By Isadora Baum
Summertime is almost here, and that means some of your favorite nutrient-dense fruits and veggies are at their peak ripeness for the season. Whether you’re grilling up some fresh watermelon with feta cheese, or you’re blending strawberries with protein powder for a post-workout smoothie, there are so many ways to enjoy spring and summer’s best offerings.
Not only are these foods tastier, but also they are cheaper at the store, since they’re right in season and accessible. To take full advance of their quality and versatility, add these 10 foods to your shopping list and work them into wholesome meals at home.
These red berries are rich in vitamin C, providing over 100% of your daily needs in just one serving, and they are packed with fiber to keep you fuller longer. “You’ll also benefit from a variety of antioxidants when eating strawberries, too, including anti-cancer ellagic acid and anti-inflammatory anthocyanins,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. That means you’re protecting your heart and skin health, too.
“Strawberries are easy to enjoy with yogurt or on top of oats, but you can also incorporate them into seasonal desserts like these low sugar strawberry chocolate oat bars,” she says. You can also add to chilled soups, salsas and spreads, smoothies, and salads.
Asparagus is also a good source of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A and folate, so it’s great for your heart, skin, and immune system. “You’ll also benefit from its variety of flavanoid phytochemicals,” she says.
Grilling is a delicious way to prepare asparagus in the spring and summer—just imagine with a nice piece of steak, salmon, or grilled tofu. Or you can also chop to make a puree or chilled green soup for the warmer temperatures. “Enjoy it chopped to incorporate into grain bowls or even risotto.” Got leftovers from off the grill? Add to your breakfast omelet or frittata.
Artichokes happen to be an excellent source of dietary fiber, with Jerusalem artichokes in particular having high amounts of prebiotics too, which are important for building a favorable balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. So, they help create “good gut bacteria” by feeding probiotics and can further boost your immune system.
“Additionally, they’re a good source of folate, magnesium and vitamin C,” she says. When preparing from fresh, you’ll get the most nutritional value, but make sure to avoid boiling, and instead to roast, grill, slow cook, or pressure cook, as boiling can degrade some of those nutrients.
“With any of these methods, you’ll want to drizzle olive oil and add herbs to the center of the artichoke, which may be easier if you slice it down the middle. You can eat right from the stems, or remove to incorporate into a variety of dishes,” she says.
With a subtle peppery flavor, arugula adds dimension and texture to many dishes while also offering folate and calcium on top to improve bone density and build strong muscles. Plus, it’s also a good source of Vitamins A and C for better heart and skin health. “To enjoy, make a salad with watermelon and feta, use as a topper for a grilled pizza, or incorporate into a grain bowl with farro and salmon,” Jones suggests.
“Whether sweet or tart, cherries are rich in antioxidants that support heart health and muscle recovery from intense exercise,” she says. So, add to a post-workout smoothie or nosh on a few with some Greek yogurt.
“They also naturally contain melatonin and can therefore aid in sleep,” she adds. Simply pair fresh cherries with nuts for a snack, slice and pit before adding to your favorite salad, or roast and use as a topper for everything from bruschetta to pancakes. It’s super versatile and right in season.
Leeks are a part of the same family as onions and garlic and are an excellent source of Vitamin A, so take advantage of them during these warmer months. “You can enjoy them in an upgraded version of a classic dish with this potato leek and kale soup, incorporate into a frittata, add as a garnish to salads or grain-based sides, or even mix with mashed potatoes.
Snap peas and snow peas are both delicious in lightened up pasta and potato salads, risottos, and of course, stir-fry dishes with protein (think chicken, steak or tofu), veggies and grains. “They’re also great as a stand alone side dish, when sautéed for just a few minutes with minced shallots,” she says. And in particular, snap peas are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, and snow peas are super high in iron and manganese.
Like other varieties of potatoes, these potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, the latter, which helps to balance out electrolytes and re-fuel post-workout.
“They are also a good source of vitamin B6, and they provide fiber as well as 3 grams of protein, per serving to fill you up,” she says. Potatoes are often used in potato salad dishes in the summer, which you can lighten up by utilizing a vinaigrette or hummus instead of a mayo-based dressing. They’re also delicious grilled or roasted with some garlic cloves.
“Like many other fruits and vegetables, apricots are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, while also providing a good source of potassium and fiber, both of which benefit heart health,” she says. You can roast or grill apricots before topping with yogurt and honey, mix into a fresh fruit or green salad, use as a topping for oatmeal or waffles, or just snack on them as is.
This yellow citrus fruit is best known for its high vitamin C, but it also provides antimicrobial immune-supportive phytochemicals to keep you well all year long.
Yet, they are in season for spring and summer.
“Use fresh lemon juice to brighten any dish, as acid is a good flavor to round out meals. This includes everything from seafood to pasta as well as sweeter dishes, too,” she says. You can make your own honey sweetened lemonade (using a natural, healthier sweetener), incorporate into a cocktail or mocktail to enjoy on your outdoor patio, or even bake lemon bars from scratch, too.
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