With summer almost here, you may be looking to offset the heat, especially in the kitchen. One way to do that is to create refreshing meals that take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Using summer superstars like watermelon, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, sweet corn, peppers, or zucchini will add color and flavor to your meals. They also add healthy fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and inflammation-fighting choices to your plate. And you may even escape the heat of the stove.
Depending on your area, summer produce can include:
Fiber, micronutrients, and more
Summer fruits and vegetables contain many healthy ingredients. For example:
- Fiber. Biting into a fresh fruit or vegetable just sounds healthy — it’s that snap and crunch as you shred the plant’s fibrous strands. “Fiber helps us in many ways. It’s the indigestible part of food that acts like nature’s broom, sweeping out what it can along its path, including possible carcinogens. Fiber keeps you full, and it’s associated with lower levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, and chronic inflammation,” says Debbie Krivitsky, a clinical dietitian at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center. “Fiber also increases the diversity and abundance of healthy bacteria in your gut.”
- Micronutrients. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients — plant chemicals like carotenoids (in tomatoes and squash), anthocyanins (in berries), and terpenes (in cherries) that may help ward off chronic inflammation and chronic disease. “Eat the rainbow, as different color fruits and vegetables provide different antioxidants that provide protection against all chronic disease. The deeper the color of the fruit and vegetable, the richer the antioxidants,” Krivitsky says.
- Water. Eating watery fruits and vegetables (cantaloupe, cucumber, peaches, strawberries, and watermelon) contributes to your fluid intake, helping you stay hydrated in the summer heat.