8 delicious summer foods that are good for you, too
Editor’s note: Caroline Kaufman is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a Master of Science in Nutrition Communication. She is the founder of Caroline Kaufman Nutrition, a holistic nutrition practice that promotes health from the inside out. Connect with Caroline on Twitter, Pinterest and her blog.
Farmers markets are brimming with beautiful, ripe produce for the picking, local foods are flooding the supermarket, and it’s finally time for juicy berries and stone fruits to take center stage.
With only a few short weeks before we say goodbye to summer’s superstars, don’t miss the benefits of these eight great summer foods:
Bing cherries, with their deep scarlet hue, are more than just a messy sweet treat. They contain two potent antioxidants that fight cancer and heart disease: quercetin and anthocyanins.
They also contain naturally occurring melatonin, a supplement famous for its sleep inducing-qualities. However, foods that contain melatonin might actually help with weight control by stimulating the growth of brown fat, a type of fat that burns calories instead of storing them, according to recent studies.
True to its name, this deep pink fruit is 92% water. That’s great news if you’re watching your weight because eating hydrating foods helps you eat less and feel more satisfied at meals. People with elevated blood pressure may also want to reach for a slice: A recent study found that high-dose watermelon supplements significantly lowered blood pressure in overweight individuals.
Pick a watermelon that feels heavy for its size and give it a good knock; if it sounds hollow, you’ve got a winner.
Whether they’re ripe and red on the vine, or beautifully ugly heirlooms, tomatoes never taste better than when they’re in season. Some evidence suggests that the antioxidant alpha-lipoic-acid in tomatoes may help reduce blood sugar levels as well as protect brain and nerve tissue.
Choose tomatoes that are firm with a slight give to pressure and have an earthy smell. Store at room temperature.
One cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange and more fiber than a slice of bread — all in just 45 calories. They’re also rich in antioxidants such as quercetin, a natural anti-inflammatory, and ellagic acid, which slowed tumor growth in animal studies.
For best flavor, refrigerate berries in their original clamshell or a container lined with a paper towel. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat and serve at room temperature, recommends the California Strawberry Commission.
Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines and plums)
Juicy stone fruits have compounds that may fight metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. These compounds may also help combat breast cancer, according to a 2010 lab study.
Ripe stone fruits should be firm but yield slightly to the touch.
Summer squash grows rapidly in the warm months, which is why many backyard farmers spend late summer pawning off their abundant harvest on friends. Since they’re 95% water, shredded zucchini is a perfect low-calorie way to sneak moisture and nutrition into baked goods such as muffins and main courses such as meatballs.
One cup of sliced zucchini is a good source of potassium, which helps moderate blood pressure. They are also rich in vitamin C, the antioxidant that protects our cells from damage, promotes wound healing and boosts our immune system. Look for zucchini that are firm and free of cuts.
Small but powerful, blueberries and strawberries were singled out as superfruits by the Nurses’ Health study, which followed nearly 100,000 women for 18 years. Women who ate the most were one-third less likely to have suffered a heart attack than those who ate the least, according to The Harvard School of Public Health.
The key? Anthocyanins, a chemical compound that research suggests reduces blood pressure and keeps blood vessels flexible. They’re also packed with vitamin C and have almost 4 grams of fiber per cup, which aids in weight management and reduces cholesterol levels.
Look for blueberries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth with a silvery shine called a “bloom,” advises the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Protect your eyes from damaging UV rays with corn on the cob. The yellow kernels contain lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that act like internal sunglasses, filtering harmful rays and protecting your eyes from free radical damage that can cause cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association.
For the best corn, feel for whole, plump kernels underneath a tight green husk that has sticky tassels at the top.