Give your taste buds a treat with these power foods.
Summer is here, reminding us why this season is to be enjoyed for many reasons. But, one of the best is that summer is the perfect season for enjoying eating more fruit. First, it’s when many fruits are ripe, available, least expensive, and taste the best. And don’t forget that besides their nutritional punch, fruits provide hydration on hot, balmy days helping boost energy while reducing tiredness and fatigue.
Let’s take a look at four commonly eaten summer fruit favorites reminding you to eat more of this delicious and nourishing produce:
You can’t go wrong with berries – whether blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries – each are fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, and full of antioxidants. The American Cancer Society agrees that you should eat some berry daily, bursting with nutrition. That is because berries contain a powerful type of antioxidant called polyphenols – including ellagic acid – and anthocyanins that counteract, reduce, and repair damage to cells. And if you’ve ever admired berries’ jewel-like tones, you should. The darker the color of a fruit (or vegetable), the higher the concentration of phytochemicals, a plant substance good for reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
While not native to the U.S., cherries are grown in most parts of our country. The dark, rich color of sweet red cherries indicates their high levels of anthocyanin pigments and phenolic compounds. Cherries also supply a good source of vitamin C and satiating fiber. Besides vitamin C and antioxidants, sour red cherries are also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is necessary for regulating the growth and differentiation of all cells in the body.
- Peaches and Nectarines
It wouldn’t be summer without eating a ripe, juicy peach or nectarine. Most states also grow peaches even though they are native to China. Nectarines came from a natural mutation of peaches. When eaten with the skin, these summertime favorites inhibit LDL oxidation and are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and niacin. The best indicator of the best time to eat peaches or nectarines is when they smell fragrant. Avoid peaches or nectarines that are either green or overly soft. To ripen them up faster, place them in a paper bag.
Originating from Africa, watermelon is another quintessential summer fruit. August is peak watermelon season, perfect for keeping hydration levels adequate on hot, humid late summer days. A fun fact to know about watermelon is it has more beta-carotene than berries and a lot of iron for a fruit. But what makes watermelon stand out is its rich source of the phytochemical called lycopene, which rivals the lycopene levels found in cooked tomatoes. Lycopene is what gives the gorgeous pinkish-red color to the interior of this fruit and is associated with reducing prostate cancer. Diets high in watermelon are also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Creative ways to increase intake of summer fruit
A diet with plenty of colorful summer fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean beef, poultry, and fatty fish, help protect against cancer and other diseases. But, no one food by itself will reduce disease risk. Instead, when healthy foods are combined, synergy is created between the multitude of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, all working together to keep your body functioning correctly.
In the meantime, enjoy plenty of summer fruit by incorporating them into your diet – here are a few ideas:
- Have a fruit (and vegetable) at every meal
- Keep a fruit bowl in the kitchen for a quick grab-and-go snacking
- Toss fruit onto oatmeal or dry cereal
- Make whole fruit smoothies
- Slice fruits or add berries to leafy green salads
- Make elegant cold fruit soups by pureeing fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, or peaches; thinning with a bit of fruit juice or milk; and adding spices, such as cinnamon or a dash of pepper for strawberries.
- Place peeled, sliced fresh fruit in the freezer. Put frozen fruit in a blender with a dash of lemon juice and a little spice to make a sorbet.
- Grill fruits such as peaches. Grilling softens the fruit and gives it a more complex flavor, making it an ideal accompaniment to meals.
- Use chopped peaches or watermelon for salads.