• Julia Ryan

The Added Benefit of Your Favorite Summer and Fall Produce

Round out the end of summer and head into fall with these seasonal and healthful fruits and vegetables! Below are several varieties to incorporate into meals (or to snack on!) as we continue to spend time at home.


Garlic


Garlic’s many different vitamins and minerals exude health benefits. These include abilities to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, thus promoting long-term heart health. Garlic also serves as a natural antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. Incorporate fresh garlic in your pasta dishes and summer salads!


Onions


Though they often induce tears, onions are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants function to maintain cellular health and the flexibility of arteries. A particularly beneficial phytochemical found in onions is quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation, meanwhile, can lead to health problems throughout the life-cycle, including heart disease and diabetes, so it’s important to consume a diet rich in antioxidants. A lesser-known benefit of onions (and garlic) is that they can improve the uptake of the non-heme iron found in plant-based foods.


Kale

Did you know that kale has several different varieties? There is curly kale, dinosaur kale, redbor kale, and russian kale.


Kale, as well as many other dark leafy greens, is a fantastic source of iron, calcium, and vitamin K. About 60-70% of the calcium found in kale is absorbed by the body. Comparatively, only about 30% of calcium found in dairy milk is absorbed.


Apples


Fun fact: Did you know that apples are one of the “top three fruits produced around the world”?


The fiber content of apples may contribute to the old aphorism, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Unfortunately, as many as 95% of Americans do not consume an adequate amount of dietary fiber. Apples, however, are a wonderful source of fiber. The fiber found in apples helps you feel satiated after a meal. This is because foods with a low glycemic load, such as an apple, help to quell blood sugar spikes which in turn reduces feelings of hunger.


To obtain the full amount of fiber, be sure to eat the apple’s skin!


Apricots


As many of us spend long hours in front of the computer screen, we cannot forget about the health of our eyes! Apricots contain vitamin A, which helps ensure proper eye health. Vitamin A works to maintain eye moisture, something easily depleted with long hours at the computer.


Just one cup of apricot slices contains as many as 158 micrograms of Vitamin A. Women should aim to consume approximately 700 micrograms and men 900 micrograms.


Bananas


Bananas, though they contain several different vitamins and minerals, are perhaps best known for their potassium. Potassium, a mineral, can reduce the harmful effects of excess sodium in the diet. Excess sodium intake can lead to adverse health effects, including headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, and some cancers. The potassium in bananas reduces the harm of excess sodium by maintaining the proper water balance within cells.


Cantaloupes


Just one serving of cantaloupe provides 95% of the daily value for vitamin C. Vitamin C is very important for the immune system, and it assists in the healing process following illness or injury.


Tomatoes


As we enjoy our time in the sun in the summer, we cannot forget about exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sunscreen and sun protections are paramount, but tomatoes can also protect against UV-related skin damage. A phytochemical found in tomatoes, lycopene, may be protective.


Lycopene specifically provides basal-layer skin protection. The basal layer is the innermost layer of your skin - closest to your blood vessels! Sun protection and tomato products are a recipe for success for long-term skin health.


Peaches

Peaches are stone fruits. Stone fruits offer a variety of benefits including prebiotics, or nondigestible nutrients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Thanks to this effect, your mood and immune function can both benefit!


Berries


Each type of berry provides nutritional benefits, but it is best to consume a colorful variety! Fresh or frozen berries provide greater nutritional value than dried forms.


Berries are high in antioxidants and contribute to good heart health. They also play a role in blood sugar regulation. They have the ability to blunt insulin spikes and post-meal inflammation, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.


Blackberries, perhaps not the first berry you reach for, are also high in fiber.


Avocado


It is important to avoid saturated fats as best you can. However, fats can be part of a healthy diet, namely in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Consumption of these fats, such as from avocados, has been associated with reduced LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol as it is commonly referred to. Moreover, adding avocados to a meal can also help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.


Carrots


Carrots are a fantastic source of beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor. Without adequate vitamin A, you may experience fatigue, immune deficiency, and skin issues.


Spinach


Spinach is packed with vitamin K among other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin K assists in maintaining proper bone health and mass and thus preventing osteoporosis. In consuming a 2-cup serving of raw spinach, you will meet 200% of your Vitamin K daily value. Add some spinach to your salads and green smoothies!


Summer Squash

Yellow squash is one variety of summer squash. Yellow squash is high in several vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and vitamin A.


One cup of prepared yellow squash provides about 35 micrograms of folate. Folate is important for red blood cell production and the early pregnancy period.


This colorful vegetable can often be found right next to the zucchini in the produce section!


Tips for produce purchases on a budget

  1. Buy according to what’s in season

  2. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to extend your dollar by reducing food waste

  3. Buy whole; certain brands of fruits and vegetables cost more especially if they are pre-washed and/or pre-cut



Julia Ryan is an MS/MPH candidate from the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University.



References


NCHPAD -

https://www.nchpad.org/546/2485/Nutrition~Spotlight~~~The~Super~Power~of~Antioxidants#:~:text=Research%20now%20shows%20that%2C%20in,we%20must%20obtain%20from%20food


Health.com -

https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-onions


Harvard HSPH (Apples) -

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/apples/


American Academy of Ophthalmology -

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/vitamin-deficiency


Healthy Eating - SF gate

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-apricots-3940.html


American Heart Association -

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/effects-of-excess-sodium-infographic


Harvard HSPH (Bananas) -

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/bananas/


Mayo Clinic -

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/melons-pack-a-nutritional-punch


Cedars-Sinai -

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/healthy-and-delicious-avocado.html


EatingWell -

http://www.eatingwell.com/article/7669302/health-benefits-of-spinach/


University of Rochester Medical Center -

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=BetaCarotene


Mayo Clinic - Kale -

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-many-types-and-health-benefits-of-kale


Johns Hopkins - Berries -

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart


Penn State Extension -

https://extension.psu.edu/buying-fruits-and-vegetables-on-a-budget


Stahl et al., 2001

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/131/5/1449/4686953


Health.com - peaches

https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-peaches


Stull, 2016

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187542/


Livestrong, benefits of yellow squash

https://www.livestrong.com/article/366983-the-benefits-of-yellow-squash/


Gautam et al.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20597543/


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