Growing up in a farm town in South Jersey, most of my friends lived on farms. This enabled us to consistently eat the freshest produce all year round. Eating seasonally has numerous benefits. By consuming the fruits and vegetables that are naturally grown, ripened and harvested with the season, we can be sure they are highly nutrient-dense and incredibly flavorful. And since these foods can easily be grown locally in large quantities, the decrease in travel and storage costs also leads them to be the cheapest, most environment-friendly options at the market. Not to mention, it encourages us to expand our palate, and switch things up in the kitchen!
A good rule of thumb is to purchase your produce from your local farmers market as often as possible, to really reap all the benefits and limit your consumption of industrialized foods.
Below are a few of my favorite summertime picks to stock up on, and some ideas for how to incorporate them into your diet.
- Blueberries: My hometown is the blueberry capitol of the world. July is prime picking time, and we even have a huge festival devoted to this super berry. Blueberries make the top of my favorites list, as they are extremely high in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber—just to name a few. Have some for breakfast or throw some in a salad for a summery twist. I also love making my own blueberry jam (be sure to leave a comment on this post if you want the recipe)!
- Blackberries: Where I’m from, blackberries grow like weeds. As a kid in the summertime I used to roam through abandoned fields and eat blackberries until my hands and face were purple (sometimes I still do this. Just kidding. Kind of.) Rich in anti-aging polyphenols, blackberries aid to reduce cancer risk, bad LDL cholesterol and buildup in the arteries. Over time, they aid in slowing cognitive decline, helping to keep you sharp as a tack later in life! Enjoy in the morning mixed with quinoa porridge, or add a handful to your salad for a sweet twist.
- Watermelon: This is definitely a food to enjoy all summer long-- even before and after those Independence Day festivities. Insanely hydrating, watermelon is particularly beneficial for the kidneys, acting as a natural diuretic and helping to manage water retention. Frequent trips to the bathroom are a natural side effect of this fruit, freeing up your midsections from all that retained water and enhancing the muscle definition you sculpt during your workouts. Plus, the high L-citrulline content in watermelon helps aid muscle pain and converts to arginine in the body. Arginine is vital for proper blood circulation, lowering blood pressure and pumping up those muscles all the more! Make fresh watermelon the centerpiece for any summer cookout, and try adding to a smoothie for an extra hydrating nutrient boost.
- Tomatoes: America, and southern New Jersey especially, has the best soil for growing tomatoes (behind Italy, of course). Tomatoes are abundant in a variety of nutrients, but most unique is their lycopene content. This powerful nutrient is anti-aging, skin protecting, blood sugar and cholesterol stabilizing, and decreases risk of multiple types of cancer. Contrary to their perfectly round and symmetrical GMO counterparts, fresh seasonal tomatoes come out in all different shapes and are generally viewed as flawed and ugly. But fear not—these are the ones you want! For this reason, I only eat tomatoes in the summer, the ones that grow in my own backyard, naturally ripened and free of any kind of pesticides. Trust me, your skin and taste buds will thank you.
- Zucchini: High in vitamins, low in calories, and rich in water-- you can’t go wrong! I have zucchini multiple times a week and there are so many ways to play with the flavor. I find that adding fresh herbs like dill or cilantro with tons of fresh lemon juice really brings out their taste. When shopping, look for ones that are similar in size to a cucumber and have smooth skin. Chop up and add to a salad, or slice and grill for a veggie sandwich (they make a great side dish too!).
- Cucumber: in the same family as zucchini, cucumbers are 95% water, meaning they are super hydrating and refreshing in the hot summer months. Loaded with essential nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties, cucumbers even promote eye and skin health—hello, summer glow! I eat a cucumber salad most nights, sliced thin with some EVOO and balsamic vinegar, fresh ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and hemp seeds to top it off. It’s very light, but still provides a lot of nutrients. You can also try adding sliced cucumber to water to enhance the flavor, or even pair with fresh mint to replace sugary cocktail mixers.
- Arugula: this immune-boosting leafy green adds a crisp texture to any summer dish. Arugula is packed with calcium and vitamin K, making it known for its bone strengthening properties, among many others. It is also low in oxalates—a chemical found in some plants that can prevent absorption of minerals in the body— which means you are truly getting the best bang for your bite. With a slightly bitter taste and crunchy texture, arugula makes for an amazing simple salad all on its own, with fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, a drizzle of EVOO and fresh ground pepper.
I'd love to hear some your favorite ways to enjoy these foods! Tell me in the comments below, and stay tuned for more of my favorite eats.
Post by Stephen PasterinoHi, I'm P, founder of P.volve. I'm passionate about fitness, wellness, and all of the healthy lifestyle choices in between. Get more out of your workouts by staying up to date with our Blog, where I share all of my fitness secrets.
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