7 Healthy Fruits and Vegetables You Need to Eat This Summer

by Renée Leonard Stainton
Posted: January 17, 2017

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We’re through the indulgent Christmas holiday season and can now warmly welcome the slower-paced sunny days, ripe with opportunities for delicious picnics and BBQs, writes Nutritionist and Western Medical Herbalist, Renée Leonard-Stainton.

With a new year, many of us set intentions to eat healthier and thankfully, summer has an abundance of fresh, healthy produce on offer. 

Eating a diet rich in fresh seasonal produce has endless health benefits, ranging from a decreased risk of heart disease, digestive problems and some cancers through to helping lower blood pressure and boosting immunity. 

Where possible, it is advisable to seek out locally grown, organic produce to maximise the food’s health benefits. Summer is the perfect opportunity to gather friends and visit local farmer’s markets or better still, pick your own produce directly from the growers! 

Try adding these 7 healthy, summer fruits and vegetables into your daily diet this season to improve your overall nutrition and reap all the health benefits.

1. Cucumbers

Water is essential for the body's cooling process of perspiration. Similarly to watermelon, cucumbers are made up of almost 95% water, so eating them on a scorching summer day can help you stay hydrated. 

This refreshing summer delight also contains vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese. To add to that, cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol that studies have shown to play an important role in brain health. 

The flavanol, called fisetin, is said to improve memory and protect nerve cells from age-related decline. 

How to enjoy them:

Cucumbers make an ideal base for a green juice, can be tossed into salads or sliced into paleo-friendly crackers ready to top with your favourite dip or spread. 

2. Celery

It’s easy to open a bag of chips or crackers to throw onto a platter with your favourite summer dip. But next time you’re hosting, consider chopping some celery sticks to pass around with that enticing dip! 

Unlike salty, dehydrating crackers or chips, celery has a high percentage of water that can help rehydrate your body. Celery is a good source of free-radical fighting antioxidants along with beneficial enzymes. 

In addition, it also contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. Special compounds in celery act as a diuretic, stimulating the kidneys to flush waste and extra fluid from your body (often the cause of bloating or unwanted ‘puffiness!). 

How to enjoy it:

Chop them up into sticks perfect for dipping, dice them and throw them into salads or fill the inside crevice with peanut butter and raisins (‘ants on a log’ - kids love these!) They’re also a great base (along with cucumber) for cleansing green juices. 

3. Watermelon

Watermelon, mint feta and lime for healthy summer fruits salad

Nothing screams summer produce quite like a cold, sliced watermelon! Munch away happily, knowing that watermelon is a good source of vitamins A and C and lycopene, all of which help to protect the skin from sun damage. 

As the name suggests, watermelon has water content and is extremely hydrating. This makes it ideal for keeping you cool and hydrated throughout the warmer months. It’s naturally high in sugar, but is certainly the healthier option to reach for when the sweet tooth is begging you to reach for an ice-block!  

How to enjoy it:

Nothing beats them sliced straight from the fridge but chopped watermelon can also make a refreshing salad when tossed with mint, lime juice and feta cheese. 

4. Zucchini

Zucchinis (also known as courgettes) contain no saturated fats or cholesterol while providing your body with potassium, fibre, vitamin C and B vitamins, which can help metabolise fats and protein. 

Excessive exposure to sunlight during the summer months can increase the risk of cataracts - eating zucchini can help protect your eyes from this risk because of some specific antioxidants in them that support the blood vessels in your eyes. 

Also, the soluble fibre in the zucchini skin helps to slow down digestion, and so stabilises blood sugar and insulin levels. 

How to enjoy them:

They can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, but lately they’ve become a wholefood darling by way of ‘zoodles’ a.k.a gluten-free, paleo-friendly noodles made from zucchini/courgettes. Zoodle dishes are easy to make at home, and there are lots of recipes online that you can follow. 

5. Berries 

If you forgo the pavlova or ice cream that often accompany delicious summer berries, you’ve got a guilt-free superfood delight that can be enjoyed all season long. 

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all superfoods that are packed with nourishing vitamins and minerals. Vibrant and juicy berries are filled with flavonoids, powerful disease fighters found in many fruits and vegetables.

How to enjoy them:

There is no fruit easier to eat than berries fresh from the punnet! They can also be added straight to smoothies or mixed into yoghurt and cereal. If you want to further your antioxidant intake, toss them through a simple spinach salad for a popular summer salad. 

6. Stone fruits

Stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and nectarines are high in vitamin C. Along with helping to boost immunity, vitamin C helps the body to produce collagen which is essential for healthy skin. 

Stone fruit should be a summer essential to combat the detrimental effects for skin from too much sun exposure. Both nectarines and apricots are high in vitamin A and the antioxidant beta carotene, which further makes them beneficial for skin health. 

How to enjoy them:

Slicing a medley of stone fruit and lightly poaching with some vanilla is a delightfully easy and fresh dessert. Peaches work a treat when grilled on the BBQ with some halloumi cheese and fresh mint. Of course, stone fruit straight from the fruit bowl (or even better, the tree!) can’t be beat. 

7. Avocados

Healthy fruits and vegetables are good and so is avocado on toast with egg

Avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and bowel-friendly fibre. They are also very high in potassium, with a 100 gram serving containing 14% of the RDA, compared to 10% in bananas (which are renowned for being a high potassium food). 

Having a healthy potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that are vital for healthy eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin provide antioxidant protection to help minimise damage, including from ultraviolet light from the sun!

How to enjoy them:

Toss them into salads, slice them and serve on toast with tomatoes and fresh herbs or for a sweet treat, throw half an avocado into the blender with cacao and your favourite smoothie ingredients for a healthy ‘chocolate thick shake!’. 

Passionate about Nutrition? Share your passion with others and help them to live more fulfilling lives by getting their nutrition and energy needs under control. Research a career in Nutrition here.

 

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Renée Leonard Stainton

Renée Leonard-Stainton

Is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, and Western Medical Herbalist. She has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, from her home country in New Zealand across Australasia, to the States and the Middle East. With extensive experience, Renée regularly contributes to a variety of print magazines and online publications.

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