base of beta carotene, vitamin C, quercetin and anthocyanins. The anthocyanins work overtime by aiding fat burning while decreasing fat storage.
The American Optometric Association ranks corn as one of the most eye friendly foods. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two nutrients that are essential in protecting against cataracts and
age-related macular degeneration. Corn is one of the few vegetables to contain significant amounts of both nutrients.
Eating cucumbers during the hot summer months will keep you hydrated as they consist of 95 percent water. Despite their high water count, cucumbers still boast impressive amounts of vital nutrients. The abundance of B vitamins may help reduce stress and anxiety while pro-inflammatory enzymes fight inflammation. Utilize cucumber’s low-calorie count as a healthy snack throughout the day.
Green beans are rich in various vitamins to keep our immune systems strong and assist cell growth. Iron, often associated with red meat, is essential for your red blood cells and muscles. Green beans also have fiber, which helps with healthy digestion and keeps you feeling full. Not only are green beans delicious, but they may prevent you from binge snacking later too!
Despite their size, peas are powerhouse legumes that carry many nutrients. As one of the best plant-based sources of protein, peas will keep you feeling full and contain a high amount of fiber. If you’re worried about controlling blood sugar levels, these little legumes should be in your diet. Peas are praised for their low glycemic index, which means that your blood sugar does not rise quickly after consumption. Finally, peas may benefit digestion due to their high amount of fiber. The good bacteria in your gut needs fiber in order to prevent bad bacteria from overpopulating.
Peppermint, one of the most popular herbal teas, offers a cooling sensation that can be introduced in various recipes throughout the summer. Peppermint has strong antimicrobial and antiviral activities, in addition to being a strong antioxidant. If summer allergies are keeping you under the weather, peppermint also offers some anti-allergenic properties.
Popeye the Sailor had one thing going for him when he attributed his strength to spinach. The leafy green is nutrient-dense with high levels of iron and zinc. Spinach also contains antioxidants such as flavonoids, which reduce the risk of cancer. Finally, spinach may assist in slowing down the aging process by maintaining brain function.
Arguably one of summer’s sweetest spoils, strawberries contain more vitamin C per ounce than citrus fruit. Vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers in the gastrointestinal tract. The fruit also boasts high levels of vitamin A, potassium and phosphorus. With the most bang for your buck, strawberries are one of the most affordable superfoods as well.
As one of the most highly consumed foods in the United States, tomatoes offer many nutritional benefits in addition to their delicious taste. High levels of folate, vitamin C and potassium exist in tomatoes. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world. It can slow the growth of cancer cells and fight other toxins and pesticides.
Shop for in-season summer produce at your local farmers market or grocery store. Having fresh produce on hand will motivate you to cook at home and discover new recipes. Look for summer produce recipes that double-dip with nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. Dishes such as shirazi salad, fresh pea soup with mint and steak sandwiches with spinach and strawberry salad are not only healthy, but taste delicious too.