Your local farmers' market is the perfect place to load up on top superfoods.
A warm, sunny day at a farmers' market is the perfect opportunity to stock up on healthy, locally grown, seasonal produce. Picked at their peak, these top superfoods are bursting with taste and nutrition. Here are the healthiest superfoods to help you make the most of summer's bounty.
It's hard to beat a juicy, farm-fresh tomato. Tomatoes aren't just delicious—they're our number one source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help protect against cancer and heart disease. They're good sources of potassium and vitamin C, too. Toss chopped tomatoes with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil for a summery pasta salad. Because lycopene requires fat for absorption, the olive oil will help your body soak up even more of this antioxidant.
If you're watching your blood sugar, cherries can be a smart way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Compared to other fruits, cherries have a surprisingly low glycemic index. That means their sugar is slowly digested and less likely to raise blood sugar. For an elegant summer meal, sauté pitted cherries in red wine and spoon over barbecued, skinless chicken breasts.
Did you know radishes are cruciferous vegetables, just like broccoli and cauliflower? Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients that may help prevent cancer. They're also a surprising source of vitamin C, with twenty-eight percent of your daily dose in one cupful. Don't just save these peppery veggies for salads—radishes are also delicious cooked. Simply quarter them and sauté in a little olive oil over medium heat until tender, about ten minutes. If you get them at a farmers' market, have them leave the greens on. Rinse the leaves well and throw them in with the radishes in the last couple minutes for added flavor.
Sure, orange carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, but did you know that purple carrots are nutrition powerhouses, too? These pretty root vegetables offer up potent antioxidants called anthocyanins which are believed to protect eyesight, heart health, and memory. Since purple varieties can be hard to find at the supermarket, the farmers' market is the ideal place to stock up. Unlike orange carrots, purple types lose their pigments when boiled, so toss them with canola oil and roast them in the oven to keep their gorgeous hue.
What if there was a fruit that could keep your mind sharp? Enter berries. Berries of all kinds contain antioxidants called flavonoids that help protect your brain from inflammation that may slow learning and memory over time. In fact, eating just one-half to one cup of blueberries or strawberries a week has been shown to delay cognitive decline. For a new spin on salad, toss mixed berries with baby spinach and crumbled feta cheese.
Whether they're red, green, yellow, or orange, bell peppers are a tasty way to keep your immune system strong. Just one red bell pepper delivers more than twice the vitamin C you need in a day. Try sliced peppers instead of chips to scoop up guacamole or hummus, or stuff whole peppers with cooked quinoa, beans, and cilantro for a Mexican-inspired, plant-based meal.
Only twenty-four percent of us eat the daily one and a half to two cups of fruit that experts recommend for optimal health. Why not make the most of peaches, plums, and nectarines while they're in season? These top superfoods are believed to help fight metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that increases your risk of heart disease. For a fruity dessert, spray halved stone fruits with non-stick cooking spray and grill until slightly soft, about two to four minutes.
By Karen Ansel, MS, RDN
Mayo Clinic, Lycopene
Linus Pauling Institute, Carotenoids
Northwest Cherry Growers, Potential Health Benefits Associated with Cherries
National Cancer Institute, Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
Health Line, Are Radishes Good for You?
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Bioavailability of Anthocyanins from Purple Carrot Juice: Effects of Acylation and Plant Matrix
National Onion Association, Onions – Phytochemicals and Health Properties
Linus Pauling Institute, Flavonoids
United States Department of Agriculture, Basic Report: 11821, Peppers, Sweet, Red, Raw
National Institutes of Health, Dietary Intake of Berries and Flavonoids in Relation to Cognitive Decline
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, What Is Metabolic Syndrome?