As the weather continues to warm and summer approaches, it becomes time to enjoy some of our summer produce favorites. Summer produce includes rich green vegetables and delicious, sweet melons and fruits. Read along as we discuss a few top picks for their nutrition and health benefits, plus tips for selecting the perfect produce and even a recipe!
Avocado- Delicious and creamy, avocados are easy to enjoy on salads, toast, in guacamole or simply sliced. They’re also powerhouses for nutrition. One single 3.5oz serving has 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. They also have 7 grams of fiber while containing no cholesterol, and being low in saturated fat and sodium. Here are a few other nutrients in a single serving:
Selecting the right avocado – Choosing an avocado depends on when you intend to use it. If you are looking to use it same day, a ripe avocado will have a dark skin and will yield to gentle pressure with your thumb, but shouldn’t be soft or mushy. Avocados will continue to ripen at home, so if you are buying it an advance, choose slightly less-ripe fruit.
Quick Tip – Try grilling your avocado! Cut in half, deseed, peel and slice your avocado as you prefer. Drizzle with fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice and brush lightly with olive oil. Gently grill for about 2 minutes on each side. This grilled avocado will look beautiful on a plate this summer and will be both a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal!
Cantaloupe – This sweet melon is at its peak ripeness in the spring & summer and is perfect for a refreshing snack that has the added bonus of being nutritious. Here are just a few benefits of this melon:
Selecting the right cantaloupe – Look for a symmetrical and round melon that feels slightly heavy. It should smell sweet and have little to no green on the skin.
Quick Tip – Try this easy cantaloupe sorbet! Cube one medium cantaloupe (about 4 ½ cups.) Arrange the chunks on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving room between pieces. Freeze for at least 4 hours (overnight is even better!) Place the frozen cubes in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp water (if you would like a deeper flavor, try adding a small amount of raw honey!) Pulse together and add water as needed to achieve a soft sorbet texture. Return to freezer to allow the sorbet to firm up, or serve and enjoy!
Eggplant – Commonly considered a vegetable, eggplants are actually fruits.
Selecting the right eggplant – look for smooth shiny skin that is uniform in color. Choose one that is heavy for its size and press a finger lightly against its skin. If it leaves an imprint, the eggplant is ripe. (Tip: smaller eggplants tend to be less bitter and have thinner skin)
Quick Tip – Eggplant is delicious grilled! Try a spicy version by slicing eggplants in ½” thick slices. Brush each slice with olive oil and drizzle with fresh lime juice. Sprinkle Cajun seasoning over each slide and allow to stand for about 5 minutes. Grill (or broil) for about 4-5 per side.
Mango- It is easy to see why mango is considered the “king of fruits” in some countries, due to its impressive nutritious profile.
Selecting the perfect mango – A ripe mango will give slightly to light pressure. The skin color is not an indicator of ripeness. Mangoes will continue to ripen at home, so if you are looking to enjoy one several days later, choose a slightly firmer fruit.
Quick Tip – Mangoes lend themselves perfectly to a delicious salsa that can be used to top most summer entrees or enjoyed fresh with chips or pita. Simply chop mango, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and a jalapeno and toss with a pinch of salt, ground cumin, black pepper and the zest and juice of one lime. (Top with sliced avocado to enjoy another great summer fruit!)
Papaya – These long, sweet and soft fruits have been enjoyed for thousands of years. And it’s no wonder, check out these great benefits:
Select the best papaya – Look for a smooth-skinned fruit that is heavy for its size. A fully ripe papaya is firm, but will yield to gentle pressure and have bright yellow skin.
Quick Tip – Papaya contains an enzyme that has been used for centuries as a natural meat tenderizer. Try making a marinade by cubing a small papaya and pulsing in a food processor with 1/3 c. soy sauce and 2 tbsp brown sugar. Add water if the mixture is too thick. Use to marinate beef (6hrs) or chicken (2hrs.) It will lend a delicious, fresh summer taste to your recipes all summer long!
Watermelon – The classic summer treat, watermelon is loaded with water and is good for you!
Select the ripest watermelon – No matter its size, a watermelon should feel heavy for its size. Look for the yellow spot where the watermelon rested on the ground while growing. When that spot is creamy yellow, its ripe! (White or green spot may not be as ripe and watermelons do not continue to ripen after they are picked.)
Quick Tip – For a fresh take on this summer staple, try sprinkling cubed watermelon with a mix of ¼ tsp each: cumin, coriander chili powder and salt. Add 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and drizzle with ½ lime juiced. Adjust the levels of peppers for your personal taste.
Zucchini – The powerhouse of the list with all of the following in just one cup cooked zucchini:
Select the perfect zucchini – choose a smaller, thinner zucchini that has a smooth, dark green skin. It should feel heavy for its size.
Quick Tip – Zucchini is another summer produce favorite that is great grilled! Try brushing quartered zucchini with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder a pinch of salt and Italian seasoning before grilling for 3-4 minutes per side. For the perfect finish, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and grill for 1 minute more.
With such a wide variety of rich green vegetables and delicious, sweet melons and fruits, we hope you saw a few summer produce favorites that you’d like to try adding to your meals.
Written By: S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.
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