Watermelon is not just refreshing, it is a super healthy food, loaded with nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and amino acids. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, antioxidants that support eye health and decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Watermelon is also high in vitamin C, which supports strong immunity, wound healing, healthy gums and can act like a natural antihistamine, which comes in handy with all of the pollen flying around during the summer. Vitamin B6, abundant in watermelon, supports brain function and plays an important role in building the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that we often associate with tomatoes, is actually most abundant in pink fleshed watermelon. Lycopene may offer protection against certain cancers such as prostate cancer and it has protective effects against heart disease.
When it comes to minerals, watermelon is a good source of both potassium and magnesium, both of which help the body maintain proper electrolyte balance and help prevent against high blood pressure.
Magnesium is also a natural stress reliever and may benefit insomnia and headaches. Definitely a better choice for dessert than Tiramisu.
Watermelon (especially the rind) contains an interesting amino acid called citrulline. Citrulline gets converted to arginine in the body. Arginine supports cardiovascular health and improved blood flow through the blood vessels. Arginine has also been shown to help prevent excess fat from accumulating in fat cells.
2. Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries) - Although berries are available year round in most grocery stores, they are usually imported from outside of the country and the flavor doesn't quite compare to the berries of summer, fresh from the farm or farmer's market. Berries are known as antioxidant powerhouses. Recent research on blueberries showed a positive effect between blueberry consumption and memory and age-related cognitive decline. Berries have a favorable impact on blood sugar and rank low on the glycemic index. Berries are rich in fiber and anthocyanins, which give berries their beautiful pigments of blue, red, and purple. These anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease. They also help protect our eyes. Oxidative stress has been linked to neurological diseases like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's as well as heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and premature aging. A poor diet, exposure to toxins, stress, certain medications and even excessive exercise can contribute to oxidative stress. Eating berries is one of the best things we can do to protect against these diseases. Most berries contain a healthy dose of vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system and also help protect against oxidative stress. Blueberries rank the highest in antioxidant activities, followed by blackberries, raspberries, then strawberries. Finding, buying, and eating organic berries is always your best bet since conventionally grown berries frequently wind up on Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen for worst pesticide exposure.
3. Purple Cabbage (and Green Cabbage) - We usually think of cabbage as winter foods and it's true, it prefers cooler temperatures for growing, but organic varieties are available year round and because cabbage makes a crunchy delicious salad, we had to add it to our list. Both purple and green varieties are rich in antioxidants and fiber, which provide a wide range of health benefits. Cabbage also contains vitamins A, D, K, and folate, providing immune support and protection for our bones. Purple cabbage has a higher concentration of anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants that offer protection against certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. One of our favorite easy ways to enjoy cabbage is to whip up a slaw with shredded cabbage (either or both varieties), shredded carrots, green onions, a little jalapeno pepper, fresh mint, diced red bell peppers tossed with olive oil and seasoned rice wine vinegar or plain vinegar with a little sea salt and a dash of sugar or honey.
4. Plain Greek Yogurt - The great thing about yogurt is that it knows no season but it goes great with all the fruits of summer. Greek yogurt provides a higher protein content compared to regular lowfat and probiotics that help to support healthy digestion and a flat belly. Current research also suggests that the probiotics in yogurt may also support brain function. Yogurt contains magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which supports strong body and strong mind. Use yogurt in place of mayonnaise in summer salads; add it to baked goods in place of buttermilk; use it as a base for frozen yogurt!
5. Cherries - Similar to the berry story, cherries are a rich source of anthocyanin antioxidants that support against premature aging. Cherries contain powerful chemicals like ellagic acid and quercetin, which have anticancer effects. Other chemical compounds in cherries help prevent gout and arthritis. Cherries contain melatonin, an antioxidant hormone, which supports normal biorhythms and healthy sleep. Cherries are also a great source of fiber, providing about 3 grams per cup of cherries. Tart cherries are especially known for their belly busting action, and may be harder to find at the market. Tart cherry juice or dried tart cherries may be your best bet in that case.
6. Green Beans - A favorite of backyard summer gardens, green beans actually contain a healthy dose of antioxidant nutrients as well as B vitamins. They also contain vitamin K and the minerals silicon and manganese, which are both important for strong bones. Green beans have a good fiber content and when you combine that with the awesome antioxidant activity you get good protection against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fatty acids in green beans may also provide a beneficial effect on blood cholesterol levels.
7. Green Tea - So, not really a food, but since iced tea and summertime are nearly synonymous, we had to put it on the list. The next time you are thinking about making sun tea, why not make it with green tea. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called catechins, and boasts many potential health benefits including protection against certain cancers, dementia, heart disease and stroke, lowering cholesterol, and fat burning.