by Jessica Remitz
As you get ready to fire up the grill and head outdoors for another summer of alfresco dining, be sure to fill your plate with some in season and nutrient packed fruits and veggies. Here are five can’t miss items, their health benefits, and how to cook them, straight from the experts.
“Summer is one of the best seasons when it comes to healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Antioxidant-rich blueberries are one of them. In addition to helping strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection and disease, blueberries can help reduce plaque build up, which leads to decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also help with bone health and reduce the risk or slow down the development of neurodegenerative diseases, Sheth said. A recent study from New Zealand also suggests that the antioxidants found in blueberries may help ward off muscle fatigue.
Enjoy them in: your morning yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or yogurt popsicles
This delicious tropical fruit is packed with vitamins A and C—which are beneficial for good eye health and boosting our immune system to help fight against disease. Mangoes are also high in fiber, which can help increase a feeling of fullness, and potassium, which helps with heart health, Sheth said.
Enjoy them in: smoothies, salads, or salsa
Over 90 percent water, watermelon is an excellent source of hydration on steamy summer days, Sheth said. Watermelon also contains lycopene, a powerful carotenoid pigment that helps keep our skin clear and healthy. Because of its high water content, snacking on watermelon can also help create a feeling of fullness.
Enjoy it in: salads, homemade ice pops, and blended into juices
Another superfood rich in lycopene, tomatoes are also known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties, Sheth said. They’re rich in vitamin A, C, E, Folate and potassium—nutrients many of us are deficient in—and are also beneficial to heart health. Their antioxidant properties may also help with bone health.
Enjoy them in: an array of soups, stews, sauces, and healthy, filling summer salads
Low in calories and high in a variety of vitamins and minerals, bell peppers contain phytochemicals and carotenoids that have been associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, age-related eye disease and some cancers. Just ½ cup of bell peppers provides more than 230 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C for only 20 or so calories, according to Sheth.
Enjoy them in: soups, stews, as-is on the grill, and in a variety of salads
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