Summer brings a bountiful harvest of tastes, colors, textures, and super nutrients in the form of FRUIT! This is my favorite time of year to visit my local farmers market and marvel at all the colors and nutrients around. There are so many wonderful choices, but there are definitely a few that pack a greater nutritional punch!
If you’re following a low carb or low glycemic diet, you’ve probably been told to limit fruit in general. Although all fruits contain healthy nutrients, some have a lower glycemic load than others so will be lower in carbs and have a smaller impact on blood sugar. Some of the lowest glycemic load fruits are lime, lemon, strawberry, cherry and grapefruit. Other low glycemic load fruits are pear, cantaloupe, watermelon, orange, apricot, peach, plum, apple and kiwi.
Most fruit provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, and rich phytonutrients but some are considered “superfruits” because of the super combination of these that they contain.
At the top of my list are berries—strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. All berries are rich in vitamins, high in fiber and antioxidants and usually lower in carbs and calories. What a deal! Raspberries are high in fiber (8 grams per cup) and ellagic acid (a cancer prevention phytochemical). Blueberries are helpful with memory. Strawberries provide vitamin C, folic acid, and are one of the lowest glycemic load fruits.
An early summer favorite is cherries. Cherries are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber but stand out in the nutrition arena because they contain the anti-inflammatory antioxidant anthocyanin, which is the source of its deep red color. Studies show that they also help to lower triglycerides and cholesterol making them heart healthy.
Apples, a favorite and abundant American favorite, are also a superfruit. Apples are a great fiber source and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that packs antihistamine and anti-inflammatory power. My favorites are honeycrisps and granny smiths.
Some lesser known fruits that I like to eat during the summer are kiwi and acai.
Kiwi has recently been lauded for helping digestive issues. The small black seeds contain insoluble fiber, aiding in regularity and digestion. The green pulp is a source of soluble and pre-biotic fiber. It could be helpful for weight loss, providing the feeling of fullness that comes with eating soluble fiber.
Acai is a South American fruit that is much higher in antioxidants (anthocyanin, resveratrol) than berries or grapes, defending the body against free radicals. Acai has been touted for treating weight loss, aging, arthritis, inflammation, heart disease, and cancer, although there are no conclusive studies to date. It is usually found in juice form, frozen pulp or dried in order to preserve its high antioxidant qualities before being transported abroad. Of the three, I prefer frozen pulp since juice doesn’t contain any fiber and both juice and dried fruit are concentrated in carbs and calories.
Other healthy fruit choices include all citrus fruits, juicy watermelon, peaches, pears, mangos, papayas and plums as well as tomatoes, avocados and coconuts (yes, they are actually fruit!). Each of these as well as the ones that I highlighted above contain their own mix of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants and should be included in your summer mix. And remember, as an added bonus, eating local fruits in season reduces your carbon footprint, so be sure to look for your local farmers’ market next time its in town!
Lea Basch is a registered dietitian and has been in the nutrition industry for over 30 years, most of which she spent at Longmont United Hospital in Boulder, Colorado, where she was one of the founders of the facility’s nutrition program. Longmont’s Planetree philosophy of caring for the body, mind and spirit of patients is very much in line with Lea’s interest in both traditional and alternative therapies for treating chronic illnesses. Gluten-intolerant herself, Lea now focuses much of her time on the latest research and issues relating to gluten-free diets and other food intolerances. She has been a diabetes educator and is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association. Lea’s lifelong passion has been combining the science of nutrition with the heart that it takes to change lifelong habits.
Lea received her BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics at Florida International University and BA in Education at University of Florida. Ask Lea your nutrition questions at DearLea@tastefulpantry.com