There’s nothing that screams “summer” more than sinking your teeth into a perfectly juicy slice of watermelon, giving us one more reason to seek out the very best of seasonal summer produce. Farmer’s markets abound and it’s locally grown, organic fare galore. According to a PBS article and CUESA, Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, there’s a wide range of fruits and veggies that are fresh for the taking, so you’ll want to get your hands on them before it’s too late. And what’s more? We’ve narrowed down a list of 4 specific fruits and veggies that also boast some serious health benefits.
1. Green peppers
Although all peppers are rich in antioxidants, green peppers in particular boast the highest water content, not to mention they’re a great addition to any summer salad. As mentioned in this SF Gate article, green peppers contain zeaxanthin, which keeps eyes healthy and may reduce the risk of age-related eye disorders. Vitamins C and E, which are found in this crunchy snack, help keep the body from developing infections, protect your cells from damage, and support a strong immune system. The SF Gate article also noted that one cup of green bell peppers contains 2.5 grams of fiber — daily recommendation for women is 21 to 25 grams, and for men is 30 to 38 grams — which will help the digestive system work more efficiently.
Like I said, there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a juicy slice of freshly cut watermelon on a hot summer’s day. And for that reason, of course, watermelon has made the list. As Allison Krupp of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market told us, “Watermelon contains 91.5% water. While it’s rich in vitamin-C, it has many cancer fighting properties, as being linked with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.” And how can we be sure? Watermelon is among the richest sources of lycopene, which is a cancer-fighting antioxidant that’s found in red fruits and veggies. In addition to helping heart health and soothing sore muscles, National Geographic even claims that this juicy treat could act as a natural Viagra! However, it should be noted that you’d have to eat a large amount before seeing the effects of improved circulation that could benefit more than just the heart.
Besides the fact that cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food, the benefits of this crispy veggie come in many different forms. Ever tried putting slices on your eyes, or had a spa treatment that’s incorporated them? Megan Ware, a registered dietician nutritionist in Orlando, Fla., told Live Science, “Cucumbers have a cooling and soothing effect that decreases swelling, irritation and inflammation when used topically. Cucumber slices can be placed on the eyes to decrease morning puffiness or alleviate and treat sunburn when placed on the affected areas.” More importantly, though, cucumbers could help stave off cancer. According to Live Science, cucumbers contain two phytonutrient compounds associated with anti-cancer benefits: lignans and cucurbitacins, and, according to research published in the Scientific World Journal, cucurbitacins help block the signaling pathways imperative to cancer cell proliferation and survival. Additionally, cucumbers are high in vitamin K, which can improve bone health.
Who doesn’t love a good helping of berries as a quick midday snack? While all berries are good for hydration, as raspberries and blueberries both contain about 85% water and blackberries 88.2%, strawberries top the list at 91%. Strawberries are delicious on their own, or combined with another healthy food, such as in a smoothie or mixed with nonfat yogurt, as the combination of carbohydrates, fiber and protein will do the body good. Additional health benefits of strawberries include improved eye care and proper brain function, and their polyphenolic and antioxidant content helps boost the immune system.