If you have yet to reach the health or weight loss goals you promised yourself you’d achieve before swimsuit season, don’t give up just yet! Summer is the perfect time to switch up your diet, with an abundance of fresh, delicious, and healthy choices in season. Better yet, many of summer’s delicious fruits and vegetables are brimming with secret health benefits! Fresh fruits and vegetables are not only delicious but contain essential vitamins and minerals that are at their peak during the summer. They also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, which have been shown to help protect against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity. Most Americans only eat about two to three servings of fruit and vegetables a day, especially during the summer, when sugary cocktails, ice cream, and carnival foods may take the place of more nutritious options. However, the USDA recommends eating 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. While this may sound like a lot, with all the delicious produce reaching its peak in the summer it’s not hard to swap out the unhealthy summer snacks for waist-friendly ones that are just as delicious! Read on to see the top seven foods you should eat more of this summer. Of course, make sure your eating plan is well balanced and consists of plenty of protein along with these fruits and vegetables, and always consult your physician before taking on any kind of diet, exercise or weight loss routine.
Getting healthier this summer starts with this familiar seasonal classic. Made up of more than 90 percent water, watermelon is the key to staying hydrated during even the hottest summer days. Watermelon’s high water content will keep you feeling full on very few calories, while also helping to stabilize your mood and concentration. As an added bonus, watermelon also contains lycopene, which can help protect skin cells from sun damage. Enjoy cold watermelon on its own, or pair it with feta cheese and mint leaves for a delicious summer salad!
Stay cool as a cucumber this summer with another super-hydrating snack! Cucumbers are another food that has an extremely high water content with a low number of calories. However, while cucumbers are low in calories, they are high in many important vitamins and minerals. One cup of chopped, unpeeled cucumber contains about 10 micrograms of Vitamin K. According to the USDA, Vitamin K helps to prevent blood clotting and may also support bone health by maximizing calcium absorption. One medium cucumber also contains about 48 milligrams of calcium! The USDA recommends that adults consume between 1,000–1,200 mg of calcium a day, depending on sex and age. Cucumber is an extremely versatile food and there are many ways to enjoy it, such as in a salad, dipped in hummus, or simply drizzled with lemon juice and salt!
Most people know that cherries are delicious in pie, but they’re also packed with nutrients! Cherries are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C is essential for helping to maintain your immune system and skin health, while potassium helps with critical body processes such as muscle contraction, nerve function, and blood pressure regulation. Additionally, cherries are especially high in polyphenols, a group of plant chemicals that can help fight cellular damage, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health. In fact, polyphenol-rich diets may protect against many chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. This summer resist the urge to bake your cherries into a pie. Instead, enjoy this delicious in-season fruit with Lite Cool Whip, in a smoothie, or on their own!
Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is another food that may help you reach your health goals this summer. Zucchini is rich in fiber and water yet low in calories, which may help reduce hunger and keep you feeling satiated, potentially leading to increased weight loss over time. Moreover, zucchini’s high fiber content may increase insulin sensitivity which may reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. Zucchini is also rich in potassium, which may help reduce high blood pressure by dilating your blood vessels. Healthier blood pressure is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Zucchini is extremely versatile and is delicious cooked or raw. Try stewing it with other fruits and vegetables to make ratatouille, serve it grilled or sautéed with some garlic and a teaspoon of olive oil, or even spiralize it to replace noodles!
Nothing is worse than feeling bloated and puffy when you’re trying to hit the beach. Luckily, celery and fennel are not only healthy snacks, but also act as diuretics, helping you lose water weight and reduce bloating without causing dehydration. The ingredients in these two vegetables have strong diuretic properties, gently stimulating the kidneys to flush away excess water and salt. Some studies have also shown that celery and fennel may help regulate blood pressure. Add these vegetables to your diet this summer to look and feel beach-ready! Celery and fennel are delicious together and can be sliced thinly and made into a bright-tasting salad along with apples, walnuts, and lemon juice, with parmesan cheese for garnish. Alternatively, enjoy celery dipped in peanut butter or hummus and try roasting, grilling, or sautéing fennel with a small amount of olive oil and garlic!
Another summer staple, corn is a grain that is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While many people tend to shy away from corn when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it can be part of a well-rounded diet when consumed in moderation and its nutritional properties should not be overlooked. If you suffer from lack of energy or love sweating it out at the gym, include corn in your meals more often. Despite the sugar in corn, it ranks low on the glycemic index and may offer you more energy for a longer period of time. Additionally, corn provides complex carbohydrates that not only provide physical energy but also support proper brain and nervous system function. If you plan on serving corn for your next summer barbecue, cook it right on the grill! While the corn is cooking, mix together lime juice, chopped cilantro, and minced garlic to pour over it. Grilling the corn for just five minutes on each side yields juicy, smoky kernels that soak up the garlic-lime mixture perfectly.
Few sweet snacks embody summer quite like peaches. However, they have a lot more to offer than just that summertime feeling. Peaches may be just what you need to aid you in your weight loss journey. They help by keeping you full on very few calories due to their high water and fiber content. Additionally, peaches contain catechins which are natural antioxidants that may boost metabolism. Improved metabolism helps to burn calories and therefore aids in weight loss. Peaches are also an excellent post-workout snack because of their potassium content. The CDC recommends that adults consume between 3,500 – 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily. Deficiency in potassium can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue. However, there are about 185 milligrams of potassium in one medium-sized peach. Like corn, peaches are perfect for grilling! Cut peaches in half and grill uncovered for four to five minutes on each side to let the natural sugars caramelize. Top each half with a spoonful of Lite Cool Whip and you have the perfect summery swap for any dessert!