Summer means fireworks, beach parties – and a bounty of flavorful
and colorful produce.
Although a lot of summer produce is available year-round throughout the
United States, the taste and quality of these fruits and vegetables will
never be better than now.
Incorporate more of nature’s bounty into your day-to-day meals with
simple preparations that make these nutrient-dense crops shine.
Avocado. Although they have 240 calories and 22 grams of fat per cup, avocados
are cholesterol-free and are a stellar source of heart-healthy monounsaturated
fat. These fruits are surprisingly versatile as a substitute for creamy
dressings, mayonnaise, oils, and butter. Top sandwiches and salads with
avocado slices instead of processed spreads and dressings. Try to leave
as much of the dark green outer flesh on as possible when you’re
peeling; that part is particularly rich in phytonutrients.
Tomato. Tomatoes, also fruits, are high in vitamin C and are excellent sources
of nutrients that support heart health. They’re full of antioxidants
that help lower the risk of blocked blood vessels and contain niacin,
which plays a role in raising good cholesterol and reducing bad cholesterol.
Ripe heirloom or hothouse tomatoes make quick and refreshing open-face
sandwiches on thin squares of dark bread with fresh mozzarella, reduced-fat
mayonnaise, or a drizzle of olive oil. For an even simpler approach, cut
the tomatoes in half, top them with basil leaves and oil, and briefly
grill for a colorful side dish.
Corn. Few foods are more closely associated with summer than fresh ears of corn.
The yellow kernels are an excellent source of fiber, with between four
and five grams of fiber per cup. Steam corn on the cob to preserve nutrients.
For a change of pace from whole ears of corn, make a southwestern corn
salad with steamed or grilled kernels, tossed with tomatoes, green chiles,
and black beans or kidney beans for even more fiber.
Cucumber. Cucumbers have silica, which promotes skin health, and antioxidants that
protect against free radicals and inflammation. Slices of cucumber make
a cool crudité for dips and a wonderful base for dollops of tuna
salad or chicken salad. For the picnic table, whip up a soothing gazpacho
soup by pureeing cucumbers with tomato, bell pepper, onion, and garlic.
Squash. Summer squash is creamier than its winter relatives but it still retains
a pleasant chew. A low-fat food, squash gets most of its starchy calories
from carbohydrates high in pectin, a combination that may improve the
regulation of insulin. Squash also furnishes carotenoids that protect
your eyes against age-related degeneration. Cube the bright yellow flesh
with the skin on, briefly pan fry it in a few spoonfuls of extra-virgin
olive oil, and toss with sliced cherry tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper.