Summertime brings to mind picnics, barbecues, snow cones, ice cream and sweet tea – which can all wreak havoc on healthy eating intentions if you’re not careful. As it gets hotter, start thinking about fruits and vegetables as refreshing alternatives to sugary summer snacks. Try some of these power foods this summer to keep your waistline slimmer and your mood brighter.
If you read the nutrition facts on cherries, you’ll learn that cherries are low in calories and good sources of fiber and potassium. But the real benefits of cherries won’t be listed in the label. Cherries are packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, cancer-fighting compounds. The main cancer contenders in cherries are quercetin, ellagic acid and perillyl alcohol. Cherries are also packed with potassium, an important mineral that can help lower blood pressure. Due to the powerful anti- inflammatory effects of cherries, these small fruits may help reduce muscle soreness after workouts.
All berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberrie, and blackberries – are amazingly rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. Summer is the perfect time to take a look at these powerful health promoters. The rich blue pigment in blueberries is thanks to the free radical fighting anthocyanins that contribute to several beneficial effects on the body. Raspberries are famous for their high fiber content. A measly 64 calories for one cup of raspberries provides a whopping 8g of fiber – you’ll need to eat more than 100 calories worth of black beans to get the same amount of fiber. Compounds in strawberries and blueberries map help protect your brain and memory while also reducing inflammation.
Keep cool as a cucumber with this thirst-quenching vegetable (botanically speaking it is actually considered a fruit). You don’t have to only drink water to stay hydrated during the summer, you can eat it too! Cucumbers are 95 percent water, low in calories and high in fiber. Research indicates that water-packed foods can help promote weight loss. Staying well hydrated in the scorching heat can help boost your memory, mood and energy levels. Plus, bad breath doesn’t stand a chance against cucumbers. Try holding a slice of cucumber to the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds to let the phytochemicals kill the smelly bacteria. Don’t peel the skin on cucumbers or you’ll miss out on some vitamin C.
Tomatoes are very popular – from famous condiments like ketchup, hot sauce and salsa to spaghetti sauce and tomato juice. These red powerhouses are mostly known for their abundant supply of lycopene that imparts their radiant red color. Diets rich in lycopene and tomatoes have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and certain types of cancers including prostate, pancreatic, breast, lung and stomach. Lycopene is known as a superior cancer fighter. This phytochemical is best absorbed with a healthy fat like olive oil. Fresh tomatoes are in season during the summer so look for these at local farmer’s markets. Keep in mind that most of the nutrients are in the skin, so smaller is often better for a nutritional boost (think cherry or grape tomatoes).
5. Iced Green Tea
Nothing hits the spot on a summer’s day quite like a tall glass of green tea. This antioxidant-rich Chinese tea may offer protection against cancer, inflammation and heart disease. Green tea may help in improving mood and relaxation based on the substance theanine. This compound helps release neurotransmitters to calm down the brain and triggers dopamine, the brain’s captain over pleasure.
While tomatoes are easily available year-round, watermelons are only freshly available in the summer months. The red hue of watermelon signifies that it is also a rich source for the wonderful phytonutrient lycopene. Try to eat watermelon after a meal with healthy fats to improve the absorption of lycopene. Consuming more lycopene during the summer will provide protection against the sun’s hot rays and possibly prevent sunburn. Watermelon is 92 percent water (hence the name of the fruit) and will help contribute to daily fluid needs. The water content of this fruit makes it the perfect choice for those trying to lose weight since water bound to food helps slow down digestion making you feel satisfied for longer and on less calories (less than 50 calories per cup of diced watermelon). What’s not to love about this thirst-quenching, low calorie, high volume, nutrient-rich fruit? Plus it’s extremely delicious!
Healthy Summer Recipe Ideas
- Toss up a watermelon salad with feta cheese, mint, and olives
- Grill up some vegetables or even try grilling fruit, like pineapple and watermelon
- Freeze dark sweet cherries for a refreshingly frozen treat
- Fruit salsa: dice up some fruit then add cilantro, chopped onions and a touch of lime
- Cool down with a bowl of gazpacho soup – a tomato-based chilled soup full of vegetables
- Fruit Kebabs: skewer strawberries, kiwi, melon, bananas and mangoes
- Lemon-Blueberry Ice Pops – freeze blueberries in lemon juice for a bite-sized popsicle snack
- Caprese Bite: dab of mozzarella, pinch of fresh basil and drizzle of olive oil sandwiched between a cherry tomato
- Sweeten up a glass of green iced tea with blueberries, nectarines or peaches
- Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup: blend together cucumbers, Greek yogurt, few spoonfuls of an avocado and fresh mint with a few ice cubes
- Peanut Butter Strawberry Sandwich with whole grain crackers
- Watermelon Slushie – made with real watermelon
- Green Tea and Blueberry Smoothie sweetened with a teaspoon of honey
Written by Jordyn Forsyth, MS, RD, LD, CDE
Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.