Friday, July 1, 2011

Benefits of Summer Produce

Repost Courtesy of: Beachbody

Seasonal Summer Produce
By: Cecilia H. Lee
· Apples: Different varieties come in season starting in mid- to late summer and right on through autumn. Be sure to eat them skin and all to get the best health benefits.

· Apricots: Originally from China, apricots are not only delicious, but they're also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. Look for fruits that are plump, firm, and uniform in color.

· Avocados: Though their seasons vary, summer is a good time to find ripe avocados in your local stores. High in monounsaturated fats, they also contain vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, plus a couple of those B vitamins.

· Basil: Summer is the best season to enjoy this aromatic herb—a great ingredient to liven up pastas, sandwiches, or salads.

· Blueberries: Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, a handful of these babies are great when you toss them into a low-fat smoothie or on top of some yogurt for a nutritious snack.

· Carrots: Not only are carrots good road-trip snacks, they also have pro-vitamin A carotenes that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

· Chard: Like spinach, chard is low in calories and contains phytonutrients including syringic acid, which inhibits carbs from breaking down into simple sugars, thus warding off issues like diabetes by keeping blood sugar steady.

· Cherries: Cherries are high in vitamin C and potassium, and if you go pick them yourself, you'll get the additional benefit of some good old-fashioned exercise.

· Corn: A summer BBQ staple, its folate and B vitamins can contribute to improved cardiovascular health.

· Cucumbers: Cucumbers are great for your skin, muscles, and connective tissue, plus they're chock-full of water, fiber, and vitamin C.

· Eggplant: The beautiful purple skin found on these late-summer vegetables is good food for your brain.

· Fennel: This Mediterranean bulb is rich in vitamin C and phytonutrients, especially anethole, which a 2000 University of Texas study showed to have some anti-cancer effects.

· Figs: Fresh figs available during the hot months are a great source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.

· Garlic: Volumes have been written on the benefits of this stinky bulb, which include how good it is for heart health and how its antiviral properties may be able to help keep us from getting sick.

· Grapes: Great for snacking, they're low in calories and contain the heart disease-fighting phytonutrient resveratrol, normally associated with red wine.

· Green beans: Steam these crisp vegetables for a healthy side dish that's filled with carotenoids, which are great for your heart and more.

· Lemongrass: Used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking, this citrusy herb is high in folic acid and has been shown to have antioxidant and disease-preventing properties.

· Lettuce: Not all greens are equal, so go for the mixed greens, romaine, or red leaf lettuce for the best benefits in your salads.

· Mangos: Though higher in calories, one cup of diced mango can provide 75 percent of your daily vitamin C recommendation.

· Melons: Cantaloupes and honeydews should be heavy for their size and give off a sweet, melony smell. And watermelons aren't just refreshing, they help hydrate you and give you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

· Nectarines: Look for firm fruits with smooth skin, and enjoy them for their delicious flavor and vitamin C.

· Okra: Delicious grilled or in gumbo, this summer vegetable has an abundance of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and folates.

· Onions: Onions are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which means good news for your cardiovascular system.

· Oregano: Found in cuisines from the Mediterranean to Mexico, this herb is great for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.

· Peas: These delicious and easy-to-eat legumes help support blood sugar regulation.

· Peppers: Originally native to Central and South America, these spicy and sweet beauties contain lots of natural antioxidants.

· Plums: Related to other stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and apricots, these antioxidant-rich fruits are also great for helping with iron and vitamin C absorption.

· Rhubarb: Rhubarb is good for more than just pie—it's a high source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

· Spinach: As Popeye can attest, spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, rich in lots of vitamins, and especially in iron and calcium.

· Strawberries: Most strawberries are grown in California and Florida, where the peak growing season is April through June. Most other places will see local berries in July, just in time for an Independence Day celebration. Grab a bowlful and get ready for off-the-chart levels of vitamin C and fiber.

· Summer squash and zucchini: Usually in season between May and July, these relatives of the melon are great for your heart.

· Tarragon: This culinary herb has been used in medicine throughout history for such things as stimulating appetite and alleviating insomnia. It's also great for calcium, manganese, iron, and a bunch of vitamins.

· Tomatillos: Little green cousins of gooseberries, these summer vegetables are high in niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin C.

· Tomatoes: Vine-ripened varieties of tomatoes are in season from July through September. They're high in lycopene, a great antioxidant.

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Cecilia H. Lee is a food and travel writer, an artist, and a chef. A James Beard Award nominee, she has authored several books. Her latest, Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, includes delicious, nutritious Mexican recipes you can make in just 30 minutes or less. When she's not climbing a mountain somewhere, Cecilia writes, eats, and gardens in Los Angeles.

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