Only when I'm washing a basket of ripe strawberries or slicing into a juicy watermelon do I declare it officially summer. It's time for blueberry pancakes and muffins, strawberry shortcake, exotic, colorful salads, and waffles with everything from peaches to berries piled high. If there's ever a time when we are likely to eat our recommended servings of fruit, this is it!
Along with fabulous flavor, summer fruits serve up a potpourri of great nutrition. Most of summer's fruits are bursting with antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant chemicals, many of which are thought to have a protective effect against cancer), as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A rule of thumb for fruits and vegetables is, in general, the brighter the color, the more nutrients. So you can imagine how summer fruits such as blueberries, red grapes, strawberries, mangos, and boysenberries score on the nutrition index.
Here are 11 popular fruits of summer and their nutritional attributes.
Apricots: Rich in the phytochemical beta-carotene, a cup of apricot halves has 3 grams of fiber, half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin A, 26% of the RDA for vitamin C, and 17% for vitamin E.
Berries: 1 cup of blueberries has 4 grams of fiber, 32% of the RDA for vitamin C, and 18% of the RDA for vitamin E. A cup of boysenberries has 6.3 grams of fiber, 27% of the RDA for folic acid, 50% of the RDA for vitamin C, 13% of the RDA for vitamin E, and 10% of the RDA for magnesium. A cup of raspberries: 5 grams of fiber, 18% of the RDA for folic acid, and 51% of the RDA for vitamin C. Raspberries also have the phytochemical ellagic acid.
Cantaloupe: 1 cup of cubed cantaloupe contains 64% of the RDA for vitamin A, 12% of the RDA for vitamin B-6, 15% for folic acid, and 113% for vitamin C. Cantaloupe also has phytochemicals such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, flavonoids, coumarins, and phenolic acids.
Cherries: 1 cup has 2.5 grams of fiber and 17% of the RDA for vitamin C.
Grapes: Both red and green grapes contain ellagic acid. Red grapes also have the newly discovered phytochemical resveratrol. 1 cup of red flame grapes has 13% of the RDA for vitamin B-1, 11% of the RDA for vitamin B-6, 29% for vitamin C, 14% for vitamin E, and 28% for selenium. A cup of Thompson seedless grapes has 14% of the RDA for vitamin B-1, 11% for vitamin B-6, 29% for vitamin C, 14% for vitamin E, and 28% for selenium.
Honeydew melon: 1 cup of cubed honeydew contains 12% of the RDA for vitamin B-1, 28% for folic acid, and 70% for vitamin C.
Mango: 1 cup of sliced mango has 4.5 grams of fiber, 80% of the RDA for vitamin A, 14% for vitamin B-6, 17% for folic acid, 76% for vitamin C, and 23% for vitamin E. Mangos are rich in beta-carotene.
Peaches/Nectarines: 1 cup of nectarine slices contains 2 grams of fiber, 13% of the RDA for vitamin A, 10% for vitamin B-3, 12% for vitamin C, and 15% for vitamin E. A cup of peach slices has 3 grams of fiber, 11% of the RDA for vitamin A, 12% for vitamin B-3, 19% for vitamin C, and 15% for vitamin E.
Plums: 1 cup has 3 grams of fiber, 26% of the RDA for vitamin C, 15% for vitamin E, and 12% for riboflavin.
Strawberries: 1 cup has 2.5 grams of fiber, 16% of the RDA for folic acid, and 150% for vitamin C. Strawberries are also a great source of ellagic acid (a potent antioxidant), anthocyanosides, catechins (which help protect against cancer), and ferulic and caffeic acid.
Watermelon: 1 cup contains 26% of the RDA for vitamin C and 12% for vitamin B-1 and vitamin B-6.
How to Eat More Fruit
If you want to eat more fruit, have it available at every turn -- at work, at home, in your car or briefcase. Here are 10 simple ways to work more fruit into your day:
- Fruit is much more exciting if it is cut, washed, and assembled into a colorful salad. Take time a couple of times a week to clean out your produce bin and make fruit salad.
- For morning or afternoon snacks, wash whatever fresh fruit you have at the moment and set out a big bowl on your table or desk. As you pass by or talk on the phone, you'll find yourself munching on it.
- Dress up a party or dinner plate with a fruit kabob: just string assorted pieces of fresh fruit onto a bamboo stick.
- Certain fruits lend themselves to grilling (pineapple, mango, banana) and this is a fun and fancy way to get your fruit servings.
- Add fresh or frozen fruit to your smoothie or shake.
- Add fruit to green salads for a sweet twist on this dinner staple. Strawberries, pears, grapes, orange segments, mango, and papaya work well.
- Add fruit to your hot or cold cereal.
- Get in the habit of adding a fresh fruit garnish to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner plate. Try pineapple slices, melon wedges, a small bunch of grapes, a few strawberries or orange wedges, or pear slices shaped into a fan.
- Add fresh or frozen fruit to your yogurt for extra color, flavor, and nutrition.
- Enjoy fresh fruit with a little cheese for a nice dessert, picnic, or snack. Pears, apples, and grapes lend themselves to pairing with cheese.
- Dried fruits don't go bad or get bruised, and you can store them in your briefcase, car, or desk for a quick pick-me-up. Try apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, prunes, raisins, dates, cherries, and blueberries.
Selecting and Storing Summer Fruits
Apricots (available mid-May to mid-August): Buy plump apricots with as much golden orange color as possible. If not yet ripe, put in a loosely closed paper bag and check daily. Once ripe, refrigerate in bag for up to two days.
Berries (available June-August): Don't buy baskets with bruised or leaking fruits -- turn over to see if there are any moldy fruits at the bottom. Choose plump, firm, berries. Once you bring them home, cover and keep refrigerated. Use within a few days.
Cantaloupes (available May-September): Should "give" when pressed gently and the creamy colored netting should completely cover the melon. Store at room temperature for a few days, then refrigerate and use as soon as possible.
Cherries (available May-August): Should be bright and glossy, ranging from deep red to black in color. Avoid sticky fruits. Refrigerate; use within a few days.
Grapes (available June-February): Choose plump, well-colored grapes that are firmly attached to green stems. They won't become sweeter over time so there's no need to hold for ripening. Refrigerate and use within a week.
Honeydew (peak season June-October): Avoid stark white or greenish rinds; look for creamy or yellowish-white rind with a velvety feel. Keep at room temperature for a few days, then refrigerate until eaten.
Mangos (peak May-August): Avoid buying mangos with grayish skin, pitting, or black spots. The red and yellow colors on a mango's skin increase as it ripens. Keep at room temperature until soft, then refrigerate until eaten.
Peaches and nectarines (peak season June-September): Fruit should be firm with a slight softening along the "seam" line. Avoid buying green or green-tinged fruits and any that are hard or bruised. Keep at room temperature to soften, then refrigerate and eat as soon as possible.
Plums (peak season June-September): Keep at room temperature until they yield gently to pressure.
Strawberries (peak season April-June): Choose strawberries that are fresh, bruise free, and bright red. Refrigerate with leafy caps attached; eat as soon as possible.
Watermelon (peak season May-August): It's difficult to predict the ripeness of uncut melons, but in general, choose firm, smooth melons with a yellowish or creamy-white underside. Keep at room temperature or refrigerate until needed.