All fruit can find a place on your plate—but these are the healthiest fruits you can eat during peak summer produce season, and ideas on how to enjoy them.
Let’s just remember, ALL fruits are healthy (and fad diets that tell you otherwise are wrong!). However, it is true that some fruits contain more of the important nutrient components than others, such as more vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These are vital to our overall health and may even have protective factors against diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes. The USDA recommends everyone should be shooting to eat 4-5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
My intern, Sarah Johnston, and I took a look at all the fruits in season right now and created this list based on which had the highest nutrient density composition. Although, don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to just these five: Any fruit can find a place on your plate! Here we share some inventive ways to enjoy these treasure troves of nutrients all summer long. Tag me @naartrition (Rachel Naar MS, RD, CDN of Rachel Naar Nutrition) and use the hashtag #summerfruit so we can see your delicious creations!
OK, we might have cheated a little here. This isn’t a single fruit, but a whole group of nutrient dense wonders! And better yet, you will really get a bang for your buck because these berries are at their highest nutrient quality in the summertime. Within these mini caches are incredible quantities of all our favorite nutrient components, such as the antioxidant group anthocyanins, whose benefits include possible protection from chronic disease, cancer, and may promote visual health.
Berries also have higher amounts of fiber compared to other fruits, and eating these can make for a healthier digestive system, help regulate bowel movements, provide a shield with regards to immune function and response to inflammation, and may decrease your risk of chronic diseases. Sprinkle any of these berries on top of your oatmeal, pancakes, toast, yogurt, or ice cream. Or, combine all of these berries into a delicious, antioxidant-rich cobbler.
Who doesn’t love killing two birds with one stone? In this case, our multi-tasker is vitamin C, and just one half of a grapefruit can provide over 60 percent of your recommended daily intake. This vitamin doubles as an antioxidant, along with all its other important jobs as an essential vitamin including supporting your immune system, aiding in iron absorption, and forming collagen for healthy tendons, ligaments, bones, and skin. Because vitamin C is also an antioxidant, regular consumption can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Incorporate grapefruit at your table as an extra addition to breakfast or as a tangy taste in your salads. Also, try mixing chopped grapefruit slices with pomegranate arils and sliced avocado (squeeze lime juice over top) for a grapefruit-pomegranate salsa!
But be warned, grapefruit may be contraindicated with some medications, so be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist before indulging.
Lemons aren’t just for turning your hair a shade blonder in the summer sun (or for making lemonade)! Their sour juices are packed with a group of antioxidants called flavonoids. Growing scientific research has shown that flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, and potentially contain anticancer properties. We know most of you aren’t going to slice up a lemon and eat it like an apple, so try infusing lemons in your water along with mint leaves or blueberries. This will keep you hydrated and refreshed, along with providing you a great source of those flavonoids. Also, try baking lemon slices over salmon, or squeeze lemon juice over a fresh salad.
This may be one of the more surprising products on our list, but summer is the perfect time to be on the lookout for this sweet succulent, as it thrives in warmer climates. The passion fruit can come in purple or yellow skin, and should be eaten with the seeds to receive its fiber benefits. The passion fruit is a good source of some B vitamins, such as riboflavin and niacin, both of which are important in cell health and producing the energy our bodies require. As with all of the other fruits on this list, passion fruit is also a great source of antioxidants, including flavonoids. Create passion fruit salad dressings or include in your next batch of sangria.
What better way to keep hydrated in the summer heat than with a huge slice (or multiple slices, who are we kidding) of watermelon? Fun fact: Watermelon is 92 percent water! The other 8 percent is made up of carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, and minerals including exceptional amounts of potassium. Potassium is important in muscle health and fluid balance, and a diet rich in potassium may help lower blood pressure. In addition, watermelon is a great source of the standout antioxidant, lycopene, which also has blood pressure lowering effects and is associated with anti-cancer properties.
Caramelize its sweet flavor by grilling and adding salt, or combine with savory cheeses such as feta or parmesan and top with balsamic drizzle.
All fruits bring an array of healthful components to your table, so it is a good idea to eat a large range of both fruits and vegetables. Our most important tip: Eat the rainbow. Try eating a fruit or veggie from each color of the rainbow everyday or throughout your week to receive the entire variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and fiber that fruits and veggies have to offer.