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Top 10 Healthiest Summer Foods (#10 is so versatile!)

Summer is a wonderful time for foodies- long daylight hours give you time to cook out on the grill, the warm nights are ideal for lingering outside over dinner with friends, and most of all, there is a beautiful bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy! Plus, all of that delicious produce has some of the best nutrition. Read our list to learn about the top 10 healthiest summer foods!

1. Tomatoestomatoes

Toma­toes’ bright col­or sig­nals their high antiox­i­dant con­tent, includ­ing lycopene, a carotenoid pig­ment. Toma­toes are ben­e­fi­cial for car­dio­vas­cu­lar, bone, eye, and cel­lu­lar health. They are a good source of vit­a­min C, biotin, molyb­de­num, and oth­er vit­a­mins and min­er­als. They’re a sum­mer sta­ple, and are espe­cial­ly deli­cious in cap­rese sal­ad, gaz­pa­cho, or just driz­zled with olive oil, cracked pep­per, and qual­i­ty sea salt.

blueberries2. Blueberries

Blue­ber­ries are one of the best fruits you can include in your diet. They’re low in sug­ar, high in antiox­i­dants, and have a low glycemic index. Blue­ber­ries are ben­e­fi­cial for eye health, and recent stud­ies have shown that blue­ber­ries might ben­e­fit mem­o­ry and slow down cog­ni­tive aging. They even sup­port a healthy bal­ance of gut bac­te­ria! Eat them on unsweet­ened yogurt to get a one-two punch of pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics.

3. Snap/String Beans

Green beans, and oth­er fun-col­ored rel­a­tives like pur­ple sting beans, wax beans, and ‘Drag­on Tongue’ beans, pro­vide fiber, vit­a­min A, folate, vit­a­min K, man­ganese, and small­er amounts of oth­er vit­a­mins and min­er­als. These are young forms of legumes that lat­er turn into beans that can be eat­en in the mature form, and the young green pod form pro­vides high­er con­cen­tra­tions of many nutri­ents.  Steam­ing is the best way to cook snap beans to pre­serve the major­i­ty of their nutrients.

4. Blackberriesblackberries

Often found grow­ing wild around the south, domes­ti­cat­ed cul­ti­vars of black­ber­ry yield larg­er, sweet­er fruits. Blackberries’s beau­ti­ful dark col­or sig­ni­fies the pres­ence of antiox­i­dants that ben­e­fit the brain, heart, and immune sys­tem. They also con­tain min­er­als that are good for your bones. Black­ber­ries are deli­cious com­bined with oth­er fruits from this list in a gluten-free sum­mer crisp.

okra5. Okra

Okra is a quin­tes­sen­tial south­ern veg­etable, but there seem to be two camps when it comes to this pod veg­gie: love it or hate it. I must admit, I was in the lat­ter group until I got bet­ter acquaint­ed with okra through sum­mer CSA shares. Of course, okra can be fried or cooked into gum­bo, but there are lots of oth­er healthy, non-slimy ways to pre­pare it. Many peo­ple pro­claim okra as their favorite veg­etable to pick­le. One of my favorites is to grill okra until it has char marks, and serve it with a dress­ing or dip­ping sauce.  You can also cook it in the wok or oven. Look to Cajun, Caribbean, or Indi­an recipes for inspi­ra­tion. It’s worth includ­ing in your diet because of its vit­a­min A, folate, vit­a­min C, vit­a­min K, and min­er­al con­tent. But the best fea­ture of okra (well, the one that won me over to okra fan­dom at least) is its fiber con­tent. Okra has a unique, mucilagi­nous fiber that helps bal­ance blood sug­ar, lubri­cate the diges­tive tract, feed your friend­ly gut flo­ra, and make my stom­ach feel awesome.

6. Cucumberscucumber

Cucum­bers have vit­a­mins and lig­nans, plus anti-inflam­ma­to­ry and antiox­i­dant prop­er­ties. They help fight inflam­ma­tion, fresh­en breath, and sup­port a healthy weight. Cucum­bers are deli­cious pick­led, used in sal­ads, spi­ral­ized into noo­dles, and espe­cial­ly refresh­ing infused in water with fresh mint.

7. Plums

Like the oth­er bright­ly col­ored fruits on this list, plums are high in antiox­i­dants and fiber. Despite their sweet­ness, plums can also help nor­mal­ize blood sug­ar. While plums obvi­ous­ly would go well in fruity sum­mer dish­es, like cock­tails or a plum tart, you can also try incor­po­rat­ing them in savory meals, like these shrimp-plum skew­ers.

8. Peachespeaches

Peach­es are a source of antiox­i­dant vit­a­min C, fiber, potas­si­um, and vit­a­min A. How­ev­er, be sure to buy organ­ic peach­es, as peach­es’ soft, fuzzy skin tends to absorb more pes­ti­cides, and peach­es are in the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. There are tons of ways to pre­pare peach­es- peach sal­sa, peach ice cream or sor­bet, peach sal­ad with toma­toes and beets, or (my per­son­al favorite), peach­es on the grill. You could gar­nish your grilled peach­es sim­ply with torn basil leaves, serve them on yogurt or ice cream, or for a more impres­sive dish, make seared peach­es and figs with a bal­sam­ic reduc­tion.

cherries9. Cherries

Cher­ries are full of antiox­i­dants like vit­a­min C, carotenoids, antho­cyanins, and quercetin. Cher­ries and their juice are well known for their abil­i­ty to reduce the risk of gout. They’re anti-inflam­ma­to­ry, so they can help reduce pain from con­di­tions like arthri­tis. Cher­ries con­tain nat­u­ral­ly-occur­ring mela­tonin, which is a hor­mone involved in sleep, so they can even help you get a good night’s rest.

10. Summer squash

summer squashes pattypan

Pho­to by Tim Sackton

Sum­mer squash­es, includ­ing yel­low squash, zuc­chi­ni, and pat­ty­pans, are all low-calo­rie and great sources of nutri­ents. Because of their high water con­tent, sum­mer squash­es don’t have many calo­ries, but they can fill you up with their vol­ume, mak­ing them a great weight loss food. These squash­es good sources of antiox­i­dants like lutein and zeax­an­thin, both of which are good for eye health. Most of these nutri­ents are found in the col­or­ful skin, so buy organ­ic and wash the skins so you can eat them. There are also a cou­ple vari­eties of genet­i­cal­ly-mod­i­fied squash on the mar­ket now, so buy organ­ic if you want to avoid GMOs. Squash­es also pro­vide min­er­als, includ­ing cop­per, man­ganese, and mag­ne­sium, and vit­a­mins, like vit­a­min C and B vit­a­mins. The fiber and pectins found in sum­mer squash help sta­bi­lize blood sug­ar, which can be good for appetite con­trol and part of a dia­betes man­age­ment plan. Zuc­chi­ni is great on the grill, sauteéd, spi­ral­ized into “zoo­dles,” in bread (or even brown­ies), or baked into tasty zuc­chi­ni chips.

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