One of the best things about summer is that many fruits are at their peak. These summer fruits are not only delicious, but they’re also good for you – eating 2-3 servings of fruit daily is one of the best ways to improve your diet and overall health. And, chances are, you’re probably not meeting your daily fruit requirement: a national study conducted by the Produce for Better Health Foundation found that just 8% of Americans meet their daily fruit targets.
Worried about the sugar? That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying fresh fruit. The sugars contained in whole fruit come with fiber, antioxidants, and other healthful nutrients, so it’s not the same as eating table sugar or a candy bar. In fact, studies show that adding fruit to your meals and snacks may reduce risk for heart disease, obesity and even protect against certain types of cancers.
Here are five summer fruits to enjoy this season:
Nothing says “summer” like a ripe, juicy peach! Peaches are a warm-weather favorite and you’ll find them at their best in June and July. This sweet summer fruit not only tastes amazing, it’s also a nutritional powerhouse. In just 60 calories, a medium peach packs in more than 20 different macro and micronutrients, including fiber, vitamins A, C, E, potassium and zinc. Peaches are also naturally free of fat, sodium, cholesterol, and trans fats.
Peaches are a perfect snack but can also be a featured ingredient in many dishes, from appetizers to desserts. They’re excellent baked, grilled or pan-seared and topped with cinnamon for a guilt-free dessert. Need a sweet treat that will please everyone at your next cookout? Try this Peach Blackberry Crumble. Peaches are also an ideal partner for main courses too – try them with chicken, pork, seafood and grains like rice and couscous.
Bursting with over 20 essential vitamins and minerals, mangos are loaded with good nutrition and provide health benefits. Just one cup of fresh mango provides 100% of our daily vitamin C needs, helping to strengthen our immune system, keep our teeth and gums healthy, and support collagen formation – hello, beautiful summer skin! Mangos are also rich in fiber, which will help keep you full for longer.
Ready for the best news? One cup of mango has just 100 calories, so this is a sweet indulgence you can feel good about. If you want to get creative in the kitchen, try freezing chunks of freshly cut mango overnight. The consistency of frozen mango is similar to that of sorbet, but with only natural sugar and no added ingredients. So go ahead, slide that ice cream to the side and let the mango take center stage. And for a side dish that will be a hit at any summer cookout, try this Mango and Black Bean Salsa.
3. Sweet Cherries
Succulent sweet cherries are in season only from June through August, so enjoy them while they last! Sweet cherries are high in fiber and potassium, while remaining low in calories―just 1 cup of sweet cherries is about 100 calories. Their deep red color – due to compounds called anthocyanins – not only makes them beautiful but also brings an added health benefit. Studies suggest that anthocyanins can help reduce pain and inflammation. Researches at the University of California at Davis found that the anthocyanins in sweet cherries may help relieve the joint pain of gout sufferers. Other studies show that cherries may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
The best-tasting cherries are large (an inch or more in diameter), plump, firm, and rich in color and are great as a snack, dessert or for salads and sauces. They’re one of my favorite portable snacks of summer – just rinse and eat them right out of the bag. For a fresh, flavorful salad, try this Cherry and Hazelnut Salad.
4. Cantaloupe (aka muskmelon)
The sweet, fragrant scent of the cantaloupe is another unmistakable sign of summer. Although they’re available until late fall in some regions, they’re at their best from June to September. Cantaloupe will not only delight your taste buds, it will also keep a swimsuit ready-body. That’s because 1 cup of cantaloupe cubes has just 50 calories! They’re also loaded with fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Their high water content – they are about 90% water – can help keep you full.
Choosing the best cantaloupe can be a little tricky, as it’s hard to know what’s inside. Don’t be afraid to pick them up for a ‘sniff’ test: they should have a fruity sweet aroma and yield slightly to pressure at the blossom end (opposite the stem end). Cantaloupes should have a smooth spot where they came off the vine and creamy yellow coloring under their netting. Enjoy cantaloupes sliced or diced and add them to your summer salads.
While this tasty berry is available year-round, the peak strawberry season is from April until June in most parts of the US. One serving of eight strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange and is packed with beneficial antioxidants and nutrients including potassium, folate and fiber. And here’s some food for thought: eating strawberries twice a week might boost brain health! A 2012 study in the Annals of Neurology found that strawberries might slow cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years.
Look for strawberries that are plump, firm, well shaped, and uniformly colored. I love them in salads, dressings, or as a topping to my morning yogurt or cereal. Add a little pizzazz to your summer meals by using strawberries as you would a tomato. Try a strawberry salsa with seafood dishes, like in these fish tacos or a Caprese salad made with fresh mozzarella and strawberries.