This is my favorite time of the year. The days are getting longer, the sun is stronger, and winter is definitely over! It’s the perfect time of year to work on healthy habits like exercising more and eating better. If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you might have noticed that the produce department is brimming with fresh tomatoes, strawberries, black berries, and even corn on the cob. It’s definitely spring in New England, and summer is not far behind. Before we know it, farmer’s markets will be popping up everywhere.
Late spring and summer foods can be some of the most nutritious around, and this list includes my must-have “Seasonal Superfoods” – the ones that provide exceptional amounts of nutrients, have numerous health benefits, and should be on your table every week.
Berries –Blueberries, black berries, raspberries, and strawberries are some of nature’s most potent sources of antioxidants. They can help prevent cancer, heart disease, and inflammation related to many diseases. Buy a container of each, toss them together, and make summer oatmeal with berries for a healthy, warm weather breakfast.
Tomatoes – Canned tomatoes are one of the most frequently consumed vegetables in America, mainly because of our love for pizza, ketchup, and salsa, but nothing beats the taste of the fresh vine -ripened tomatoes, which are available starting right now. Loaded with the antioxidants lutein and lycopene, as well as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium, tomatoes have been shown to reduce the risk everything from cataracts to cancer. Their antioxidants are best absorbed when tomatoes are heated or roasted, and eaten with a bit of olive oil.
Cantaloupe – This melon is actually a member of the cucumber family, and the sweet, juicy fruit can keep you cool as a cucumber on a hot summer day. Cantaloupes are full of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and just a 1-cup serving has as much potassium as a banana. This, along with their high water content, makes them a perfect recovery food to enjoy after exercise.
Vidalia Onions – Onions have many medicinal benefits and have been used to treat coughs, breathing problems, and bacterial infections in Chinese medicine. Vidalias are the delicious and surprisingly sweet onions grown in central Georgia, and they are available only during the spring and summer. Onions (like garlic) are rich in sulfides, which may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Eat them while they’re available, and remember to stock up at the end of the summer – onions can be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place for up to 4 weeks.
Wild Salmon – While you can buy farmed salmon year-round, wild salmon usually comes from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and is mostly available from late May through August. Anyone who has compared the color, taste, and texture of both wild and farmed salmon knows that the two are very different. Both are a great source of protein and are high in brain and heart healthy omega-3 fat (although it may depend on what the farmed salmon is fed), but the rich, deep flavor of wild salmon just can’t be beat. An added plus is that they are far more environmentally friendly and free from coloring agents, antibiotics, and additives often used in feed and in other aspects of the farming process. If you’ve never tasted wild salmon, now is the time to try it!
Fresh Herbs – Whether you have a spot in the garden or just a sunny windowsill, fresh herbs are very easy for anyone to grow. Not only do they make almost any food pop with summertime freshness, herbs can also provide lots of health benefits: mint can soothe stomach indigestion; rosemary stimulates the immune system and reduces inflammation; garlic can help reduce heart disease; the antioxidants in oregano and basil can protect cells from damage, and the oils in basil’s leaves prevent the growth of bacteria. Not sure which herbs to use and when? Check this out.
Broccoli – OK, maybe this one is readily available all year long, but no list of Superfoods is complete without it! Broccoli (along with cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) is a cruciferous vegetable, and most famous for its anti-cancer properties. Researchers have studied the compounds in broccoli for years and confirmed that they can actually increase the death rate of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. For a seasonal twist, try slicing the stalks the long way, toss them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and then grill.
Next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market, bring home these Super Seven, and get started on some healthy eating!