by Dr. Will Cole
Here in western PA, summer means picnics, long days at the pool, and best of all – farmers markets full of fresh, locally grown produce! We’ve talked about what foods are in season in the fall, winter, and spring, but summer provides the perfect environment for many different kinds of produce. Let’s dive into the fruits and vegetables that grow best in the heat of the summer.
One common fruit that grows bountifully in the summer are peaches. This popular stone fruit offers many nutritional benefits such as vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as potassium, beta-carotene, and B vitamins. These nutrients can lead to improved skin and heart health, eye health, and can help prevent diabetes and cancer. Peaches can also help the body absorb iron, so adding this fruit to your diet during pregnancy can be beneficial for both mom and baby.
One of the best aspects of cucumbers is their high water content. While eating a cucumber doesn’t take the place of staying hydrated through drinking water, it is a great way to add a little more hydration to you – or your kids’ – day.
Cucumbers are also inflammation fighters that benefit your digestive, brain, and heart health. They contain antioxidants that fight off many diseases and provide about 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K per serving.
In season from early summer to late fall, raspberries offer a delicious sweet taste perfect for any time of day but have only 5 grams of net carbs per 100 gram serving. Raspberries contain large amounts of manganese, folic acid, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Eating a serving of this fruit can help eye health, prevent infections, regulate feminine health, and aid in weight loss.
While tea is shelf stable all year long, red raspberry leaf tea is made during peak freshness in the summer and is especially beneficial for menstrual cycles and pregnant and lactating women.
This small superfood is packed with a ton of nutrients and is known for its antioxidant properties. Blueberries also have high vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and folate content. Just one cup of blueberries can provide almost 15% of your dietary fiber needs. This nutrient dense berry is a great option to fight the affects of aging on the brain and inflammation in the body, as well as support heart and digestive health.
Like the berries mentioned above, blackberries also contain antioxidants and polyphenols that fight off and prevent cancer. Their folate content is also beneficial for pregnant women as it encourages healthy growth for the baby. A few other health benefits blackberries boast include maintaining healthy skin, strong bones, digestion, and immunity from the B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K.
Strawberries are the longest in-season berry with them being freshest from late spring to late fall. This popular, red fruit is most commonly known to promote a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, but the benefits definitely don’t stop there. Strawberries also help eye health, reduce constipation due to their fiber content, lower the risk of diabetes, and act as an anti-aging food because of the positive affect of skin, hair, and bone health. This fruit can act as a natural teeth whitener as well from the malic acid present. Potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and vitamin C are among the many nutrients you’ll get from strawberries.
Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, is a fruit from the Cucurbitaceae family and is a secret superfood. One cup of this orange melon gives a whopping 108% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A and 98% of the recommended vitamin C. It also contains a good amount of potassium, folate, fiber, and has about 50 calories per cup.
The phytochemicals present give cantaloupe anti-inflammatory properties that will reduce the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. The fiber and high water content help with digestion and detoxing the body.
Honeydew melon is a less popular fruit from the melon family that has a green inner flesh. Honeydew is the only melon that benefits from a drier climate rather than a humid one. Other than hydrating your body because it’s made of 90% water, the biggest benefit honeydew has is vitamin C. Just one cup of this fruit supplies about 50% of the daily recommended value which then benefits immunity, skin health, and prevents many diseases. Be aware of the sugar content as it is does have a higher level compared to other melons like cantaloupe and watermelon.
Yet another melon hits the summer list and this one may be the favorite of all. Watermelon is another fruit that is majorly comprised of water and can be a great option for especially hot summer days. As one cup of diced watermelon has less than 50 calories but supplies many vitamins and minerals – like vitamins A and C, potassium, and antioxidants – and can help with weight loss.
10. Summer Squash
This most likely doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but this is the season where summer squash flourish and thrive. This grouping includes zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash and more. Compared to winter squash, summer squash have less sugar, fewer carbs, and therefore a lower glycemic index score. While each squash has slightly different nutritional benefits, all contain fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and A.
Cherries are truly a summer superfood that can promote overall health. The biggest benefit they provide is decreasing both oxidative stress and inflammation. A few other ways they can improve health is helping with muscle soreness, blood pressure, arthritis, gout, and sleep.
Cherries have such a large impact on these health issues because of the antioxidants, fiber, carotenoids, melatonin, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory compounds they contain. While they are only in season for a few short weeks to months, be sure to take advantage of this delicious fruit while they are available!
Tomatoes act as a staple for many cultures and diets around the world because of the ease and quick growth of tomato plants in warm climates. A few of the nutrients that a tomato has include potassium, vitamins C and A, iron, magnesium, and fiber. Tomatoes can protect the heart, improve vision, and prevent gallstones and chronic diseases.
Tomatoes are a nightshade thought, so they can cause inflammation in certain people. If you think they may be an irritant for you, check out this article all about nightshades.
13. Bell Peppers
Be aware that bell peppers are another nightshade that can irritate the gut lining. If you do tolerate them, bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. While many believe that oranges are the best produce to eat for vitamin C, red bell peppers actually contain over twice as much for the same 100 gram serving.
Bell peppers also contain a large amount of vitamin A and also add to the daily recommended value of Vitamin B6 and folate. While they are packed with nutrients, they are very low in calories and a great alternative to unhealthy snack foods due to their crunchy texture.
Shallots are a smaller type of onion and used often in ayurvedic medicine. They begin harvest in the beginning of summer and continue to be harvested until late fall. Like other Alliums, shallots can help in cases of heart disease and cancer and can also work to detox and toxins or chemicals from the body.
Peas are technically from the legume family but they offer many nutritional benefits. Eating a 100 gram serving provides potassium, fiber, vitamin B-6, 5 grams of protein, and vitamins A and C.
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