Summer is a great time to get on board with fruits and vegetables since there’s a variety of tasty options this time of year. All fruits and vegetables - whether you buy them fresh at the farmer’s market or frozen in the supermarket - provide health-protecting substances.
Here are some summertime staples from our Nutrition Advisor, Samantha Cassetty, that are absolutely refreshing to consume during the summer heat, and they come with the added benefit of being healthy for your body:
Cherries have antioxidants that have been shown to protect against breast cancer in the lab. Nutrients in cherries also help keep blood pressure levels steady, protect your brain, and calm the inflammatory process that can advance a number of diseases. Antioxidants in cherries can also help protect your skin from wrinkling.
Zucchini is a source of potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in your body. For example, you need magnesium to help maintain healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels. In addition, magnesium is involved in your body’s relaxation response, so it’s also a helpful nutrient for sleep.
Watermelon is about 90 percent water, so it helps you meet your daily fluid requirements. It also contains a substance called l-citrulline, which has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after a workout. This same compound has also been found to relax the lining of your blood vessels, which helps improve blood flow. The lycopene and vitamin C in watermelon can also protect your skin from sun damage.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy watermelon is to make a simple salad by tossing it with cucumber, feta cheese and mint or basil. Yum!
Tomatoes are 95 percent water, so they can help you stay hydrated, which is especially important when it’s hot out. In addition, tomatoes supply 27 percent of the vitamin C needed each day. This nutrient is involved in your immune function, and it also helps support healthy skin. Tomatoes also supply potassium, which is necessary for healthy blood pressure. And the lycopene in tomatoes may protect against sunburn. Tomato sauce has more lycopene than fresh tomatoes, but either way, tomatoes are beneficial.
Another of my favorite summery recipes is an easy shakshuka made with a jar of tomato sauce and spirailized zucchini. Add spirailized zucchini to a cast iron skillet, pour in a jar of no-added-sugar sauce, and let simmer for a few minutes until the zucchini is slightly softened. Then, make some dents in the sauce and crack an egg over each dent. Next, put the skillet in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until your egg whites have set. Presto, a veggie-rich dinner is ready! If you’d like a little cheese, try adding some parmesan or feta on top. If you’d like more carbs, serve it with some whole grain pita.