Favorite summer foods can include plenty of health benefits

WASHINGTON — Some of the spectacular flavors you enjoy during the summer do more than just taste good.

Lean Plate Club blogger Sally Squires says that many summer favorites pack a lot of nutritional and health benefits that may help to do everything from preventing kidney stones to improving mood.

Watermelon is a perfect example — it’s rich in lycopene, a red pigment also found in tomatoes.

“Diets rich in lycopene are linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders.” Squires said.

Other substances in watermelon are under study to see whether they can help control Type 2 diabetes.

In some areas of the world, such as Iran and Pakistan, watermelon is used as a folk remedy to treat Type 2 diabetes.  And recent studies suggest it can help control blood sugar and reduce levels of hemoglobin A1C — a marker of how well the disease, which affects 29 million Americans, is managed.

Summer herbs can pack a load of health benefits, too. Basil is a great example — it’s got some anti-arthritis and anti-inflammatory properties, Squires said.

In May, Brazilian scientists reported that basil appears to boost the effectiveness of antibiotics against staph and pseudomonas bacteria.

And Squires suggests if you eat your basil on fresh tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, drizzle on the olive oil.  A recent Tufts University study of 41 overweight and obese people aged 65 and older found that switching to olive oil in place of butter or other vegetable oils improved immune function, lowered blood pressure and improved levels of the good cholesterol known as HDL.

Corn on the cob can deliver more health benefits. Recent studies point to some cancer-fighting benefits from substances in corn and the prebiotic effects of whole grain corn.  Think of prebiotics as the food that helps promote the growth of good bacteria — probiotics are the actual healthy bacteria, found in yogurt as well as in sauerkraut.

And Squires said not to rule out those cold pasta salads you love: They have health benefits, too. They’re often loaded with vegetables and healthy oils such as olive oil — and, contrary to popular opinion, they may help with weight control.

And on a hot day, what could be better than washing it all down with lemonade or iced tea?  University of Wisconsin researchers have found that lemonade therapy helped people who form kidney stones made of calcium oxalate, boosted urine output and increased a substance called citrate. Iced tea is loaded with antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation linked to heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

One of the best things about living in the Washington area is its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay — and crabcakes! Aside from tasting great, crab packs Omega 3 fatty acids — healthy fats that are good for your heart, your brain, your joints and your mood.  Crabmeat also contains selenium and iodine, which help promote thyroid function.  It’s high in potassium and low in sodium which makes it good for blood pressure. And it’s a highly digestible protein, also loaded with vitamins D, A, E and B12.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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