Hot dogs, burgers, chips, and ice cream. These may be the summer foods you’re fantasizing about, but we’re here to tell you why vegetables and fruits deserve your cravings this season.
Before you grab that snow cone, hear us out: It’s probably no surprise that fruits and veggies are among the most nutrient-dense foods that we can consume (cue memories of your mom telling you to eat your broccoli!). They offer countless vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that support our bodies’ functions and fight inflammation, oxidative stress and toxins from the environment, and are a great source of fiber.
But beyond the obvious health benefits, eating foods in season means they’re at peak ripeness and the most nutritious. Plus, by eating locally grown ingredients (instead of having them shipped from far away), we’re also putting less pressure on the food system and generating a smaller carbon footprint. “We’re eating the way nature intended,” says Freshly’s Head of Nutrition Brooke Scheller.
In that spirit, here are four summer ingredients you should stock up on and how to serve them.
Nothing really screams summer like freshly picked tomatoes off the vine. This versatile fruit-cum-vegetable is high in beta carotene, which supports eye health and the immune system. Tomatoes are also full of vitamin C and help to improve skin cells’ defense against redness, oxidation and inflammation (important during the summer months when we’re exposed to the sun a lot).
You can do virtually anything with tomatoes, from adding them to a leafy green salad to stacking them atop a protein-style burger. But summer wouldn’t be complete without sun-dried tomatoes: Toss them into a fresh pasta salad (we recommend a high-protein chickpea or legume pasta) or use them in a pesto or a sauce. While the sun-dried variety contain less vitamins and antioxidants (like vitamin C), they contain more of others (like lycopene).
Planning the perfect picnic? Don’t forget to pack wax beans to munch on raw or dipped in a tasty hummus. Beans, both the green and yellow variety, are at peak seasonality during the summer. They’re a rich source of folate, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber.
Beans can be easily incorporated into a salad with fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, goat or feta cheese, and tossed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and pepper to taste. Blanching beans with a quick dip in boiling water, followed by shocking them in a bath of ice water stops the cooking process and helps them to retain their taste, texture, and nutritional content. They can also be sauteed on a stovetop with garlic and oil for an easy summer side.
Found in: Chicken & Rice Pilaf
While this veggie is having a moment with the current “zoodle” craze, it’s worth all the attention it’s getting. A type of summer squash, it’s rich in vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, while being low in calories and carbohydrate content.
In addition to being spiralized as an alternative to pasta, you can sauté zucchini or eat it raw with a healthy dressing. If you’re tossing some zucchini onto the grill, our chefs suggest dressing up the otherwise neutral-tasting veggie with a mix of spices, including za’atar, togarashi, jerk seasoning, dukkah, and ras el hanout.
A classic BBQ staple, corn is generally viewed as a starch that has little to no nutritional content. In reality, though, it reigns supreme over less nutritious foods, including refined grains, because it’s a rich source of fiber, vitamin B and C, and antioxidant carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin).
Grilling corn is an easy way to enhance the vegetable’s inherent sweetness, but it can also be charred in the oven, on a grill pan or on a gas burner. Roasted corn can be tossed into salads, with red onions, roasted poblanos, cilantro, lemon and lime juice. It’s also a good addition to the batter for gluten-free pancakes and cornbread.
Smothering it in butter might be the path of least resistance to taste, but there are other nutritious ways to season corn: slather on greek yogurt and parsley, mint and oregano, sprinkle on some parmesan cheese, or top it with nutritional yeast for a dairy-free cheese flavor.
Found in: Wild-Caught Mahi with Cilantro-Lime Rice & Romesco, Low Country Boil, and Chicken and Veggie Risottos