One of our favorite things about summer (besides all the gloriously long days to run in the sunshine) is hitting up local farmers’ markets for fresh and delicious produce. Fueling your body is key to health and performance, and seasonal summer produce can add an extra dose of vitality to any meal. Reach for varieties that are high in antioxidants to help combat free-radical damage produced during exercise. Here are ten of our favorite summer fruits and vegetables:
Ahh, the creamy deliciousness that is the avocado – also called the alligator pear by the particularly awesome. Avocados provide plenty of healthy fat and a hefty dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Folate. Just one cup of this berry (yep, berry) has about 25% of your daily needs for Vitamin C, a key antioxidant for immunity. Slice some avocado into your lunchtime sando, or blend some with a little cocoa powder and honey to make a creamy pudding.
Delicious raw or baked into delicious treats, blackberries are little antioxidant powerhouses. Just a cup of these beauties (raw) contains about 50% of your daily Vitamin C needs, and eight grams of fiber to help you feel full longer. Toss blackberries into a salad or mix them into your morning quinoa for a sweet spin on a classic meal.
These greens might seem unassuming, but chard has some serious health benefits. One cup (raw) has around 44% of your daily needs for Vitamin A, 18% of your needs for Vitamin C, and 374% of your needs for Vitamin K. All of this nutritional benefit is packed into a whopping seven calories per cup. Yeah, we said seven. Because of its mild flavor, Swiss Chard works well when blended into smoothies for a little extra nutritional boost in the morning or post-workout.
4. Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes are so tart and tasty that they’re almost like summertime candy. Just a cup of raw cherry tomatoes is packed with 25% of your daily needs for Vitamin A and 32% of your daily needs for Vitamin C. That cup also offers 15% of your daily needs for Vitamin K and 10% of your needs for Potassium. Eat these babies on top of cottage cheese, throw some on the grill with your favorite kebab fixin’s, or pair them with basil and fresh mozzarella for a tasty caprese salad.
Speaking of caprese salad…fresh, aromatic basil is sure to please the palate during the summer months. These delicate leaves offer plenty of health benefits as well as a bold flavor to add interest to some of your favorite dishes. One cup of fresh leaves has 30% of your daily needs for Vitamin A and 145% of your needs for Vitamin K. Add some olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese to basil leaves for a fresh pesto with your favorite pasta noodles.
6. Jalapeño Peppers
Runners of the world – spice up your lives! Jalapeño peppers are extremely anti-inflammatory, and 1 cup of fresh peppers contains about 66% of your daily needs for Vitamin C and 14% of your daily needs for Vitamin A. These hot little peppers are a very healthy way to add spice and flavor to some of your favorite dishes. Chop up a handful of jalapeños and mix them into scrambled eggs, or stuff them with a cream cheese and cheddar mixture and broil them for a few minutes for a fresher spin on jalapeño poppers.
Popeye was on to something. One cup of fresh spinach has 56% of your daily needs for Vitamin A and 181% of your needs for Vitamin K. It also gives you 13% of your daily needs for Manganese, which plays a role in bone health. Toss fresh spinach with salmon, raw walnuts and avocado for a light and delicious summer salad. Top with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
These little berries offer a unique zing and subtle sweetness. A single cup of fresh berries gives you about 32% of your daily needs for fiber, with 54% of your needs for Vitamin C and 41% of your needs for Manganese. Enjoy a healthy handful of raspberries on top of Greek yogurt with granola for breakfast, or eat them with a few squares of quality dark chocolate for a healthier dessert option.
Stuffed, sautéed or shredded, zucchini is pretty great any way you slice it. A cup of raw zucchini provides about 35% of your daily needs for Vitamin C and 14% of your daily needs for Vitamin B6. Try slicing fresh zucchini with a mandolin slicer when you want a lighter alternative to lasagna noodles, or chopping it up and sautéing with some garlic and freshly ground pepper for a fast and easy side.
Apricots are a soft, sweet summer fruit packed with flavor and plenty o’ the good stuff for your body. With about 60% of your daily needs for Vitamin A and 26% of your needs for Vitamin C, just 1 cup of these tasty treats gives a hefty antioxidant boost. For a sweet snack packed with vitamins, try warming some fresh apricot halves in a sauce pan with roughly chopped raw almonds and a drizzle of raw honey.