This time of year is a nutritional goldmine for foods that look good, taste great, and are really good for you. Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy showed us the top 8 best summertime foods, plus gave us a few surprising facts about each one, and fun, tasty ways to include them in our diets.
It wouldn't be summer without watermelon! Besides being a great summertime thirst-quencher, this fruit is packed with potassium, vitamins A and C, and two phytonutrients, arginine and citrulline, that help keep blood vessels squeaky clean. While you probably think that tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, a compound that lowers the risk for prostate cancer and heart disease, along with helping to protect skin from sun damage, in fact, watermelon has more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable: 10 milligrams for every cup.
Fun things to do with watermelon: Salsa, Sangria
Believe it or not, bananas are the most popular fruit in America. 90% of households buy bananas and it is the #1 item sold in grocery stores. Portland in particular is such a banana-loving city, it has been named by Dole as a "Top Banana City" for 2012. Bananas are a great source of potassium, vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and fiber. They are a great way to replenish carbs, glycogen, electrolytes, and fluids after exercise, too.
Fun ways to eat bananas: Banana scones, PBB sandwich
July is national blueberry month. The Willamette Valley is world-renown for it's berries, with varieties ranging from blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries to katatas and Marion berries. Berries are rich in antioxidants, with a wealth of research showing they help protect brain tissue from damage associated with memory loss and even Alzheimer's, which is why they have been nicknamed, Brain Berries. They also protect against urinary tract infections and help keep blood vessels clear, lowering the risk for heart disease. Anthocyanins in blueberries help protect eyesight.
Fun ways to eat berries: Frozen as a substitute for ice cream, Sauce for pancakes
4. Iced Green Tea
People who exercise and drink plenty of the green stuff lose slightly more weight and shed more belly fat than non-tea drinkers. Why? Chemicals called catechins found in tea boost metabolism and increase fat burn. Green tea also has been linked to lower risks for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and even premature aging.
Fun ways to drink green tea: Toss frozen berries or slices of nectarine into your glass they act as a natural sweetener.
5. Turkey Burgers
Want your hamburger, but not the calories? Simply swap a burger made from regular ground beef for a lean ground turkey burger (280 vs 170 calories/ 4 ounces respectively) allowing you to shed more than 100 calories and still have a great tasting burger. If you mix in lots of veggies, such as diced onions, red peppers, and garlic, you further cut calories while adding lots of taste. Then use whole grain buns, and pile high the lettuce, tomatoes, and other veggies.
Turkey burger with all the fixings
6. Vegetable Kabobs
Burgers? Check. Fruit salad? Check. Veggie kebabs? Make yours a double! Almost any vegetable or fruit can be grilled even spinach. Besides the usual suspects (zucchini, bell peppers, corn) you can wrap tomatoes and garlic in foil and toss whole heads of cauliflower and broccoli on the barbecue. Make sure half the grill is loaded with veggies so that leftovers can round out sandwiches and pasta.
Fun ways to fix Kabobs: Vegetable kabobs
Nothing says summer like fresh sweet corn. And did you know that two antioxidantslutein and zeaxanthinin corn may act like natural sunglasses, helping to form macular pigment that filters out some of the suns damaging rays? Its true. The same antioxidants may also help lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60 (though much of the damage occurs decades earlier). Corn is grown on every continent, except Antartica, there are 800 kernels on 16 rows in each ear of corn, and it's the #1 field crop in America.
Fun ways to fix corn: Corn chowder, salsas, salads, or just plain corn on the cob with a twist
8. Dips and Dunks
Bet you didn't know that March 14 is National Potato Chip Day. And did you know that the potato chip was "invented" in 1853 by a Native American chef in a resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.? A guest did not like the resort's french fries, and the chef, George Crum, decided to get back at the complainer by making really bad fries that were too crisp to eat with a fork. The guest liked the brown, paper-thin potatoes, and soon potato chips were a specialty at the hotel.
Potato chips were first sold in a grocery store in 1895, and during the early years of the 20th century, dozens of potato-chip factories were opened. But it was not until the 1950s that chips became more than a side dish. In the 1950s, entertaining changed to informal buffet or coffee-table service. Chips are now the #1 snack food, but they also pack a wallop of calories.
What to do instead: Serve baked whole grain pita bread wedges to dunk in salsa or homemade hummus. Use fat-free sour cream or fat-free cream cheese for other dips.