Summer is a bountiful time when the markets explode in a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. The diversity of color and flavor is nature's way of tempting us to consume foods that are naturally detoxifying and fortifying. Many of these fruits and veggies have a short season during which they reach peak nutritional content and taste -- and hit bottom on price. Take advantage of this perfect storm by incorporating these 14 summer "superfoods" into your diet.
14 'Superfoods' to Eat This Summer
Nature's candy, these little gems burst with flavor and impressive nutrition. With chart-topping quantities of antioxidants, summer-ripe berries help keep everything from brain to GI tract running in optimal condition. Treat them gently to avoid squashing their natural goodness. Toss into salads or use as a topping for yogurt, cereal, ice cream, or chocolate cake.
These naturally blue orbs of sweetness have long been considered one of the world's healthiest foods. Particularly good for the brain, they may even improve memory function. Health benefits aside, blueberries are just plain delicious and can be enjoyed many ways. Throw a big handful into a smoothie to retain their fresh, raw flavor.
Kale may have replaced spinach as the green leafy vegetable of choice, but fresh summer spinach is a healthy and tasty treat worth seeking out. Get a Popeye dose of strength and fortification from the high count of minerals and vitamins, not to mention a hefty amount of fiber. For the biggest nutritional bang, eat spinach raw as the base for salads; try one bulked up with almonds and seasonal strawberries.
These crunchy root vegetables are sturdy detoxers that help cleanse the liver. Radishes range in flavor from sweet to spicy, depending on the variety, and offer considerable bulk for few calories. When sliced or diced, they're an excellent filler for salads and sandwiches. Take meals to the next level by spiralizing a radish into noodles and using in place of grain-based pasta. Daikon noodle chicken pad Thai is a healthy change of pace.
Cherries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins and also serve as a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns. Insomniacs would do well to include one to two servings of cherries in their diets before turning to chemical sleep aids. There are so many ways to use cherries; cherry cobbler is a tempting classic.
Full of fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, broccoli is one of the healthiest foods around. Some health benefits, such as lower cholesterol, result only from steaming the vegetable. Steamed broccoli may dredge up childhood memories of limp, overcooked stalks, but when prepared properly and garnished with simple flavorings, broccoli is a crispy and tasty accompaniment to any meal.
These green spears are said to help rid the body of free radicals, and also deliver a host of vitamins and minerals. Their unique earthy flavor makes them a seasonal favorite, and simple preparation best preserves the delicate taste. Try roasting the vegetable in a hot oven or charring on a hot grill until just tender. Salt, pepper, and olive oil are all that's needed to dress the spears.
Rich in protein, fiber, and amino acids that help support healthy brain tissue, fava or broad beans are a smart addition to any diet. They're creamy with a subtle earthy flavor that lends itself to summertime herbs and bright vegetables. A rich purée made from these beans is similar to hummus and can be used on crostini, as a sandwich spread, or as a dip for crunchy vegetables.
In addition to the variety of vitamins and minerals that bell peppers provide, some studies have shown that bell peppers reduce the risk of cancer in animals. Opt for red or orange peppers for a massive dose of vitamin C that far outpaces the amount found in their ubiquitous green counterparts or in citrus fruits. Many beneficial nutrients are lost when peppers are cooked, so turn to recipes such as a cabbage and bell pepper salad to take full advantage of their flavor and nutrition.
Hot chilies have been lauded throughout the ages for a variety of medicinal benefits, including aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation. They also add incredible flavor to nearly any dish. Turn garden-ripe chilies into a tasty condiment with some quick pickling. Keeping a few chilies on hand is a reminder to use them more often in a wider variety of dishes.
One of the trendiest new health foods, watermelon is now loved not only for its low-calorie sweet juiciness but also for its replenishing electrolytes. Fitness buffs around the world are getting into fresh watermelon in a big way and savor the juice as the ultimate natural sports drink. Enjoy the melon as is or blend it with a squeeze of lime for a refreshing summertime beverage.
Delightfully sweet and tart, these juicy berries are full of fiber and heart-healthy compounds that also help regulate blood sugar. Due to their natural acidity, they work very well in typically savory dishes such as salads and sauces for meats. Try blending strawberries and straining the liquid to create a pungent sauce as an alternative to sugary syrups, then pour over ice cream or stir into yogurt.
Beets have been a part of the human diet since ancient times. Both the sweet root and the earthy greens provide many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Their rich flavor is sweet and earthy, expressive of the soil and nutrients within. Celebrate the flavors of summer with a seasonal tomato and beet salad.
Like its green leafy cousins, chard is highly nutritious. With a milder flavor than kale or spinach, chard is an excellent option for those who are averse to bitterness but still want to include detoxifying and fibrous greens in their diet. Start simple with a basic recipe for sautéed chard with onions, which pairs well with any protein or crostini topped with a schmear of ricotta.