Nutritionist’s Top Farmer’s Market Picks

Summer’s seasonal events make it a special time of year. While some farmer’s markets are open year-round, many are only open seasonally during the summer, and the offerings change depending on the season.

In New York City, I have the choice of many farmer’s markets to visit throughout the year, but these summer offerings are some of my favorites.

Strawberries

As soon as I spot those delicious deep red strawberries at my local farmer’s market, I feel summer has officially begun. Strawberries are packed with beneficial nutrients including potassium, folate, fiber and the antioxidant vitamin C. A recent study suggests that a one cup serving per day could help reduce cholesterol levels in people who are overweight or have obesity.

Strawberries are delicious on their own, but they’re also the perfect addition to smoothies, plain yogurt, salads and hot or cold cereal. While local farmer’s market strawberries may be seasonal, the good news is that California strawberries are available year-round and distributed throughout the country, so you never have to be without.

Garlic

Midsummer is the peak time for garlic season. Garlic is a good source of vitamin C, selenium, manganese and iron, and is known for many health benefits, including antibacterial properties and reduced risk for heart disease. However, one review of the research suggests that more controlled studies are still needed to determine the efficacy of garlic in disease treatment. To use garlic, add it to salad dressings, marinades and sauces or sauté garlic with olive oil, leafy greens and other veggies as a side dish or add to pasta dishes.

Beets

Beets are one of those veggies I love to eat, but admittedly, hardly ever cook myself. They’re available mostly mid-summer through late fall. Beets are known for their vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, magnesium and phosphorous content. Beets also contain the antioxidant compound betalain, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies have shown beets may be neuroprotective and have cardiovascular benefits. One great way to cook up beets is to rub them with a little olive oil and salt and roast for around thirty-five minutes. These are delicious in a summer salad with goat cheese and citrus.

[READ: Foods That Fight — and Worsen — Inflammation.]

Cherries

Cherries are another of my summertime favorites and are in peak season in July. They are a good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Consumption of cherries has been associated with a host of health benefits, including decreased markers for oxidative stress, inflammation and exercise-induced muscle soreness. Add cherries to smoothies, plain yogurt, oatmeal bowls, fruit salads or eat them on their own. Just remember that the pit can be a choking hazard for young children.

[See: 7 Healthy Summer Dinner Ideas.]

Pickles

Pickles aren’t only a summer farmer’s market pick for me; I’m obsessed with them year-round. Kosher dill and horseradish are my favorite, but there are usually a whole variety to try, taste and buy. Ask specifically for the fermented pickles for the most health benefits. Fermented foods are known to contain probiotics and postbiotics, which have been associated with maintaining digestive health. Studies on postbiotics have revealed they also help balance our immune health. Pickles are great on their own as a very low-calorie snack or added to sandwiches, burgers or even a BLT.

Eggs

If you’ve ever bought eggs from a farmer’s market, you’ll understand why they’re one of my top picks. I love being able to talk to the farmer about their hens, specifically their living conditions and how they are fed. Additionally, the flavor of farmer’s market eggs is typically better than store-bought. Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, B vitamins, selenium and choline. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that research has shown may be important for eye health, including reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Eggs have endless uses too, from a simple hard-boiled egg or a fancy omelet packed with veggies, to egg muffins, egg salad, deviled eggs, quiche, frittata, a carbonara pasta sauce and more.

Corn

What is summertime without corn on the cob? Peak season varies from region to region, but overall in the U.S., it’s May through September. Corn is good source of thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium. The high amylose content in corn has been found to contribute positively to digestive health by its nature of resistance to digestion thus bringing bioactive compounds to the colon.

There are so many ways to enjoy corn: tossed into a salad, added to a pasta dish, made into cornbread or simply grilled with the husk and then savored with a little butter or squeeze of lime.

Tomatoes

Last but never least, tomatoes are a quintessential summer fruit. Peak season is late July through August and September. Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and are a good source of fiber, potassium, phosphorous and vitamin K. They also contain carotenoids, lycopene and beta-carotene, which research has shown may have anti-cancer properties.

There are countless ways to cook with tomatoes, like homemade bruschetta, salsa, tomato sauce, tomato soup, gazpacho, caprese, tossed salad or added to sandwiches and omelets.

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Nutritionist’s Top Farmer’s Market Picks originally appeared on usnews.com

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