There is no better time to amp up your fruit intake than during the summer months. June, July and August offer us the best-tasting and widest variety of fruits, so go find a farmers’ market, or a conventional market with good produce, and start shopping. And remember, the wider variety of colors that you can include in your diet, the better. I’ve color-coded the fruits for you to make it easier to eat a rainbow each day!
- Raspberries and blackberries (red/purple): These little gems are brimming with fiber and antioxidants, and are super low in sugar. Add them to yogurt or a bowl of cereal, or just pop them into your mouth plain. Their calorie content is so low you need not watch your portion size.
- Strawberries and blueberries (red/blue): These sweet berries, which are low in sugar and in calories, are bursting with antioxidants. Pick them up at the height of their season, the summer, and freeze them for a later date. Throw them into your smoothies while frozen, or defrost them and add them to your cottage cheese or yogurt.
- Cherries (red): Recent research puts cherries in the limelight. Studies suggest that cherries can lower your bad cholesterol while raising your good cholesterol; they also contain anthocyanins, which are believed to be natural pain relievers and anti-inflammatory. Cherries are not as low in calories and sugar as berries are, so limit your intake to 1-2 servings (a serving is 20 cherries) per day.
- Nectarines and peaches (yellow/orange): These yellow and orange gems are a summer favorite of mine. Nothing is better than a perfectly ripe peach. These fruits can be cut up into a breakfast parfait with yogurt and granola, can make a wonderful tart or can be enjoyed straight up! If you find a particularly good crop, you can slice and freeze them for later use in smoothies, yogurt and cottage cheese. And, I bet you didn’t know that peaches are lower in calories than nectarines. Nectarines are still “low calorie,” but peaches are lower … interesting, huh?
- Plums (purple): With high antioxidant activity and high levels of Vitamin C, black and red plums offer a strong nutritional punch. They help to keep our cells healthy and are also believed to increase iron absorption. At just 35 calories per plum, you can enjoy two plums for just “one serving of fruit.” They are also high in fiber, which is why the dried version of a plum (a prune) is well touted for helping to fight constipation. I enjoy plums alone, or sliced onto a bowl of vanilla yogurt.
- Watermelon (red): Forget the urban myth that says watermelon is too high in sugar to eat if you are watching your calorie and sugar intake. One cup of melon balls has a mere 46 calories and 10 grams of sugar, which is not much. A significant percentage of watermelon, as its name implies, is water, which makes it a wonderful summer thirst quencher. Enjoy watermelon balls or wedges, and use the rind of the watermelon as a bowl for your next fruit salad! (Cut the melon in half, hollow it out, and fill with mixed fruit.)
And there you have my favorite summer fruits. I suggest getting 2-3 servings per day — and go for the rainbow!
by The FIRM nutrition expert Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N.