By Sarah Stevenson
Who doesn’t love summer? Wearing bathing suits, playing Frisbee at the beach, swimming on a warm August night, and the abundance of yummy fruits and veggies that grow during the summer months. There’s truly nothing like the flavor of food that’s ripe and ready to be eaten from your local farmers’ market or, if you’re lucky, from your own backyard. Not only does local, seasonal food taste better, but less time traveling from vine to plate means it maintains more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Here’s just some of the produce in season that’ll keep you healthy and strong. That way, you can enjoy every last sunset and sunrise this summer.
- Cucumber. Most of us could use a bit more fiber in our diets. The secret is to also up your water intake, so your food can move freely through your system. Cucumbers have the perfect balance of the two. This veggie is great for those summer months when you get all hot and sweaty. Cucumbers are a tasty, convenient snack food and a refreshing pick-me-up to your salads, sandwiches, and even water.
- Melons. Melons are a summer superfood. They’re great, low-calorie snacks that give you a nice, fresh pick-me-up. Melons are full of water; in fact, watermelon in particular gets 92 percent of its weight from water, and its cousins, cantaloupe and honeydew, don’t fall far behind. You might notice most of the fruits and veggies that bloom in summer are a great source of water, which of course is Mother Nature taking care of us in the hot, sweaty summer months. Melons do a great job at filling your tummy as well. Full tummy but hot body sounds like a perfect combination for swimsuit season, right?
- Avocado. This summer fruit often gets a bad rep for its fat content. Too bad, because it’s good fat, if eaten in moderation. Fresh, ripe avocados contain non-oxidized monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can lower blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. Why do we love this summer fruit particularly in the sunbathing season? It does a great job at filling up your tummy due to its high fat content, so you’re not quite as vulnerable to those naughty snacks that keep you begging for more. There’s also research that suggests avocados can reverse the aging process by providing plenty of vitamin E to heal damaged skin.
- Corn. You can buy this summer BBQ staple year-round, but it really tastes the best and is most cost effective during the summer months because, you guessed, it’s in season. It contains a bunch of digestive enzymes that will help metabolize your food once it hits your intestines. Corn is high in antioxidants, which keep your immune system healthy. (Who wants to be sick in the summer?) It is a fantastic source of fiber, and it contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. So throw some corn on the barbie. It’s good for you.
- Lemons. Lemon trees are in bloom year-round, so they aren’t actually considered a seasonal fruit. But I always think of the summer days when my sis and I would squeeze a bunch of lemon juice in our hair before we went surfing, so our hair would get lighter. Like cucumber, lemons are a great way to spice up your water. Doing this makes for a natural system cleanser that aids digestion (warding off heartburn and gas) and stimulates your liver, according to many holistic practitioners. Furthermore, when you squeeze a little lemon in your water, you tend to drink more, which is always good. Lemons are also a great exfoliant, which is super helpful for those summer days when you start to look like a lizard shedding its skin from all that baking in the sun. Finally, it can also work as a teeth whitener to make your teeth even whiter against your tan skin for a stunning smile. So when life gives you lemons, sure, you could make lemonade, but why not stay away from all that refined sugar? Instead, make hair lightener, teeth whitener, exfoliant, and yummy water.
- Green beans. These crunchy, scrumptious little veggies are great raw for a summer snack. They also taste amazing grilled with garlic and lemon, and are so incredibly good for you. They’re rich in manganese, a nutrient that helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Manganese also metabolizes vitamin E, which fights against the signs of aging (an inevitable occurrence that increases when you’re exposed to too much sun). This means green beans should be on your grocery list this summer to help keep your skin beautiful and your body fit.
- Peppers. Peppers have more flavors and are less expensive during the summer months when they’re in abundance. Peppers add vivacious color and flavor to your summer meals and contain a plethora of nutrients. The sweeter bell peppers (red and yellow) are packed with vitamin A, which keeps your skin nice and strong while incidentally fighting off infection. Hot peppers like habaneros, jalapenos, serranos, cayenne, and chipotle peppers are low in calories and have the much-desired benefit of being metabolism-enhancing fat burners. Don’t blaze off your taste buds trying to shed pounds, but do add a little heat to your summer plates to help kick-start the pound-shedding process.
- Tomatoes. These easy-to-grow backyard buddies contain many nutrients that serve as allies against summer’s negative attributes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is found to be effective in fighting the signs of aging due to ultraviolet light. So when you cut up a nice, juicy tomato and toss it in your salad, you are actually increasing your chances of keeping the youthful sheen that sun exposure can take away. Lycopene also helps fight against cancer. Tomatoes contain vitamins A and C as well as beta-carotene, which are heavy hitters in the war against free radicals that cause cell damage.
- Cherries. If life were really just a bowl of cherries, it would be one blissful life. Why? Because cherries contain some pretty awesome nutrients. For starters, they contain melatonin, a natural hormone produced in our brain’s pineal gland that is known to slow the aging process. Increasing your melatonin levels can offer the benefit of a beautiful night’s rest, as well as acting as a pain reliever. Cherries also contain antioxidants (a trend in summer produce, apparently). A 1999 study at Michigan State University found that the antioxidant activity of tart black cherries is greater than plain ol’ vitamin E. That’s certainly not the pits.
- Peaches. Have you ever compared a peach in the winter and a peach in the summer? If you have, you know how obvious it is that this is indeed a summer fruit. Peaches contain many nutrients that your body needs to stay vital and strong, including vitamins A and C, as well as other antioxidants and fiber. Like corn, peaches also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect your eyes from sun damage.
So don’t starve yourself of delectable food this season. Summer offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables packed with nutrients to make you as beautiful as you can be. Take advantage of the season. It won’t be here forever.