Our typical summer activities look a little different this year. Beach visits, big backyard barbecues and vacations have been put on hold (sigh). But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our seasonal treats (we’re looking at you, popsicles!). From watermelon and cherries to zucchini and tomatoes—your local market is a rainbow of delicious colors (and we love them all!).
Eating produce in peak season means you are getting the most nutrients, and if you’re buying them locally, even better! Studies have shown that the fruits and veggies locally grown have higher levels of vitamins and nutrients because they haven’t suffered a nutritional breakdown that transportation and processing can cause. That bag of spinach in your fridge could have lost up to 90 percent of its nutrient content by the time it hits your table.
Whether you hit up your local farmers market or grocery store, there’s an abundance of seasonal options loaded with healthy benefits. To get you started, here’s a list of our top picks to steam, grill and blend all summer long.
A highly nutritive fruit containing vitamins A and E, and the compounds beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin all shown to promote eye health. Sweet and tart, apricots can be enjoyed fresh or dried. I like to add them to dinner and top chicken or steak. For a trip to the savory side, turn to this Chickpea Tagine recipe.
We all know blueberries are a powerhouse superfood. High in fiber and antioxidants, the nutrients they contain can neutralize the free radicals known to cause cellular damage that may lead to premature aging or the development of disease. Add them to a parfait for a gorgeous and good-for-you breakfast or even to a grain side dish.
Available at their peak from late June through August, cherries are another antioxidant rich, deeply colored fruit brimming with fiber, potassium and vitamin C. High in polyphenols, cherries have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Don’t set aside cherries for dessert. Incorporate the juicy fruit right into dinner by tossing some onto a yummy salad.
A refreshing summer staple, watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods there is. Also, high in lycopene and vitamin C, watermelon benefits brain health and its nutrients may delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Try Watermelon Pizza for a fun snack.
Loaded with vitamins and minerals, beets contain a high concentration of dietary nitrates, compounds that convert to nitric oxide in the body which dilates blood vessels. This results in a blood pressure lowering effect helping to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Step out of your cooking comfort zone by making this Beet Bourguignon and Pilaf dish.
Packed with water and soluble fiber (eat the peel!) cucumbers also contain flavonoids and tannins, compounds especially effective at preventing free radical damage. A known powerhouse in the beauty industry, cucumbers have cooling and anti-inflammatory benefits when used topically over the eyes or in a face mask. Pair this Cucumber Feta Greek Yogurt Dip with some kale chips at your next snack sesh. It’s fresher and lighter than those heavy, packaged dips found on the store shelves.
Technically a fruit from the nightshade family, we treat tomatoes as vegetables in our preparation and consumption of them. A great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K, tomatoes consist mostly of simple sugars and insoluble fiber. Switch up your typical leafy green salad to this Tomato Cucumber & Mint Salad.
Zucchini is one of the most versatile of veggies. You can grill, blend or bake it in a variety of ways. It contributes to good gut health via soluble fiber which acts as a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria living in your gut and may reduce the symptoms of some gut disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It also works well in this Sweet Potato Zucchini Bread.