The best part of summer is taking in all the sun, the beach, and enjoying the seasonal foods that all come with it. During these sunny months, we opt for cooler, lighter fare with minimal cooking for maximum flavor. Load up on fresh produce, which is low in calories and bursting with flavor, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. To ensure a variety of nutrients, browse your farmers market and enjoy a new fruit and veggie each week for the rest of the summer. Read ahead for a bounty of fresh options that are in season; they are sure to satisfy your palate, add succulent flavor to any dish, and keep you energized.
Aside from their delicious flavor, berries are high in fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid. They are also a rich source of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. What’s more, they boast anti-cancer properties and protect against heart disease. To reap their benefits, add to burgers, waffles, cereals, and salads. Get creative and puree berries with olive oil for a delicious salad dressing or reduce with balsamic vinegar for a scrumptious glaze that can double as an addition to fish or a low calorie topping for desserts.
This ‘fruit of the summer’ offers potassium and vitamins A, K, and C, and they’re packed with lycopene, which protects against certain cancers. Serve grilled or roasted with fresh mozzarella, basil, salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Tomatoes take center stage in summer appetizers such as fresh salsa, gazpacho, or bruschetta.
A great source of fiber and folate, corn supplies essential fatty acids, linolic and linoleic acid, which the body cannot make but are required for normal growth and maintenance of cell membranes, nerves, and arteries. Each serving offers up 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B1, helping your body with energy production and memory. A great way to serve corn is by grilling it in the husk; simply soak in cold water for 4 hours, grill for 20 minutes and top with parmesan cheese, chili powder and a splash of lime juice.
Zucchini, yellow squash, crookneck, patty pan and other varieties are packed with potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C. The beta-carotene in vitamin A and antioxidants in vitamin C helps decrease inflammation and lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Jazz up your dish by sautéing squash with red onions, mint and goat cheese. You can also create hummus, guacamole, and Greek yogurt dips for appetizers; add to your favorite baking recipe for a nutritional boost in pancakes, muffins or breads.
This thirst-quencher is another great source of lycopene and vitamins A and C. Add cubed watermelon to your salad and top it off with feta or blue cheese. Or grill watermelon slices, then drizzle with honey and serve with fresh seafood. Other refreshing ideas include adding this juicy fruit to smoothies or pureeing to create homemade ice-pops!
Loaded with fiber and potassium as well as vitamins A and C, peaches aid in disease prevention thanks to their rich antioxidant compounds, flavonoids. Add grilled peaches to your poultry dish or sauté with onions for a wonderful accompaniment to fish. For dessert, drizzle peach slices with balsamic vinegar, grill for 12 minutes and top with macadamia nuts and blue cheese.
As you can see, there are countless ways to enjoy summertime produce. Not only do these fruits and veggies pack a nutritional punch, but they deliver a low-calorie way to cool off in the hot summer heat. Embrace the seasonality of produce!
Amie Valpone is a Manhattan-based Culinary Nutritionist and Health & Food Coach. To read more from Amie, visit her site at thehealthyapple.com.