Researchers and health experts both agree that eating with nature’s cycles yields the most nutritional benefits and promotes balance within the earth’s resources. When you eat fruits and vegetables based on what is in season, you support your local farmers market, spend less money, and are getting the freshest, most nutritionally-packed gems.

Fruit and vegetables that are grown out of season may be modified and/or covered in pesticides, preservatives, or waxes to keep them fresh. Additionally, research has shown that some vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within a week of being harvested. If you factor in travel time from the produce’s origination (very likely to be another state or country if it is off-season), then your produce may not even be very nutritious.

Seasonal eating is the way to go! As we approach summer, here are my 10 favorite summer produce based on nutritional benefits and taste, and ideas on how to incorporate them into your meals.

Arugula

  • Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, arugula is an excellent source of vitamins A and K, and has sulfur-containing compounds that may inhibit the activity of cancer-causing cells.
  • Top your arugula with strawberries, goat cheese, pistachios and a citrus dressing for a summertime salad.
  • Avocado

  • This fruit has heart-healthy monosaturated fats and is a good source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6.
  • Enjoy on toast with poached eggs or mash up for guacamole.
  • Blueberries

  • These versatile berries are packed with antioxidants. They are low in sugar and a high source of fiber.
  • Blueberries are easy to take along for on-the-go snacks; or add to a smoothie or as a topper for yogurt.
  • Cauliflower

  • A cruciferous vegetable that has immune-boosting antioxidants and minerals.
  • Use as a low-calorie alternative for pasta, rice, and even pizza crust.
  • Cherries

  • Filled with anthocyanins, an antioxidant, that helps reduce the risk of disease and boost heart health.
  • Top cottage cheese with cherries and a drizzle of honey for an afternoon snack or use them as a drink garnish.
  • Cucumbers

  • A low-calorie vegetable that is high in water, contains vitamins C and K, and antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating fruit or vegetables with high water and low-calorie content has been associated with a significant decrease in body weight.
  • Use cucumbers as a replacement for chips to eat with hummus or other dips; add to a salad or a sandwich.
  • Lemon

  • These beauties are packed with vitamin C and citric acid. Citric acid may help prevent kidney stone formation in people who already have them.
  • An easy way to get in a daily dose of lemon is to squeeze half a lemon in a glass of warm water. Also, add a squeeze over fish or salad for a refreshing citrus twist.
  • Peaches

  • This delicious fruit is high in fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, and antioxidants.
  • Grill peaches for a tasty and nutritious dessert. Enjoy with cottage cheese or yogurt for breakfast or as a snack.
  • Spinach

  • Spinach is a nutrient-filled leafy vegetable that contains a dietary nitrate, a vasodilating compound that helps blood flow and transport oxygen to your cells, aiding in decreased inflammation, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
  • Spinach is very versatile. Add it to a smoothie to pack in more nutrients; sauté with garlic and olive oil as a side dish; or use as a salad base.
  • Tomato

  • Tomato is a fruit that is full of vitamin C, K, potassium and folate. It is also a major source of the antioxidant lycopene that can help reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer.
  • There are many ways to enjoy tomatoes. Toss with fresh pasta (one of my favorites!), make into a sauce for pizza or other dishes, or eat with sandwiches and salads.
  • Challenge yourself to try a new fruit or vegetable each week in addition to what you normally eat. Ask for recommendations at your local farmers market or grocery store, find recipes online, and enjoy! Eating more fruits and vegetables will help you feel good – and it’s good for you.