Five healthy foods to add to your summer diet

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A worker picks raspberries at Masse, a berry farm in Saint Paul d’Abbotsford near Granby, Quebec, Canada, Aug. 11, 2022.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

There are many reasons to love summer. Warm weather, longer days, swimming and barbecues are on my list.

So too is the summer abundance of fruits and vegetables, berries, watermelon, peaches, sweet cherries, field peppers, crisp lettuce, summer squash and more.

You can’t beat locally grown seasonal produce when it comes to nutrient content and flavor. Plus, choosing locally grown fruits and vegetables over their imported counterparts helps save on your food bill.

The following foods deserve a place on your summer menu. This list is far from inclusive; enjoy a wide variety of summer fruits and vegetables in the coming months.

Gooseberry

Closely related to currants, gooseberries are available from late June to August. Their color ranges from light green to yellow to dark purple, and their flavor ranges from sweet to sour.

Nutritionally, gooseberries have a lot to offer. One cup of these tiny berries provides 6.5g of fiber and 42mg of vitamin C, half a day’s worth of antioxidant nutrients. Not bad for only 66 calories.

Gooseberries also serve up blood pressure-regulating potassium along with calcium, B vitamins, and a fair amount of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called flavonoids.

Add fresh gooseberries to fruit salads, green salads, yogurt parfaits, and overnight oats. Bake them into summer fruit pies and muffins or use them to make chutneys and jams.

Sweet corn

Nothing says summer like corn on the cob, available July through September. While corn is actually a whole grain, when eaten fresh it is considered a (starchy) vegetable.

Corn has a low glycemic index, which means its carbohydrates don’t lead to large increases in blood sugar and insulin.

One cup of sweet corn kernels (about one large ear of corn) provides 3.5 g of fiber, which acts as a prebiotic that feeds beneficial gut bacteria.

Yellow corn is also a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals linked to protection against cataracts, macular degeneration and cognitive decline.

Enjoy sweet corn on the cob boiled or grilled. Put cooked corn kernels into green salads, bean salads, burrito bowls and dips, or bake them in savory cornbread.

Raspberries

Juicy, sweet-tasting raspberries, available June through September, are my favorite summer berry.

Raspberries are distinguished from other berries by their high content of ellagic acid, a phytochemical with anticancer properties. They’re also a good source of anthocyanins, plant compounds thought to help reduce inflammation, support the immune system, and protect against type 2 diabetes.

One cup of fresh raspberries provides a whopping 8g of fiber and 32mg of vitamin C (equal to one-third of a day’s worth) along with some calcium, potassium and folic acid.

Top overnight oats or yogurt with fresh raspberries, toss them into mixed green salads, mix them into muffin and pancake batters, or blend them into smoothies and protein shakes. Serve fresh raspberries with chocolate sorbet for a summer dessert.

Green leafy vegetables

Build your summer salads with locally grown kale, chard and lettuces (e.g. romaine, greenleaf, redleaf), available June/July through September.

These veggies are great sources of brain-friendly nutrients and phytochemicals, including folate, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and lutein. In fact, the MIND diet recommends eating at least half a cup of leafy greens a day. (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.)

In addition to green salad, add kale and chard leaves to green smoothies, pasta sauces, stir-fries and egg dishes. Try the grilled romaine lettuce as a side; brush the Romaine hearts with a herb balsamic or red wine vinaigrette and grill until lightly browned on all sides.

Snow peas

A member of the legume family, snow peas have flat pods containing very small peas. They are slightly tender and have a slightly sweet taste. Look for jackdaws at local farmers markets from June to September.

On the nutritional front, one cup of snow peas provides more than half a day’s worth of vitamin C and 23 mcg of bone-building vitamin K (a quarter of a day). Snow peas also offer a decent amount of vitamin A, folate, potassium, and fiber.

Enjoy raw snow peas, as part of a platter of crudit├ęs, served with hummus or Green Goddess dressing. Before eating, you can remove the string along the edge of the pod if you like (I don’t mind).

Cut the snow peas into thin vertical strips and dress them in a leafy green salad together with flaked toasted almonds. Add snow peas to french fries and vegetable soups. Or lightly saute them in olive oil and garlic for a side dish. Don’t overcook the snow peas or they will lose their crunchiness.


Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD


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