By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables are the way to go when it comes to finding and purchasing fruits and vegetables this coming season (and all the time).
Why buy local and seasonal?
Firstly, locally grown produce tends to be grown at smaller farms that use fewer pesticides; secondly, locally grown produce has a shorter distance to travel before it gets into your hands, which means it contains more nutrients. Of course, there’s always the added benefit of helping your local economy too.
When shopping at your local farmers’ market you’ll notice that all (or most) of the produce they’re selling is seasonal, because they’re most often selling produce that was most recently grown and freshly picked.
For us here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re coming into a warmer season which means new and different produce will be available for purchase from local farms. Use our list to help guide you on your next trip to your local market.
1.) Beets: Beets are an all-time favorite as they’re a rich source of electrolytes including some natural sodium and potassium (great for all you exercise fanatics), and tons of nutrients. Beets are a particularly good source of folate and contain natural nitrates that may help to improve blood flow and may also help to lower blood pressure. Juicing them pre or post exercise is a great way to boost your body’s electrolyte stores and promote hydration.
2.) Cucumbers: Cucumbers are one of my favorite juice ingredients to have on hand, they are not only a source of nutrients like vitamin K, phosphorus, and electrolytes magnesium and potassium, but they’re also great for adding volume to juices. Sometimes when making juices, the total volume doesn’t end up equaling the expected amount, and that’s where high water-content produce like cucumbers come in handy. Cucumbers are also a member of the dirty dozen, which means they tend to have more pesticides on their skin, so buying locally is key (note: if you can’t find members of the dirty dozen locally, you can always just make sure to wash well).
3.) Grapes: Grapes are an all-time favorite summer snack, and they make for a great addition to juices too. Grapes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors- all of which contain different and healthy nutrients. To get the most nutritional benefit, it’s important to vary the colors and varieties of grapes you use when making your juices. Grapes are typically a good source of eye-healthy lutein and zeaxanthin, and particularly the skin of red grapes are a source of heart-healthy resveratrol. Grapes are also a source of a flavonoid, quercetin that has been suggested to contain anti-inflammatory properties.
4.) Peaches: Peaches can be a great addition to a delicious and refreshing summer juice. Peaches are a source of immune-boosting and cancer-fighting vitamin C and eye-healthy vitamin A. Peaches are also a good source of potassium. It’s important that they are not overly ripe- if they’re soft they can be messy to juice. *Nectarines are a good substitution for peaches if they’re overly ripe as nectarines tend to be a little bit firmer and have some of the same nutritional benefits.
5.) Tomatoes: Tomatoes are one of my personal favorites to add to juice as they’re not too sweet, but add a lot of volume and along with other fruits and vegetables can make for a spicy, exotic juice. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of the electrolyte, potassium that plays a role in hydration and can be beneficial to boost electrolyte stores pre-workout. Tomatoes also come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes- be sure to vary the variety you’re using to get utmost nutritional benefit.
6.) Watermelon: Watermelon is another great seasonal fruit to add to your juice, and especially if you spend time being active. Research suggests that a compound found in watermelon, L-citrulline, helps to relax blood vessels and improve circulation; the study found the most benefit when drinking a juice with fresh watermelon before exercising. Research also found that compounds in watermelon may be beneficial in promoting heart health.
7.) Radishes: Radishes are a great and refreshing addition to your juice this summer season because they’re high in water volume, low in calories, and a good source of nutrients. Radishes contain a compound called isothiocyantes that have been suggested to have anti-cancer benefits. Radishes are also a source of vitamins C and B, potassium, magnesium and other essential minerals.
8.) Bell peppers: Bell peppers come in many different shapes and sizes, which means they offer a variety of different nutrients and makes them a great addition to your juices this summer. Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are a little bit sweeter, but are great sources of vitamin C, folate, carotenoids, and potassium. Red bell peppers contain lycopene that becomes particularly available to your body when cooked- so you can cook your red bell peppers to get lycopene this summer as part of a healthy dish, but they also contain many nutrients raw that are beneficial when juiced. To get the most variety be sure to vary your peppers.
9.) Limes: Limes are an all-time favorite of mine- I love the zesty flavor they add to my juices. I usually prefer to leave the peel on the lime, but you can also peel the skin off the lime for a less-zesty flavor. Limes are a great source of vitamin C and are well-known for containing digestive properties as the compounds in limes help to stimulate gastric secretions. Limes are also a source of flavonoids that are compounds that have strong anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties. Limes are a great addition to almost any juice and is also a great ingredient to add when you desire to boost the flavor of your juice.
10.) Strawberries: Last but definitely not least, strawberries are a great addition to your juice– again similar to peaches they’re easier to juice if they’re a little bit less ripe. Strawberries are a good source of a cancer-fighting compound call anthocyanins, immune-boosting vitamin C, and it’s also a source of bone-healthy magnesium, which aids in absorption of calcium. Strawberries can be a tasty and refreshing addition to any juice this summer.
Be adventurous with your summer juice combinations. Be sure to try new and exotic fruits and vegetables that you find at your local farmers market- they all contain great nutritional benefits that your body can use!
To find out more about local produce you can head to: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.com