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Our Guide to Summer Fruits tells you everything you need to know about these sweet nutrition stars.

Try these fruitfully mouth-watering summer recipes.

Locate a farmer's market and find out which fruits and vegetables are in season in your region of the country.


Nutrition Smarts

The Fruits of Summer
By Christine Palumbo, RD

They're back. Luscious, juicy, soft summer fruits are at their peak, and there's no better time than now to sink your teeth into one. Not only do summer fruits offer all sorts of tasty possibilities, they're loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that protect against disease.

Although many fruits are available year round due to the worldwide market, the best quality may be those grown locally and available now. Summer is the time for fruits at their freshest and most flavorful. Local farmer's markets, roadside stands and your local supermarket produce aisles are all bursting with apricots, berries of all types, peaches, plums, melons and more.

Fruit's Health Benefits

Summer makes it easy to boost your intake of nutrient-packed fruit. Studies show eating plenty of fruits (and vegetables) is strongly linked to controlling blood pressure; preventing heart attacks, stroke, and cancer; and even maintaining eye health. Although the Food Guide Pyramid recommends eating a minimum of two servings of fruit each day, research actually points increased health benefits with three to four or more servings. If that sounds like a lot, don't fret—one half cup of sliced fruit or a medium-sized whole fruit is all you need for one serving.

What is it about fruits that make them such potent disease-fighters? Antioxidants like vitamin C and carotenoids are valuable and the fiber in fruit also plays a role in disease prevention. Don't forget folate for heart disease, birth defects and breast and colon cancer protection. The carotenoids found in foods like grapes help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. The health benefits of fruit can't be attributed to individual nutrients, but to all of them working together. So, the best advice is to eat up!

Fun with Fruit

Summer fruits need not be limited to just eating out of hand or for dessert. They can also take center stage in many light, seasonal dishes. Try featuring fruits in sauces, grilled in kebabs, tossed in salads or as a light filling for brunch omelets. Mixed with grains or made into salsas and salads, they add a unique twist to light summer meals. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Add sliced strawberries to your cereal in the morning or whirl blueberries with honey and yogurt to make a breakfast smoothie. Instead of syrup, top pancakes, waffles or French toast with blueberries, strawberries or blackberries.
  • For lunchtime, blend chunks of fruit like grapes, mandarin orange slices or pineapple chunks into turkey or chicken salad.
  • Top green salads with strawberries, kiwi slices or other fruit.
  • Make a puree with apricots, peaches or nectarines to spoon over yogurt (regular or frozen) or ice cream.
  • Make fruit salsas with mangoes, papaya, peaches and pineapple.
  • Freeze red or green grapes for a cooling summer treat—they taste just like candy! Or whirl watermelon in the blender and freeze into watermelon pops by filling paper cups and adding a stick.

For a "fruit-full" summer, try these mouth-watering FoodFit recipes:

Lobster, Mango and Corn Salad in Watermelon and Grapefruit Vinaigrette
Gregory Talmont, Opus, Naples, FL
Grilled Shrimp with Mango Barbecue Sauce
Strawberry Soup with Sorbet
Watermelon-Lime Granita
Gale Gand, Tru, Chicago, IL
Blueberry-Peach Smoothie
Country Ham with Grilled Figs and Fresh Cantaloupe

The following chart lists valuable nutrients found in summer fruits.

   Carotenoids  Flavonoids  Folate  Lignans
Catechins
Tannins
 Lycopene  Phenols  Vitamin C
Apricots
   
 
Blackberries  
 
Blueberries  
 
 
Cantaloupe
     
Cherries
       
Figs  
         
Grapes  
     
 
Honeydew  
     
Kiwi fruit
       
Mangoes
     
Nectarines  
         
Papayas  
 
Peaches
         
Pineapple    
     
Plums
         
Raspberries  
 
Strawberries  
 
Watermelon
   
 

(Adapted from "Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: Selected Literature." Journal of the American Dietetics Association, December 2000)

 

About Christine Palumbo, RD

Christine Palumbo, MBA, RD has been a nutrition communications consultant since 1989, providing dietary counsel and analysis on various nutrition, health and weight management topics to corporate clients and news media outlets nationwide. An active member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the Illinois Dietetic Association and the Chicago Dietetic Association for more than twenty years, she has served on a variety of boards and practice group committees within those organizations.

Palumbo has been featured in national women's, health and business magazines, daily newspapers and local and national radio and television programs. She also received the Illinois Dietetic Association's Outstanding Dietitian of the Year award for 2002.

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