There’s no denying it, summer fruits and vegetables are delicious, versatile, and so easy to prepare. From straight up snacking, to salads, dips and sides for your next BBQ, you want to take full advantage of the summer harvest. Take a stroll through your local farmer’s market to learn more about the farmers, or visit a U-Pick farm to gather berries with your kids. In this blog post, I share 8 fruits and vegetables that will add fiber, anti-oxidants, flavor and fun to your next meal
Tart cherries are rich in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles; as a result, regular consumption may help improve sleep quality and time. In addition, tart cherries may benefit athletes: their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds may help reduce muscle damage and pain during tough exercise–so you can move on to your next workout sooner! Whole black cherries lend a rich, sweet taste and are brimming with anthocyanins, fiber, and immunity-boosting vitamin C.
You might think of figs as a fall fruit, but the fruit actually has two distinct harvests: one in the summer and one in the fall. The breba crop, which starts in June, is known for being less sweet In addition to being a good source of fiber, figs are a natural source of prebiotics, a type of carbohydrate that supports the good bacteria in our gut known as probiotics. Rich in fiber and potassium, figs are a nutritious addition to a salad.
Next time you serve eggplant–whether stuffed, stewed, grilled, or stir-fried–make sure you leave the skin on: the peel is rich in an anthocyanin compound called nasunin. In studies, nasunin was found to improve cognitive function by protecting the lipid-containing membranes around nerve cells. Other antioxidant and phenolic compounds in the culinary fruit have also been shown to protect against free radical damage and improve blood flow to the heart.
Watermelon might just be the perfect summer fruit: because it’s made of 92% water, it’s extremely hydrating on hot summer days. It also has some of the highest levels of lycopene of any fruit; lycopene is a phytonutrient that has been found to protect skin against UV damage from within. Lycopene has also been linked to cancer prevention and heart and bone health.
Like watermelon, tomatoes are also rich in lycopene. Tomatoes play an important role in heart health: their wide variety of phytonutrients provide antioxidant support and have been shown to improve lipid profiles in the blood; specifically, their consumption is linked to decreased LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pair tomatoes with fats like olive oil, mozzarella cheese, or avocado: healthy fats improve the absorption of their nutrients!
Berries are a great summer snack: compared to other fruits, they are generally higher in fiber and lower and lower in sugar. Berries owe their deep red, purple, and blue colors to anthocyanins, which act as anti-inflammatories and have been shown to reduce the effects of age-related memory loss. Snack on berries alone, enjoy with yogurt or cottage cheese, blend them up in a smoothie, or top your salad for a healthy high fiber carbohydrate.
Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates, which may improve cardiovascular profiles: one study found an association between consumption of beet juice and a reduction in blood pressure. Those same nitrates also have benefits for athletes: researchers theorize that when those nitrates are absorbed and turned into nitric oxide, they reduce the need for oxygen and enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
Compared to winter squash varieties, summer squash is more tender and has a thinner skin–meaning you can eat the whole fruit and all of the nutrients it has to offer. The skin is particularly rich in antioxidants, while the seeds contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, the flesh contains high amounts of lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, anti-inflammatory carotenoids that are linked to eye health. Summertime grilling wouldn’t be complete without a delicious skewer recipes. Onions, tomatoes, grilled squash and zucchini are perfect for skewers.