Summertime is a great time to enjoy outdoor picnics and barbecues with family and friends. Trying out new recipes or bringing along an old favorite makes that time together even better.
Some of the fruits and vegetables that ripen during the summer can also be some of the best for the health of your heart.
Cassie Wright, a registered dietician with Rochester Regional Health, explains some of the benefits of these foods and how they help your body stay healthy.
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, you might have heard people talk a lot about antioxidants and how helpful they can be.
Antioxidants are substances that help protect the cells in your body from being damaged by molecules called ‘free radicals’ or ‘oxidants.’ These molecules are a byproduct of using oxygen and can also be introduced to the body by being exposed to radiation or tobacco smoke.
The way antioxidants work is by binding to the free radical molecules, which prevent them from damaging the cells in your body.
Some examples of antioxidants include:
Whether it’s a grocery store, farmer’s market, or roadside stand, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to summer produce.
“If your goal during the warm weather is to focus on foods that are rich in antioxidants, there are a lot of great options for you to dig into,” Wright said.Learn more: Eat Fresh with Local Farmers Markets
These are a few:
Blueberries: As small as they are, blueberries are often listed as having some of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits. Beyond that, some studies have shown they may help to slow declines in cognitive function as people age.
Strawberries: These berries are the quintessential summer berry – easy to eat, lovely to look at, and often featured in fruit salads or yummy desserts.
As they ripen and get more of that bold red color, that’s when they will be the best for you.
“The more red color a strawberry has, the higher level of antioxidants are in them,” Wright said.
Peaches: The orange hue that make these fruits stand out is a nod to the type of antioxidant that is present. That color lends itself to beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A as the food is broken down.
Cherries: Sweet or sour, cherries are a great option for helping to decrease inflammation and boost the health of your heart. Some studies also suggest cherry juice can have a similar effect in lowering potential damage from oxidants.
Zucchini: Plentiful in many gardens and roadside stands, zucchini is a fairly versatile vegetable. Studies show the green skin has the highest levels of antioxidants – specifically Vitamin A and beta-carotene.
Whether it’s roasted, put into a stir-fry, or grilled, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by eating this one.
Tomatoes: These fruits (yes, they are technically not vegetables) are high in lycopene. The natural compound helps to give the skin of the tomatoes their vibrant red color. Consequently, that is where most of the antioxidants are concentrated.
Broccoli: There is a reason why parents tell their children to eat their broccoli: It’s good for you! Beyond having several antioxidants present, dozens of studies and reviews have been conducted touting broccoli’s suggested benefits for many things. Those range from helping to lower blood sugar to promoting healthy digestion to boosting your immune system.
“In general, people should make fresh fruits and vegetables a more significant part of their diet,” Wright said. “Summer is great time to get those foods and get them fresh. You might even be able to grow some of them in your own backyard!”
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