Featuring Tamara Rhodes, MS, RD, LDN
Summertime … the season of picnics, beach vacations, fireflies, flip flops, and gardens bursting with zucchini. The sun-kissed days of summer yield an abundance of fresh, brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Plump tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers, savory summer squash, crunchy corn, zesty herbs, jewel-like berries, velvety peaches, and juicy melons are among the season’s greatest treasures.
Delicious Summer Recipes
Each delicious bite of summer produce feeds the body with a powerhouse of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight inflammation throughout the body and protect cells from damage and destruction. Many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, some cancers, and certain bowel conditions are triggered all or in part by inflammation. Thus, a diet rich in antioxidants can be very beneficial in preventing and combating such diseases, which are the number one killer in the Western world.
The skin and flesh of these fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, a nutrient that only five percent of Americans eat in adequate amounts. Fiber aids in intestinal regularity lowers cholesterol, regulates blood sugar levels, and plays an important role in weight management. Summer’s bounty is also rich in folate and potassium. Folate is indispensable in the creation of DNA and other genetic material and is necessary for cell division. Potassium is an essential mineral for optimal functioning of the heart, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract it also works to synchronize the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance.
Peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, broccoli, berries, and cantaloupe are all superb sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is fundamental to wound healing and in the growth and repair of all bodily tissues. It is a critical component in the production of collagen, a structural protein of the skin, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Vitamin A, found in peaches, watermelon, cherries, apricots, bell peppers, and tomatoes, is required for normal vision and a strong immune system. In addition, vitamin A helps to form and maintain the cells that comprise teeth, bones, hair, and skin. Vegetables high in vitamin E, such as red bell peppers and tomatoes, guard against the bright rays of summer sunlight, as vitamin E increases skin integrity, stabilizes cell membranes, and offers a photoprotective effect. Vitamin E also has anti-clotting properties and supports the manufacturing of red blood cells.
Due to their significant vitamin B6 content, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli help to sustain brain function and cognition. Furthermore, vitamin B6 operates as a coenzyme, and assists in more than one hundred chemical reactions throughout the body. Zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes are full of phosphorus, which is crucial for energy metabolism. Phosphorus also contributes substantially to the development and restoration of body cells and tissues, and 85 percent of the body’s phosphorus is found in the bones and teeth. Additionally, green beans and summer squash supply abundant magnesium. Magnesium is vital for normal muscle contraction and nerve firing, appropriate nutrient breakdown, and controlling blood glucose and blood pressure.