It might be the call of the outdoors when the snow finally departs or an upcoming vacation that involves a certain bathing suit you've been hiding in your closet all year long, but summer is a time many people find themselves looking to eat more fresh foods and add more exercise to their routine.
Produce is at its best in the summer, with grocery store departments becoming a rainbow of fruits and vegetables absolutely loaded with nutritional benefits. These 10 foods just scream summer and will keep you energized and in that bathing suit all season long:
1. Avocados -- The creamy texture of avocados can make them seem like a food to avoid. Truth be told, they're high in calories, but the fat found in avocados is healthy fat that can also make your hair and skin look great. Avocados also have fiber to support your digestive system. Top a salad or sandwich with them to cut the mayo or make classic guacamole -- try dipping thinly sliced cucumber in it for the crunch of a chip without the calories.
2. Pineapple -- The nutrients found in pineapple include fiber, minerals like manganese and lots of vitamin C. What makes this fruit unique is the presence of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps the body properly break down protein. Pineapple makes a great addition to any smoothie or fresh juice. If you have a juicer, you can throw the pineapple core in there to cut down on waste and sweeten up your drink.
3. Papaya -- Like pineapple, papaya is another food that packs digestive benefits. In addition to vitamins A and C and potassium, papayas contain papain, another digestive enzyme for dismantling proteins. We need enzymes to help extract the nutrients from the foods we eat and separate the waste. Make a fresh salsa with papaya to top fish or tofu steaks or add to a blender with other fruits to make a gazpacho.
4. Cilantro -- This bright herb is a great source of vitamins A and K. Vitamin A is needed for eye health and vitamin K helps your body absorb calcium. Cilantro makes the perfect finishing touch for tacos or spicy Thai dishes. Another way to add more cilantro is to blend it with olive oil, sea salt and a pinch of red pepper to make herb oil. Brush it on proteins before grilling or use drizzle it on a finished dish.
5. Lemons -- Citrus fruits like lemons are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants that help protect the cells from free radical damage. Eating lemons helps keep your immune system on alert. Lemon juice is also great for reducing bloating. Add some to your water or freeze lemon juice ice cubes. Or, to help cut back on soda, make healthier lemonade using plenty of fresh lemon juice and stevia, or another nature sweetener. Throw in some mint leaves, too.
6. Salmon -- One of the best sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, salmon is a perfect summer protein. Grill it, broil it or even serve it as ceviche to support the health of your heart, eyes and brain. Buying wild salmon is best and make sure the color hasn't been enhanced. Ask your fish monger plenty of questions before purchasing -- if it's super inexpensive and super pink, it's probably not what you want.
7. Blueberries -- A rich source of vitamins A, C, E and K, blueberries pack quite a punch into a tiny package. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and support eye health. Try some on top of your yogurt or blend them into your next smoothie. When it comes to fruit, dark berries are some of the most antioxidant-rich varieties so swap out your popsicle for some blueberries!
8. Cherries -- If you're looking for another great berry to help you get more vitamin C, try cherries. Not the ones that come in a jar, real cherries. These berries also offer potassium, an electrolyte. They taste great on their own but can also be added to smoothies or used as a topping for cereal. Frozen cherries take the pitting work out of the equation and still offer the nutrients you want.
9. Quinoa -- Grains may make you think hearty, winter meals, but quinoa should have a place in your summer cooking as well. Quinoa is free of irritating gluten and contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for a complete protein. Quinoa will help you stay full and energized all day. Try making a cold salad with cooked quinoa, seedless cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives and some feta cheese. Top it with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and you're all set.
10. Artichokes -- These unbloomed flowers contains vitamins C and K as well as folate, potassium and magnesium and are low in calories. Their meaty texture makes a great addition to a salad. You can roast, boil or steam artichokes and enjoy them on pizza, in pasta and so much more. Artichokes also support heart and liver health and can help you better manage your cholesterol.
Many of these foods compliment each other so play around to create a summer's worth a super meals to keep you feeling your best and looking your best. Another reminder that food can be your medicine -- and you wouldn't deep fry your medicine, now would you?
Stock up on healthy grains, oils and dried fruits at eVitamins to eat healthy all year round!