Rediscover Delights of Summer Through Rainbow of Foods

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by Kim Davis

Childhood memories are some of our most precious memories we possess. Summertime always triggers pleasant and fun memories of younger years. Life was so simple back then. The only care we had was where we were riding our bikes to that day. Whenever I see the watermelons at the grocery store, or on the side of the road, I’m also reminded of my childhood summers.

My father was known for all the wonderful produce he grew and provided for friends and neighbors. All the kids gathered in our back yard to enjoy daddy’s favorite fruit in the garden – mouthwatering watermelons. Because of the mess, mom would cover the picnic table with a plastic table cover and 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.

Along with tasting great, fruits are known to have numerous health benefits. Watermelon, for example, contains high levels of lycopene, is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and even supplies a small amount of calcium.

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, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

Another refreshing fruit is oranges. Oranges are notorious for containing Vitamin C. 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 but also against your waistline.

We cannot, in any reasonable discussion of fruits, leave out blueberries and strawberries. Blueberries have been rated the number one antioxidant. If you’re looking to fight the battle of aging, blueberries are like getting in the ring with steel-plated gloves. 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 adage “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 every day, keep one rule in mind: eat a rainbow. The more colors you consume the more vitamins and minerals you will also consume to keep the body healthy and energized. Brightly colored veggies and fruits contain high levels of phytochemicals–natural plant substances that are believed to help fend off heart disease, cancer and the effects of aging.

Produce with the most intense color has the highest level of phytochemicals. Rich 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.

So go ahead and load up your shopping cart with a colorful array of bright fruits and veggies–you’ll know you’re getting a healthy helping of good nutrition–without having to bother reading those boring nutrition labels!

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.

Thought to ponder:

“When the root is strong, the fruit is sweet.” ~ Bob Marley

“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy.” ~ Albert Einstein

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