Enjoy Fresh Fruits in Season

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by Kim Davis

Summer always raises childhood memories. We remember all those days spent with our only care being where we were riding our bikes to that day. Whenever I see watermelons at the grocery store, or on the side of the road, I’m also reminded of my childhood summers.

My mother would buy us watermelons when they were in season. Because of the mess, she would usher us outside onto the back patio where she would cut the watermelon into big, juicy slices. We would stand in the grass, all but doubled over, trying to eat the melon without getting more than our chins covered in juice. It was a nice end to a hot summer day.

While we can’t be kids again, we can still enjoy the summer treats of fruits. This is the time of year when you can both readily find fruits and get maximum enjoyment from the refreshing taste.

Along with tasting great, fruits are known to have numerous health benefits. Watermelon, for example, contains high levels lycopene. In your body there are free radicals, which cause damage. Free radicals are the reason that you age. You can combat free radicals by eating certain foods. Foods containing lycopene fight free radicals. They also offer some protection against health issues such as: cardiovascular disease, stroke, high cholesterol, otherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

Another refreshing fruit is oranges. Oranges are notorious for containing Vitamin C. But why does Vitamin C matter? Adequate consumption of Vitamin C is important for the growth and repair of all body tissues. It also helps to heal cuts and wounds, along with keeping your teeth and gums healthy. When it comes to orange juice, though, stick with the all natural stuff. Many boxed juices contain added sugar which not only works against the teeth benefits of Vitamin C, but also against your waistline.

We can not, in any reasonable discussion of fruits, leave out blueberries and strawberries. Blueberries rank only second to strawberries in popularity of berries. However, blueberries have been rated the number one antioxidant with the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Studies have shown that blueberries simply pack the most punch. Strawberries are great for your digestive system and may actually help lower cholesterol. Both types of berries are delicious and easily added to a smoothie, salad, or simply frozen for a cold treat.

The reason for the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be due, in part, to the fiber content of apples. We all know that fiber is good for regularity. Current recommendations for fiber are 25 grams a day. A medium apple has approximately 3.5 grams of fiber. Obviously that one apple a day won’t meet the recommendation, but it’s a great start.

When deciding what fruits to use in summer recipes or which to eat everyday, keep one rule in mind: eat a rainbow. The more colors you consume the more vitamins and minerals you will also consume. Red fruits contain lycopene, yellow and orange fruits contain carotenoids, greens are colored by chlorophyll, blues and purples are colored by anthocyanins, and white fruits are colored by anthoxanthins. They all contain different nutrient concentrations. Eating a variety will ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed for optimum health.

If you don’t have time to eat whole fruit every day, consider blending some into a smoothie. It’s a fast and portable option for those on the go.

Last, but never least, don’t forget to pass on those summertime memories to your children and grandchildren. They’ll love a big slice of sticky watermelon every bit as much as we did.

Thoughts to Ponder:

Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high. ~ Anne M. Mulcahy

The older I get, the more I appreciate my rural childhood. I spent a lot of time outdoors, unsupervised, which is a blessing. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

Christine Smith is an Extension Agent in the department of Family & Consumer Sciences with N.C. Cooperative Extension, NCSU. Information on other services available can be found online at https://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/