Grab your sack or satchel and let’s go to the farmer’s market. Summer is the perfect time to hit the outdoor marts and enjoy a dose of vitamin D-rich sunshine while scouting for an array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course, you’ll want to bring some home to add color and nutrients to your home cooked meals. Summer brings a variety of options that are fresh and in season. If you’re looking for nutrient density and health benefits, don’t forget to pick up these five healthy produce picks.
Red Bell Peppers
You might think citrus fruits reign supreme with regard to vitamin C content – but you might be better served eating a red bell pepper. In fact, one medium red bell pepper has a whopping 152 milligrams of this antioxidant vitamin. In contrast, a whole orange contains only 50 milligrams of C, so you’re getting three times more when you choose the pepper.
What’s so important about vitamin C? Vitamin C plays a special role in mopping up free radicals and oxidative stress inside cells Plus, it helps recycle another antioxidant vitamin – vitamin E. Another thing to love about red bell peppers – they’re a rich source of beta-carotene, a compound that supports eye health and protects against age-related eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
You can prepare red bell peppers in many ways – sautéing, roasting, or by baking (how about stuffed peppers?) Experiment a bit but enjoy them raw as well in your next salad. Adding red bell peppers raw to a salad preserves their vitamin C content best. Vitamin C is very sensitive to heat and cooking can lead to the loss of more than 40% of this essential vitamin.
What would summer be without slicing open a juicy watermelon? What a way to cool off – and there’s more good news about this naturally sweet fruit. Eating watermelon has surprising health benefits. In fact, watermelon contains a compound called citrulline that your body converts into the amino acid l-arginine. L-arginine, in turn, boosts the production of nitric oxide within the walls of blood vessels. The end result is that nitric oxide opens your arteries wider and helps lower your blood pressure.
In fact, a small study carried out at Florida State University showed that a watermelon extract significantly reduced blood pressure in the large blood vessel in the heart called the aorta. It also improved the function of peripheral arteries. So, watermelon is a heart-healthy summertime treat!
Despite being more than 90% water, watermelon is a powerhouse of nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C, lycopene, and antioxidants. Since you likely eat watermelon raw, you don’t have to worry about nutrient loss due to cooking. However, don’t slice open watermelon until you’re ready to eat it. It can lose a significant amount of vitamin C when you expose it to light.
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