Summer’s Healthiest Picks

Enjoy these in-season fruits and vegetables.

To celebrate the season of sun, add these five in-season fruits and veggies for their amazing health and nutritional benefits.

Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to improve your health and well-being. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 adults fail to meet the minimum recommendation of getting three servings of veggie and two fruit servings a day.

In fact, our produce intake has fallen significantly in the past 20 years, according to national food consumption data. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 95% of U.S. adults said they ate some amount of vegetables on any given day, while just 70% said they eat some fruit — that’s a significant drop from previous national food surveys.

Here are five of the healthiest fresh picks for summer to add to your meals and snacks — starting today.

Cherries

There’s no mistaking it’s summer when you start to see sweet and juicy Bing, Rainier, Benton and other fresh cherry varieties available at your supermarket or farmers market.

A serving of cherries (21 cherries or about 1 cup) provides 90 calories, three grams fiber and is a good source of potassium and vitamin C. Cherries are also a great source of anthocyanins, which offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cardiovascular and other benefits.

Research also shows that the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin along with the powerful flavonoids make sweet cherries a delicious superfruit. A review article published in the journal Nutrients reported that cherries reduce oxidative stress, exercise-related muscle soreness and blood pressure. They also improve sleep.

Research also shows that cherries can help those who suffer from gout, a painful form of arthritis. Enjoy them fresh as they are or incorporate into fruit salads, whole- grain bowls, cherry salsa and homemade frozen cherry yogurt or ice cream.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens have about 10 to 20 calories per cup and provide several nutrients that help stave off conditions like heart disease, certain types of cancer, age-related macular degeneration and many other conditions.

Leaf lettuce, romaine, arugula, watercress are in-season and available at your local supermarkets or farmer’s markets. Enjoy summer salads with the tender greens, add to sandwiches, cold soups, infuse into pasta or potato salad or savory whole-grain bowls. You can also add chopped spinach, kale or arugula to burgers, soups or casseroles for a nutrient boost.

Strawberries

Strawberries are a true superfruit providing an array of shortfall nutrients including vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, potassium and beneficial phytonutrients.

A cup of strawberries has just 45 calories and provides more vitamin C than an orange. Numerous studies show that strawberries may decrease harmful LDL cholesterol, blood glucose levels, insulin resistance and risk factors for other chronic diseases.

New research recent reported in the journal Nutrients now links a specific amount of strawberry (2.5 cups daily for four weeks) with improved insulin response and cholesterol markers of heart disease in at-risk adults.

Enjoy them on their own; on top of hot or cold cereal; sprinkled in yogurt or served with salad greens. Use your overripe berries in smoothies.

Tomatoes

Summertime tomatoes are superior to tomatoes that you can buy at any other time of year. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber and extremely low in calories, weighing in at a mere 20 calories per medium-sized tomato.

They’re the most significant source of lycopene, a potent antioxidant that helps protect your eyesight, provides anti-cancer properties and heart health benefits.

A recent meta-analysis published in Food Chemistry found that lycopene intake was inversely associated with death from all causes, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and male infertility.

Add fresh tomatoes to your morning omelet, a fresh summer salad or sandwiches, or enjoy thick slices of heirloom tomatoes with your grilled burger. I love making Panzanella, caprese salads or a fresh tomato sauce to enjoy with pasta or spaghetti squash. The options are limitless.

Watermelon

A quintessential summer fruit, watermelon is always a fan favorite. Filled with vitamins A, B6 and C, the minerals potassium, magnesium and phosphorous, as well as lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids.

Water is 92% water by weight, so it’s a great way to help you rehydrate when summer heat and humidity soars. Watermelon also contains more beneficial lycopene than any other fruit. Numerous studies show that carotenoids, including lycopene, can help protect against many chronic diseases, as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Enjoy fresh sliced watermelon; a watermelon, cherry strawberry salad; watermelon and feta salad or a fresh watermelon caprese salad.

5 superfoods to add to your summer menu:

— Cherries.

— Leafy Greens.

— Strawberries

— Tomatoes.

— Watermelon.

More from U.S. News

Highest Protein Fruits

Fruits to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet

How to Stay Hydrated This Summer

Summer’s Healthiest Picks originally appeared on usnews.com

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