By Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, CDE of Food Heaven Made Easy. Photography by Deun Ivory.
Summer is here, and why not celebrate by enjoying some of the most delicious foods this season has to offer? During the summer, there is such a wide range of beautiful produce that grows locally. This is particularly exciting for people like me, who grow in regions where there isn’t an abundance of local produce that grows year-round. Once all the farmers markets open up in May, I literally jump from excitement thinking about the great foods I’ll be able to enjoy during these warmer months. Today we’re going to highlight 5 summer superfoods that will make your summer days that much brighter. These foods are satisfying, packed with nutrients, and can be obtained at the local farmers market! We’ll also be providing some fun pro-tips for eating these foods, but first…
Why Seasonal Eating?
Seasonal eating means that you eat foods grown and harvested during the same time you go to the market to purchase them. In the states, we have an abundance of produce that’s offered year-round, and so let’s say you want grapes in December, well…you can get grapes in December. The problem with this is that your grapes are probably traveling long and far to get to your plate, which brings us to our first point. Many times, seasonal foods offer more nutrients than out of season foods because the distance from farm to table is reduced. This also means that there are less trucks on the road trying to get those grapes to you leading to…a healthier Earth! Less miles equals less carbon footprint, and considering the state of our environmental affairs, anything we can do to contribute is valuable. Less miles also means more coins in our pockets. Local and seasonal foods are usually more affordable, and actually taste better. No really. Have you noticed the difference between a freshly picked local tomato vs one that was grown in some far away place eons ago? Try it!
As you can see, seasonal eating is pretty much life for more reasons than I can list, and so without further ado, let’s get into these 5 Nourishing Superfoods for the Summer Season!
It’s only right to start off the list with one of the most hydrating fruits ever. There’s nothing better than a slice of juicy watermelon on those days you’re trying to cool off. Watermelon has over 90% water, and is an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help reduce your risk for a variety of different chronic conditions. It’s also rich in vitamin A, which plays a key role in immunity and eye health. And you see that pretty red color? That’s thanks to lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can play a protective role against heart disease and certain cancers. Watermelon can be enjoyed on its own or can be added to salads, yogurts, and smoothies. Check out our No-Bake Summer Watermelon Cake for a creative twist on how you enjoy this delicious fruit!
Next up is eggplant. Growing up, this vegetable was home to a variety of stews my mother would whip up in our kitchen. Although consumed as a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit, and packs a whole lot of nutrition in one cup. Many people remove the skins when cooking, which is what we don’t want to do. Those deep purple skins are a rich source of anthocyanins, which are pigments that protect us against a wide range of diseases. How can you incorporate more eggplant during these summer months?
Replace pasta with eggplant when doing lasagna, sauté eggplant with your favorite protein and vegetables, or slice your eggplant into slices and pop them on the grill. Some of our favorite eggplant recipes include these Crispy Baked Parmesan Eggplant Fries, this Simple Eggplant Rollatini, and this Light Pesto Eggplant Parmesan!
And then there were peaches. When summer is here, I run to the market and stock up as much as possible because peaches just don’t taste the same when out of season. This juicy fruit is a good source of vitamins A&C, fiber, potassium and niacin. That orange color provides beta-carotene, which is another anti-oxidant that may help protect our cells from oxidative damage. Similar to watermelons, peaches contain carotenoids that protect against eye disease. Add them to your smoothies, salads, and oatmeal, or enjoy on its own. Check out our Strawberry Peach Frozen Yogurt recipe for a sweet treat!
This peppery leafy vegetable also known as rocket or rucola, is one of my preferred salad greens. It’s super easy to grow for all you green thumbs out there, and pairs beautifully in pesto, bean spreads, pizzas and more! It’s in the same family as broccoli, kale, and Brussel sprouts, and provides a spicy kick of flavor. Arugula is rich in vitamin K, which can product our bones by helping with calcium absorption. Try our Creamy White Bean Pesto Arugula Salad or our Butternut Squash Arugula Pita Pizza for arugula recipe ideas!
Last up is cucumber. This hydrating fruit is over 95% water, and is often consumed as a vegetable in salads. There’s so many ways to incorporate it into your dishes…I love infusing my water with cucumber during the summer, and also love blending it into a puree, and mixing that with seltzer water for a light, summer drink.
Not only is cucumber rich in water content, but it also contains important nutrients like magnesium and potassium, which help play a role in fluid balance. Try our Cucumber Ginger Agua Fresca, Cucumber Thyme Grapefruit Water, or Cucumber Quinoa Salad for recipe inspo!
There you have it! 5 nourishing superfoods for the summer season. Remember that healthy habits go beyond what you eat. Consistently incorporate plenty of plant-based foods into your plate, stay active, and practice acts of self-care to achieve sustainable lifestyle habits!
Wendy Lopez is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who is passionate about educating communities on plant-based eating, in ways that are accessible and culturally relevant. Working as a clinical dietitian in a community clinic in Port Chester, New York, Wendy focuses on disease prevention and management. She uses an integrative and individualized approach towards nutrition, health, and wellbeing. Wendy was raised in the Bronx, with roots in the Dominican Republic. When not catching up on the latest nutrition science, you can find her cooking, traveling, basking in the sun, and obsessively working on home improvement projects