Now that the warm weather has finally arrived, we can look forward to eating fresh, local produce. Here are some of the healthiest foods that are in season this summer that you can have on your dinner table tonight.
Strawberries ripen in early May, so they are the first fruits of summer. High in vitamin C and flavonoids, strawberries make a great addition to any meal. Slice them and add them to a salad or dessert or blend them with yogurt or other fruit for a delicious smoothie.
Blueberries contain one of the most powerful antioxidants, which can help to prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. To add a nutritional boost to your breakfast, sprinkle them over a whole grain cereal or stir them into Greek or plain yogurt for added flavor.
Bonus: Have both, together!
Eating watermelon on a hot summer day is a fond childhood memory for most of us. Fresh watermelons can be purchased all summer long, typically from May to September. They are high in lycopene, which is a phytonutrient that is important for cardiovascular health. Allowing watermelon to fully ripen before eating it will maximize its nutritional benefits. Because of its high water content, you can consume a whole cup of diced watermelon for under 50 calories!
Like watermelon, you can find fresh peaches from May through September. This delicious fruit is a good source of vitamins C, A, and beta carotene. They taste best when they are fully ripe — when you can smell a peach, it is a good indicator that it has reached its peak ripeness. Try dicing peaches and serving them over a green salad or blending them with frozen yogurt for a sweet treat.
This popular summer vegetable contains more folic acid than any other vegetable. It is also a great source of vitamins A, C, potassium and fiber. Asparagus can spoil quickly, so cook them soon after purchasing. A great way to prepare asparagus in the summertime is to roast them in the oven or place them on the grill with a drizzle of olive oil and kosher salt.
Summer wouldn’t be the same without a fresh slice of tomato on your salad or burger. Tomatoes are easy to grow in your garden or in a container on your front porch. They are high in lycopene as well as other nutrients such as niacin, vitamin B6 and folate, which all protect against heart disease. Try making your own salsa with fresh tomatoes or prepare your own tomato sauce and freeze it for a delicious red sauce you can use on your favorite dishes all winter.
Corn, which is a type of grass, is another summer favorite that can be purchased fresh all summer long. While most people boil or steam corn once it is husked, it can be cooked by placing it directly on the grill in its own husk. Like other vegetables, corn is high in fiber, folic acid and vitamins B3, A and C.
Tomatoes and corn make a great salad combo!
Zucchini has a variety of uses in cooking and can be eaten raw (in a salad or with a fresh dip) or cooked. Slice it and place it directly on the grill with some non-stick cooking spray for a delicious side dish at your summer cookout. Because of its high water content, it can be added to baked goods like breads or muffins to add moisture without adding fat. Like other summer vegetables, zucchini is also high in vitamins A and C, and fiber.
If you aren’t into gardening, you can find most of these fresh summer vegetables at a roadside stand, farmers’ market or grocery store. For a fun family outing, try a pick-your-own farm to sample some of these summer treats. They will be gone before we know it!
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Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian, receiving her undergraduate degree in dietetics from James Madison University and her master’s degree in health education and administration from Towson University. She is a certified specialist in adult weight management and teaches cooking classes. Carmen enjoys educating her clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness. She also loves volunteering, including as a Girl Scout troop leader.