While most fruits and vegetables nowadays are available year-round in frozen or half-ripened form, summer is the season when many favorites are available fresh and ripe from your local farmer’s market. Not only does eating local, seasonal foods help put money back into your local economy, it is also a smart choice for your health.
When fruits and vegetables are in season, they are at the height of their flavor and nutrient content. Home-grown foods are also likely to be free of pesticides, herbicides and preservative sprays, as they have not had to travel from across the country (however, be sure to ask your local farmer about their practices).
Eating seasonal foods also allows you to enjoy the offerings that nature intended for each particular time of year. Summer is a time of truly plentiful produce variety. While there are vast amounts of great local options, depending on where you live, the following are eight of our favorites.
Apricots: These vibrant stone fruits are a good source of vitamins A and C, making them beneficial to eye, skin and immune system health. Apricots also contain a number of other antioxidants, including quercetin, catechins, epicatechins and gallic acid, which have been linked to fighting inflammation and thereby reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, including cancers.
Beets: Beets are high in fiber and rich in minerals, including folate, magnesium, potassium and copper. These root veggies are also a good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C, as well as unique antioxidants known as betalains. Betalains have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, and also help to support the body’s detoxification processes and cardiovascular health.
Blueberries: Scrumptious summer blueberries are high in vitamins C and K, as well as the minerals copper and magnesium. They have been linked to a wide variety of health benefits, including heart health, balanced blood sugar, improved memory and cognitive function and anti-cancer benefits. Some of these benefits may be attributable to anthocyanins, antioxidants that are linked to heart health, brain health and longevity.
Cherries: Nothing says summer quite like fresh, plump cherries. These fruits are high in vitamins A and C, and contain a good amount of copper and potassium. They are also high in a wide range of antioxidants, including anthocyanins. Tart cherries have the added benefit of natural melatonin, the sleep hormone responsible for good quality shut-eye. Tart cherries have also been associated with relief of pain from chronic conditions such as arthritis and gout.
Chiles: Depending on the region where you live, your local farmers market may feature a variety of fresh chile peppers, ranging from mild to sizzling hot. Hot chile peppers are high in fiber, vitamins A and E, as well as a range of B-vitamins and the minerals copper, iron and manganese. These peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, which has been linked to heart health, relief from inflammation and pain, decongestive abilities and boosted immune function.
Eggplant: This delicious member of the nightshade family is high in fiber, B-vitamins, and the minerals copper, manganese, potassium and folate. The antioxidant phenolic compounds in eggplant have been found to fight inflammation and support optimal cardiovascular health. Eggplant skin contains an anthocyanin called nasunin, which is linked to protecting cell membranes, including brain cell membranes.
Green peas: Crisp summer peas are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and a range of B-vitamins, as well as copper, choline, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. Green peas also contain heart and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as coumestrol, a phytonutrient linked to a decreased risk of stomach cancer, among many other antioxidants.
Zucchini: This member of the summer squash variety is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, and is a good source of B-vitamins, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. Some of the antioxidants contained in zucchini are beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which aside from combating inflammation and free radicals are essential for eye health and the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
With the above eight choices, and so many others available fresh and local, there is no reason not to get your produce from your hometown farmers market this summer.
-The Alternative Daily