What’s the best part about summer? Aside from lounging in the pool and warm afternoons rocking away your cares on the porch, it’s got to be the food. In-season fresh fruits and vegetables are not only a guilt-free way to indulge, they have actual health benefits that will help you feel your best.
Nothing says summer like corn on the cob! And this seasonal treat curbs your risk of gassiness and indigestion by 50 percent if you savor one cob daily, say University of Maryland scientists. Credit a plant compound (inositol hexaphosphate) that boosts the growth of healthy probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract and speeds digestive enzyme release.
When you’re feeling sluggish or weary, snacking on crispy cucumber slices can heighten your energy by 50 percent for two hours. The reason? Canadian scientists say cucumbers restore fluid balance because they’re 95 percent water, plus they brim with muscle- and brain-energizing plant compounds.
Noshing on mild, tender summer squashes like green and yellow zucchini can smooth fine lines and keep dryness and flaking at bay, helping your skin look up to five years younger and healthier, Cleveland Clinic researchers say. Credit goes to nutrients (lutein and zeaxanthin) that activate healing, skin-regenerating genes.
Eating 1 cup of raw tomatoes (or 3⁄4 cup of cooked tomatoes) daily lowers your risk of viral and bacterial infections by up to 45 percent, plus cuts recovery time in half if you fall ill, Italian scientists say. This farmstand favorite has a trio of nutrients (lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamin C) that boost the activity of germ-fighting white blood cells by 35 percent.
Delicious Ideas: For an appetizer, layer sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves; drizzle with olive oil. For a side dish, toss diced tomatoes, watermelon and feta together; top with olive oil, salt and pepper.
The pigments that give bell peppers their cheery colors (carotenoids) are also powerful anti-inflammatories and painkillers. No wonder UCLA scientists say enjoying five cups of bell peppers weekly cuts aches in half for 65 percent of women studied. Tip: When peppers are eaten raw or lightly cooked, they retain 67 percent more carotenoids than when cooked at high temperatures.
A daily 1-cup serving of green beans can halt weight gain and help you slim down 33 percent faster if you’re watching what you eat, say investigators at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. Thanks goes to green bean compounds (alpha-lipoic acid and nitrate) that switch on fat-burning enzymes inside liver cells.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.