June has finally arrived and in-season fruits and vegetables will be showing up in stores, farmers markets and roadside stands from now through the fall harvest, in greater quantities each consecutive month. Here’s what’s coming into season this month. Get them while you can because many of these delicious and nutritious items are available fresh only once a year. And, next month will bring a brand new set of must-haves. Consult the guide following this post to see the health benefits the nutrients in these gems possess.
Apricots are stone fruits, like cherries and peaches. But, while the latter are native to the Americas, apricots are examples of fruit native to Asia that’ve been successfully cultivated in the Western Hemisphere. Apricots are rich in vitamins A and C; minerals copper, iron and potassium; and all of the carotenes.
While dried apricots are plentiful year round, their harvest season and shelf life are short. If you’re a fan of fresh apricots, buy them as soon as they’re available in your area and consume them within a few days.
I’m not a fan of the term super-food because I consider all whole foods super in that each offers a unique set of beneficial nutrients. But, I understand why blueberries have been labeled as such. Blueberries contain a stunning variety of phytonutrients and in greater amounts compared to most other fruits and vegetables. Listing all the phytochemicals they offer would be impractical, but I’ll mention two of the most powerful that blueberries have in abundance: anthocyannis and chlorogenic acid. Blueberries also boast fiber, manganese, pyridoxine, and vitamins E and K.
I recommend getting them in ample amounts in-season and, in addition to snacking on them as is, add them to hot and cold cereals, smoothies, yogurt, cottage cheese, salads and even sweet treats like ice cream.
Corn, in general, has a bad reputation for falling into the dreaded carb category. But, not all corn is equal. Field corn (maize) is a simple-carbohydrate grain used in most mass-produced cereals and snack foods and, therefore, doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrients. On the other hand, sweet corn (corn on the cob, whole frozen/canned corn kernels and popping corn) is a grain-vegetable hybrid and, as such, is a complex carbohydrate just like other vegetables and whole grains.
The proof is the extensive list of sweet corn nutrients: fiber; vitamins B-1, B-3, B-5, B-9 and C; minerals iron, magnesium and manganese; phytonutrients ferolic acid, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. So, if you’re trying to reduce starchy carbs, don’t shy away from sweet corn. Sub in corn on the cob for traditional starchy sides like rice, potatoes and breads.
Sweet and juicy, fresh peaches are an early summer treat. They pack plenty of fiber and vitamins A, C and E. They also contain copper, potassium and lots of beta carotene with modest amounts of the rest of the carotene family.
Because peaches can go from ripe to over-ripe in a matter of 48 hours, they’re typically picked under-ripe. Choose peaches with unblemished skin and confirm there aren’t any soft spots. Let them ripen at room temperature and eat or preserve them within two days of ripening.
Late June harkens dreams of fresh strawberry shortcake and the traditional strawberries and cream served at Wimbledon in early July. Not to mention their pairing with rhubarb in the popular late-spring pie. Have at it, because here’s what those red beauties give you: vitamin C, folate, iron, manganese, anthocyannis and ellagic acid.
Don’t short-change strawberries by thinking of them only in terms of dessert. They can elevate breakfast as well as any salad.
Vitamin A: Antioxidant promotes immunity function and eye, skin & red blood cell health (fat-soluble)
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin): Promotes brain function, regulates energy levels
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Promotes blood health, regulates cholesterol
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Promotes healthy hormone response
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Promotes healthy blood vessels
Vitamin B-9 (Folate): Necessary for healthy blood cells & fetal development
Vitamin C: Antioxidant that boosts immunity
Vitamin E: Antioxidant promotes healthy skin & eyes and boosts immunity (fat soluble)
Vitamin K: Important in protein absorption for healthy blood and bones (fat-soluble)
Copper: Antioxidant promotes healthy blood and eye, brain, skin and bone tissue
Iron: Antioxidant necessary for blood health
Magnesium: Electrolyte for nerve function and heart & blood glucose regulation
Manganese: Antioxidant important in bone health and blood sugar regulation
Potassium: An electrolyte that assists in controlling blood pressure
Other Nutrients & Nutrient Types
Antioxidants: Class of nutrients that reduce inflammation and repair cell damage by absorbing free radicals throughout the body. Free radicals are released (oxidized) when cells are damaged due to poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, inhaling or ingesting pollutants and toxins, sun damage, the aging process and infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi.
Electrolytes: Ions (electrically charged molecules) that exist in all bodily fluids; necessary to maintain cell balance
Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Need to be consumed with dietary fats in order to be absorbed by the body.
Fiber: Technically not a nutrient but essential for digestive health & an aid in weight control.
Phytochemicals/Phytonutrients: Powerful antioxidants found in small amounts in most plant-based foods. Over 25,000 individual phytonutrients have been identified thus far and many are sub-divided into categories such as phytoestrogens, carotenes and polyphenolics. The largest category of phytochemicals are known as flavonoids. Studies indicate phytochemicals are most potent when they’re consumed in the whole foods that contain them naturally and, therefore, aren’t effective in supplement form. Here are some examples of phytonutrients, sub-category (if applicable) and the specific area of the body they benefit:
- Anthocyannis: anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
- Carotene (Alpha & Beta): convert to vitamin A; anti-aging & eye health
- Chlorogenic Acid: helps regulate blood glucose
- Cryptoxanthin: anti-inflammatory carotene
- Ellagic Acid: non-human studies show promise of anti-cancer properties
- Ferolic Acid: Anti-aging, anti-inflammatory flavonoid
- Lutein: carotene for eye health
- Zeaxanthin: carotene for eye health
Sources: visualnews.com, wisebread.com, nutrition-and-you.com, Harvard.edu, webMD