Six Superfoods for Summer
I love this time of year! All of summer’s best picks are available at my local farmer’s market, which I’ve been going to twice a week and loading up on juicy berries, sweet cherries, fabulous figs and succulent stone fruit. My snacks and desserts have been fruit-based and I’ve been experimenting with dinner salads with various fruits for the past few weeks—and I’m already feeling better for it.
If you haven’t been to your local farmer’s market lately to see what’s being harvested, now’s the time. Warm-weather fruits are cropping up all over the country. Here are six of the best picks that taste as great as they are for our health.
The orange-yellow color of apricots is a sign that they’re an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. They also provide potassium, vitamin C, fiber and is even has a little iron to boot. A single apricot has just 17 calories so they’re very diet-friendly too.
Enjoy: Apricots are a great snack but can also made into wonderful energy bars, or chopped and enjoyed with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. You can pan-sear them with a bit of butter and cinnamon and serve with Greek yogurt. For a great appetizer, top apricot halves with a light cream cheese and chive mixture and top with crushed pistachios. Apricots are perfect to partner with chicken and pork as well as grains like brown rice and couscous.
Blueberries may be small but they have big health benefits. A cup of blueberries is around 80 calories and the blue-hue of the berries means they’re rich in polyphenols. The polyphenols in blueberries have been shown to act as antioxidants and they may help protect us against heart disease, certain cancers, and other conditions associated with aging—from memory and cognition to bone and joint health. A serving (1 cup) also contains 3 grams of fiber and is a good source of vitamin C.
Enjoy: A handful is one of the best ways to eat blueberries, but they’re also great used in a blueberry-mango parfait with low-fat Greek yogurt and granola. Top your favorite cereal with them or make whole wheat pancakes or waffles with them.
Whether you enjoy big sweet Bing or Rainier cherries or the tart ones I grew up with in Northwest Michigan, the bite-sized orbs provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. The pinkish-red to purple-black hues of cherry skins comes from anthocyanins. These colorful compounds that give cherries their color have been shown to play a role in reducing symptoms associated with arthritis, inhibiting advanced glycation end products (markers associated with signs of aging). They may also help reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancer and type 2 diabetes. A cup of sweet cherries (with pits) has about 85 calories and 3 grams of fiber and they’re packed with pressure-lowering potassium. Tart cherries have just 50 calories a cup and are packed with potassium and vitamin A.
Enjoy: Sweet cherries are best eaten hand-to-mouth. But, you can also use them as a tasty mix-in with yogurt or on top of oatmeal. They’re also great in whole grain energy bars. You can make cherry glazes or compotes to serve with chicken or fish. Tart cherries are great in baked goods but the dried tart cherries provide a great flavor to salads and grain-based side dishes.
Thanks to the Mediterranean-like growing conditions of California, the Gold State has the perfect climate and soil to grow fantastic figs. The main variety grown in Cali is Black Mission figs, named for their distinctive dark purple-black skin. Figs are rich in antioxidants and also provide potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C and iron. One fig has 30-35 calories and 1-2 grams of fiber.
Enjoy: Figs are perfect eaten out of hand, but they can also be used in many types of fruit- or lettuce-based salads. You can chop them up and add them to hot or cold cereal or combine with yogurt. You can also make a fig salsa to pair with meat and poultry. Figs are also great poached and topped with yogurt or chocolate-dipped.
Raspberries have great nutritional value because they have 65 calories per cup, are rich in vitamin C and pack in a whopping 8 grams of fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer. Raspberries contain the flavonoids quercetin and gallic acid, which have been shown to play a role in heart health and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and age-related declines. Raspberry ketones are the compounds that provide the fresh aroma of raspberries and are thought to play a role in metabolism.
Enjoy: Raspberries can be enjoyed eaten as a snack, but you can also enjoy them in salads, made into sauces to partner with chicken or in grain-based side dishes.
Strawberries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium and beneficial phytonutrients. A cup of strawberries has just 45 calories and provides more vitamin C than an orange!
Research shows that strawberries are heart-healthy, may help control blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and may help delay declines in cognitive function and memory as we age. Anthocyanins give the berries their red color and provide a potent antioxidant punch.
Enjoy: Eat ‘em as they are or use on top of your favorite breakfast—hot or cold cereal; with yogurt; or on top of waffles or pancakes. Make a super salad with spinach, strawberries, toasted sliced almonds and Gorgonzola or goat cheese with a light vinaigrette. My favorite festive dessert is Strawberry Cheesecake Bites that have just 40 calories each compared to more than 350 calories per slice of traditional strawberry cheesecake.