Favorite Healthy Summer Foods
Whether tending to your veggie-filled garden or enjoying a fresh fruit salad at a barbecue with friends and family...
...it’s hard to miss the abundance of produce that summer brings. After all, what’s a classic warm weather day without a sweet slice of watermelon?
Farmers’ markets offer a rainbow of fresh options, from sun-kissed berries and juicy peaches to vine-ripened tomatoes and bright, crisp green beans, setting the perfect stage for local, clean eating. Eating summer foods during summer months means you’re getting them at their nutritional peak, and usually their lowest cost. So, take in all the colorful choices — these are some of our favorites — and experiment with new ways to enjoy them with recipes from the Canyon Ranch Kitchen.
Note: Be sure to thoroughly wash all produce before consuming, including organic fruits and vegetables.
Full of fiber and eye health-promoting beta-carotene, apricots are a sweet sign of summer. While they’re readily available dried the rest of the year (look for un sulfured to avoid allergic reactions, if you’re sensitive), you’re in for a special treat when you can enjoy them fresh. Choose apricots that are plump, firm and uniformly colored; store at room temperature until ripe, and then in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for three to five days.
The betalain pigments that give super-sweet beets their deep red color protect against inflammation and help the body rid itself of toxins. Beets are also a good source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps the body break down the heart disease-promoting compound homocysteine. Choose firm, smooth beets that are free of any nicks or blemishes. If they have leafy tops, avoid any that look wilted.
Besides being rich in fiber, blueberries contain anthocyanins — compounds that give them their bright color and can help you stay sharp. Research finds that a diet rich in these and other berries is associated with decreased rates of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. Look for firm, plump picks with a dusty blue color (the whitish tinge you see on the skin is the fruit’s natural protective coating), and refrigerate for up to 14 days. Wash only what you’re ready to eat to avoid leftover berries that turn soggy or moldy.
With an earthier, more tart flavor than other berries, these dark-hued beauties are just as rich in fiber and antioxidants as their sweeter cousins. Choose blackberries that are shiny and free of bruises. Keep refrigerated for up to six days, rinsing only just before you’re ready to eat them.
In addition to being packed with vitamin C, vitamin K and the mineral folate, this cruciferous vegetable is also rich in glucosinolate compounds that can cut your risk of cancer if eaten regularly. Look for odorless heads with tight florets, and keep refrigerated for up to five days.
This fragrant melon is packed with skin-protecting vitamin C and vision-boosting vitamin A. It’s also a good source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. Look for a melon with a slightly golden rind that is firm and has a sweet, flowery smell. Leave on the counter to ripen, and store in the fridge once cut. Be certain to wash the outside of the melon before cutting so any outside dirt is not exposed to the fruit inside.
Also known as string beans, these snack-worthy veggies are a good source of disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin K, which can increase bone health. Look for crisp beans that snap when bent, and keep them in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week.
A good source of filling fiber and the mineral manganese, which plays an important role in metabolism and bone health, eggplant offers plenty of nutritional value. The hearty texture makes it a suitable stand-in for meat in vegetarian main courses. Choose one that feels heavy for its size and doesn’t have any cracks or discolorations. Store yours in your refrigerator’s crisper for up to seven days.
These fuzzy fruits are a good source of vitamin C, a nutrient that also helps boost immunity and keep damaging free radicals at bay. Choose fruits that are free of blemishes and store in a paper bag until ripe; the skin will yield to gentle pressure when they’re ready to eat.
Peaches are featured on the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Dirty Dozen Plus list—a shopper’s guide to fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. We recommend buying organic peaches whenever possible.
Often grouped with their fuzzy-skinned cousin, the peach, nectarines actually contain twice as much vitamin A and more potassium and vitamin C (a skin-smoothing bonus). Make sure they’re firm with smooth skin; store in a paper bag until ripe and then transfer to the refrigerator for up to three days.
Imported nectarines are featured on the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Dirty Dozen Plus list—a shopper’s guide to fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. We recommend buying organic nectarines, or those grown in the United States, whenever possible.
This quintessential summer fruit (yes, fruit!) is an antioxidant and heart-healthy compound packed with the pigment lycopene—which gives many types of produce their red, orange and yellow hues—and is linked with lower rates of prostate, lung and stomach cancers. Choose tomatoes with bright, shiny skin and firm flesh, and store at room temperature until sliced for best flavor.
Cherry tomatoes specifically are featured on the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Dirty Dozen Plus list—a shopper’s guide to fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residues. We recommend buying organic cherry tomatoes whenever possible. Pesticide levels on other types of tomatoes can vary depending on how and where they are grown. We recommend buying organic or from a local farm that you know avoids pesticide use.
Like tomatoes, this pink fruit is rich in lycopene. Look for a symmetrical melon that has a dried stem and a yellowish underside. Store at room temperature—doing so increases the fruit’s concentration of lycopene by as much as 40 percent, according to research from the United States Department of Agriculture. Keep the cut fruit in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This green summer squash is low in calories and high in fiber. It’s an excellent source of potassium, which is beneficial to heart health. And it’s also a great source of vitamin C and the little-known but important element molybdenum, which helps the body produce energy. Shop for zucchini with bruise-free, slightly prickly but shiny skin. Store it in the fridge for up to five days, and wait to rinse until you’re ready to use it. The seeds can be left in or scooped out.