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Diane May, a registered dietician with Scarsdale Medical Group, is a huge proponent of eating seasonally and locally. Here she shares which super foods you should grab this summer at your local market. Summer happens to be one of the yummiest seasons for fresh produce, and these super foods will have you feel amazing!
Arugula: This is a spicy cruciferous green that is packed with high nitrate levels, which have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance. Arugula has high levels of sulfur-containing compounds that have been shown to lower the risk of developing certain cancers, and is packed with Vitamin K and Alpha lipoic acid. Instead of your usual romaine or spinach, try adding arugula to salads or sandwiches for a twist. You can also use arugula in pesto to make a healthy pasta dish.
Avocado: Botanically classified as a stone fruit, avocado has a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Avocados are a naturally nutrient-dense food and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including a natural plant sterol called beta sitosterol that can help maintain healthy cholesterol as well as lutein and zeaxanthin for vision, beta carotene, Vitamin K, and folate. Avocados are calorically dense (64 calories per 1/5th avocado) but a great source of healthy fat and nutrients, so enjoy! Add avocados to salads, mush them up to make a mayo-like spread for sandwiches, add them to a fruit smoothie, or make a healthy guacamole with a side of baked tortilla chips for dipping.
Beets: High in dietary nitrate, beets can improve muscle oxygenation and are also very high in fiber, which can help aid constipation. Beets are a rich source of folate and manganese and also contain thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, magnesium phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. Roast beets to bring out the sweetness and toss them with arugula and goat cheese for a delicious and nutritious summer salad. Or add them to hummus for a new flavor.
Berries: This is the season to indulge in all kinds of berries. They are loaded with antioxidants and soluble fiber. Eat them as a snack or make a sweet dessert that is heart healthy. You could also add them to yogurt or freeze them for an icy, fun texture.
Cherries: Sweet cherries contain fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. They can assist with inflammation and aid in sleep, as they are a natural source of melatonin. Consuming tart cherries may activate PPAR (peroxisome proliferator activating receptors) in your body’s tissues, which help regulate genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism, and may help to lower your risk of heart disease. Great on their own for a snack, cherries can also be used in pies or preserves, or added to a fresh fruit crumble.
Cucumbers: Made up of 95 percent water, cucumbers are low in calories and can assist with dehydration in those hot summer months. Cucumbers contain high levels of nutrients known as cucurbitacins and contain lignans, which research has shown may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several types of cancer. Keep them cold for a refreshing snack or add slices to water for extra flavor. Try hollowing out the seeds and filling them with peanut butter or cream cheese for a healthy snack.
Eggplant: This contains many beneficial nutrients and phytochemical compounds. The fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, vitamin B-6 and phytonutrient content in eggplants all support heart health. Try grilling sliced eggplant or roasting it in the oven with some sea salt and olive oil. For an ooey gooey treat, dip eggplant slices in an egg wash, cover with breadcrumbs, top with cheese, and bake.
Green beans: Green beans contain a high amount of chlorophyll, which helps in normal blood clotting, wound healing, hormonal balance, deodorizing and detoxification of the body, and digestive health. It has healing effects on oxidation and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try steaming and adding to salads, or eating green beans raw as a snack. They make a great vehicle for dip, so pair them with some ranch dressing or beet hummus.
Stone fruits: The nutritional vitamins and fiber in stone fruits (fruits with large pits) such as peaches and nectarines can help with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Yummy on their own, they can also be added to salads or baked into desserts.
Tomato: With phytochemicals such as lycopene, tomatoes also play a role in preventing chronic disease and deliver other health benefits. As an excellent source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. Try making a fresh sauce with tomatoes, garlic and some olive oil and salt. Also, this is a good time to jar or freeze fresh tomatoes for use all year long.
Watermelon: Made up of 92 percent water, watermelons have high levels of lycopene water and fiber. Try having watermelon as a salad with some low-fat feta crumbles for a refreshing change of pace, or make fresh smoothies, popsicles or fruit kabobs with them.
In the northeast, beets, carrots, kale, spinach, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, strawberries, radishes and herbs will all flourish in your home garden. Put marigolds around your tomatoes to keep those pesky bugs away.
These are just some of the amazing fruits and vegetables available in the summer. Diane May recommends walking through your local farmers markets or joining a CSA to discover all sorts of delicious produce. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been proven to reduce rates of obesity, lower the risk of disease and help with overall physical performance, so get out there and eat those fruits and vegetables. The more you eat them, the more likely your kids will, too!
The provision of high-quality, personalized health care to Westchester County and New York’s Hudson Valley region has been the mission of the Scarsdale Medical Group for more than 50 years. Their working philosophy of compassion, confidence, and commitment has enabled them to become known and respected by patients and peers throughout the tri-state area.
Scarsdale Medical Group, 600 Mamaroneck Avenue, Suite 301, Harrison; 914-723-8100