By Debra Soufleris, B.S., DTR
One of my favorite things to do is check out the local green markets and grab what’s in season. I love fresh produce like watermelon, tomatoes, avocado, berries, green beans, peaches, sweet corn, and bell peppers. Not only will they make for some delicious recipes, but your body will thank you, too. Fruits and vegetables contain micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as functional components like antioxidants and prebiotics.
Have I got your attention? If so, then check out some of my favorite fresh produce ideas below.
Tomatoes taste great, but they’re also good for you. According to the Department of Food Sciences at North Carolina State University, “Tomatoes… are a rich source of lycopene, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, flavonoids, vitamin K, and vitamin E.” They come in so many varieties such as beefsteak, cherry, grape, yellow, and green tomatoes.
What’s a barbeque without watermelon? Not only is it sweet and delicious, but it’s also super hydrating and full of health benefits. It’s rich in lycopene, potassium, provides vitamins A, B6 and C, amino acids, and other antioxidants. Plus, try a watermelon salad any time of year.
Squash is an extremely versatile ingredient for cooking. Furthermore, it comes in a variety of different types, such as zucchini, pattypan and crookneck. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients. One of the most popular varieties is the zucchini. It’s low in calories and chock full of antioxidants, phosphorous, and vitamin C. It can make a great addition to a stir fry, stew, or can be steamed as a side dish. If you’re eating a low-carb diet, using a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles can make for a great pasta replacement.
Berries are sweet and delicious, and they are incredibly antioxidant-rich. Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries—YES PLEASE! Berries come in a variety of colors, offer many healthful benefits, and they’re great in fruit smoothies. Strawberries are full of vitamin C, while blueberries and blackberries contain flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that supports total health. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, blueberries continue to be studied for their array of health benefits, including cardiovascular, bone and brain health. Additionally, a handful of blueberries can help you meet your daily recommended fiber intake.
The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family. In terms of nutrients, it is impressive. This is partly due to its high fiber content. Additionally, it is an excellent source folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium and pantothenic acid. Plus, it is dense in vitamins C and K. Need I say more? Plus, it tastes great grilled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.
Green beans are plentiful, and are a great source of vitamin K, which helps blood clot. I love stir-frying them with some olive oil and then throwing in some toasted almonds for added texture and flavor.
Apricots are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and potassium. They are also the perfect snack to throw in the cooler before heading out for a long, day out. Fun fact: California produces approximately 95 percent of the nation’s apricots.
Take your pick of red, green, orange, and yellow. Bell peppers are one of the most vibrant vegetables. They’re also a good source of fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin A. They make a great addition to any salad, and are delicious grilled, sautéed, or tossed into an omelet.
I can write an entire article on avocados alone; I can never get too much avocado. They are so versatile and tasty but also a nutritional powerhouse. They are a good source of monounsaturated fat. This can reduce your risk of heart disease, full of folate, potassium, vitamins B, C, E, and K. They are also unique in that you can use them in savory and sweet dishes. Use them for a delicious savory dish like tacos, or try them in a sweet healthy dessert, like rich chocolate pudding.
Upgrade your favorite fruits and veggies by pairing them with other foods for optimal health benefits. For vegetables, try hummus, omelets or tuna salad. For fruits, try adding them to morning yogurt or oatmeal. They can also be blended together in a smoothie or protein shake for a filling pre or post-workout snack!
This is one of my go-to avacado salad recipes. It serves 4, and it’s easy to make. So, shop for some fresh produce and let’s get started.