It’s high time for fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, and while your top ten choices might differ from mine, you really can’t go wrong with any produce picks. Either way, the spring and summer offer ample opportunities to maximize your nutrient intake and feel better for it. Seasonal produce is at its peak in nutritional value, beauty, and flavor. There is not much that’s more satisfying than a favorite fruit or vegetable fresh from the dirt, vine or tree. Here’s my top ten.
1. Strawberries – Summer-fresh strawberries are as smooth and sweet as they get. Strawberries include an amazing array of plant nutrients that make them a superstar among seasonal fruits. This dessert is a good source of fiber with a low glycemic index.
2. Sweet corn – Peak of the season corn is best eaten as soon after it’s picked as possible. Steamed, boiled or grilled, there isn’t much that screams summer more than fresh corn. This high-fiber vegetable with well-documented antioxidant benefits is just as good straight from the cob as it is mixed in pasta dishes and topped on salads.
3. Tomatoes – Often known for their rich concentration of lycopene, tomatoes have long been linked to heart health and anti-cancer benefits. With dozens of varieties to choose from, and easy to grow (even in containers), tomatoes are most enjoyed fresh from the vine.
4. Peas – Peas are part of a food group – legumes – that are recognized for preventing disease and optimizing health. Surprisingly, and even though they are an extremely low fat food, peas are also a reliable source of omega-3 fats and provide us with important fat-soluble nutrients.
5. Arugula – Also known as salad rocket, arugula is a nutritious green leafy vegetable that comes from the same family as mustard greens, cauliflower and kale and is rich in vitamins A, C, K, and B-complex, and small amounts of essential minerals such as calcium and potassium. Served independent of it green counterparts, or combined with other favorites, arugula lends a peppery flavor to summer salads.
6. Watermelon – In addition to being one of the most delicious summertime treats, alongside tomatoes, watermelon is on the front-lines of research related to high lycopene foods. Known for its role in cardiovascular health, scientists are now recognizing lycopene’s benefits to bone health as well. There is great value in allowing watermelon to fully ripen, allowing its lycopene and beta-carotene contents to fully mature.
7. Peaches – Summer time is the season of peaches. Wonderfully delicious and low in calories, look for peaches that are rich in color with a sweet aroma and yield to gentle pressure. If you purchase them slightly hard, simply keep them at room temperature until they ripen.
8. Cherries – Sweet or sour cherries are bursting with nutrition. Sweet cherries, in particular, are a natural blood pressure reducer containing high levels of potassium, and the antioxidant quercitin, which may help relax blood vessels. The riper the better for cherries since they produce more antioxidants the darker they get.
9. Avocado – Optimally ripe avocados are known for their silky texture and rich flavors, lent to them by their high fat content - upward of 80% of calories in avocados come from fat. Eaten solo, or added to salads, sandwiches and side dishes, avocado can provide health benefits in the areas of blood sugar control, insulin regulation, and weight management.
10. Blueberries – Another one of nature’s healthiest candies, you can feel good eating this dessert that is laden with vitamin C, fiber and vitamin A, among other health-promoting antioxidants.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich, naturally gluten-free, and filled with fiber. Get out to your garden, farmers market, or local grocery and take advantage of all this season has to offer.