By Marisa Morales, Nutrition Peer Counselor, UC Davis Healthy Aggies
It is an undeniable fact of life that fruit is one of nature’s greatest gifts. This deliciously sweet, and at times sour, product can be used in a variety of dishes from smoothies to oatmeal to water to salad to much more. While some fruits are available year-round, other fruits have a prime season in which they are tastier, fresher, and cheaper. Look below at some of the fruits Summer has to offer and their many nutritional benefits!
- Blackberries– This rich purple berry is the perfect addition to a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal. It is packed full of antioxidants to help prevent or slow damage to our cells, vitamin C to stimulate collagen production, and vitamin K to aid in blood clotting for wound healing. Blackberries are best between mid-May and late June but be sure not to rinse them until right before you eat to prevent them from getting soggy and moldy too soon.
- Cherries– From yellow-red to very dark red, this small stone fruit contains very beneficial nutrients. Anthocyanin, a compound in cherries that gives its red pigmentation, is an antioxidant protecting us from damaging free radicals. They are also loaded with anti-inflammatory molecules and potassium, an electrolyte vital for water balance. Interestingly, cherries naturally contain melatonin －a hormone that aids in sleep. Make sure to grab a fresh bundle of cherries between the beginning of May and late June!
- Mangos– There is no doubt that this tropical fruit tastes phenomenal, but it also does plenty for our body. Mangos are a great source of fiber (aids in digestion), vitamin A (aids in immune and eye function), and vitamin C. Plus, mangos have an abundance of potassium, even more than bananas! Now, most of the time we are able to tell when a fruit is ripe just based on sight, but there is not a way to determine the ripeness of mangos based on color －you can only tell by softness and a fruity aroma. Be sure to keep this in mind during their peak season (April through mid-July)!
- Peaches/nectarines– These two stone fruits are often confused for one another and although they are genetically similar, peaches have fuzz on their peel while nectarines are smooth. Depending on how you like them, you can eat them while they are hard if you like the ‘crunch’ or you can wait until they get soft if you prefer them juicy. Whichever way you choose to eat them, they are still an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants to protect against skin damage from that Summer sun. Be sure to snag a couple of these between mid-June to early September!
- Strawberries– Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside! Their beautiful bright red color is due to the phytonutrients and flavonoids which also act as powerful antioxidants. Additionally, strawberries are a plentiful source of vitamin C and manganese, a key activator of many enzymes used in metabolism. Stop by your local farmers market between April and late June for a delicious package of strawberries!
- Watermelons– Last, but not least, we have the most popular Summer fruit! Watermelons are extremely popular during this season because it helps keep us cool and hydrated; one single bite contains roughly 92% water and 6% sugar. This melon contains enough vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It can be tricky trying to pick a ripe watermelon for the family. Here is a tip that may help: look for a white-yellow spot on the underside of the watermelon. This is where the melon laid on the ground in the sun while it ripened. A sound check is another way to determine ripeness: a deep, hollow sound after knocking on the watermelon means it is ripe.
As you can see, most of the fruit are full of antioxidants, vitamins A & C, potassium, and much more. Try adding a side of fruit to every meal for that extra helping of nutrients! Which is your favorite?