Summer Produce Obsessions

Published: July 24, 2016 | By Alison Boden MPH, RDN
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I’m loving my summer produce these days! Although if you live in San Francisco like me, “summer” is a relative term ;) Still, living near so many organic small farms in Northern California, there’s an abundance of delicious summer produce at my fingertips. And then in my face.

Below is a list of some summer staples I receive in my farm box, and their health benefits. With a women’s health spin of course. Enjoy!

Corn— Corn gets a bad rap. Yes, high fructose corn syrup and other super processed derivatives are to be avoided, and corn is one of the heaviest GMO foods, but fresh organic corn on the cob is a great summer addition to your plate. Though the starch content resembles that of a grain rather than a vegetable, corn boasts B-vitamins, fiber and the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin a phytochemical (aka plant superpower) that is a wonderful antioxidant. My favorite way to enjoy corn is grilled on the bbq with a squeeze of lime.

Cucumbers – Not only are cucumbers refreshing because of their high water content, but they are also good sources of magnesium, fiber, vitamins C & K and silica – a necessary component of bones and collagen. Silica works together with calcium and strengthen bones, and can potentially help keep the elasticity firm in your skin. For maximum nutrients, leave the skin on the cucumber and wash thoroughly to remove the waxy coating.  Thinly slice cucumbers and marinate in a bit of rice vinegar mixed with water for a light and delicious side dish.

Tomatoes – Available year round but most delicious when local and in season.  There’s more to the tomato than the typical beefsteak variety – heirlooms in particular come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.  High in vitamins C, A, and K, tomatoes are probably best known for their lycopene content which becomes more concentrated when the tomatoes are cooked.

Squash – Zucchini, crookneck or pattypan, summer squash offers an abundance of nutrients for very little calories. A great source of fiber, beta-carotene, antioxidants and even anti-inflammatory properties, squash is brimming with health benefits.  Most of these compounds are found in the skin and seeds, so make sure to consume in its entirety.  Summer squash like zucchini is particularly helpful for those struggling with insulin resistance, PCOS, or gestational diabetes as you can use it in place of higher glycemic ingredients like noodles (they call them zoodles! get it?). This gadget is a wonderful addition to any kitchen.

Basil – Typically considered a spice rather than a vegetable, basil actually brings a host of health benefits to the table.  Basil’s essential oils have shown to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, and can also prevent cooking oils from oxidizing.  Animal studies have displayed positive effects of basil on blood pressure and blood sugar- great for anyone especially pregnant mamas looking to prevent gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

Eggplant—Also known as Aubergine, the flavanoid anthocyanin gives eggplant its characteristic purple color and also its health benefits ranging from antioxidant activity to combating chronic inflammation.  To reduce the sometimes tough, spongy texture, I cube or slice mine and simmer in some home made broth until they become soft. Eggplant cooked in this way is one vegetable that my little guy will ALWAYS eat.

*Fun fact! Even though we consider these vegetables from a nutrition perspective (with the exception of corn) did you know that some of these above are actually botanically categorized as fruits? Pop over to my instagram to tell me which one(s).

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About the author

Alison is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist- a food and nutrition expert educated and trained in using food to prevent, reverse and manage disease. She earned a Master of Public Health and the qualifications to sit for the national Registered Dietitian exam from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is currently working toward a Doctorate of Clinical Nutrition in Functional Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Alison is a member of Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine and Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Visit http://nourishingradiance.com