When you eat seasonally, you actually contribute to a more sustainable environment and support local farmers. On top of that, studies show that eating seasonally can help increase your nutrient intake. That means that growing and buying summer vegetables from local growers at farmers markets can improve your health and contribute to your community.
What are the best vegetables to enjoy during these warmer, summer months? Some of those vegetables include leafy greens like kale, bell peppers, squash, garlic, shallots, and herbs like basil. Continue reading to learn what’s in season during summer and the health benefits that these produce items offer.
Belonging to the nightshade family, eggplant holds some highly unique plant compounds within their dark purple skins. The same polyphenols, such as anthocyanins, that are in blueberries and red wine exist in eggplant skin. That’s why the skin is purple! Eggplant may help fight free radical damage and provide the body with manganese and folate, both of which support bone and metabolic health.
Shallots are members of the allium plant family, which includes onions, garlic, and leeks. Researchers found that the organosulfur compounds in allium vegetables exhibit antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. That means that they help support immune defenses, and some studies show that shallots may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They even have compounds that may help the body battle certain cancers, but more studies are necessary to confirm the efficacy.
Basil is one of the world’s most popular herbs, making its way into everything from sauces and dressings to broths and salads. Manufacturers extract basil essential oil from the plant because the herb is rich in protective compounds. Some of those compounds include linalool, citronellol, and eugenol, all of which work to fight inflammation. Studies show that the antioxidants and antibacterial properties in basil work to boost digestive function, promote detoxification, and maintain healthy skin.
As another member of the allium family, garlic contains a compound called allicin, which works to protect against infections and fight pathogens. However, allicin is an unstable compound and it is only briefly present after you cut or crush garlic cloves. The sulfur compounds from garlic enter the body from the digestive tract, from which they travel throughout the body and have biological effects.
Kale And Other Summer Greens
Kale is a popular superfood for good reason. As one of the healthiest greens available, kale is rich in antioxidants, including isothiocyanate. Kale also contains a good amount of potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and vitamins A, C, and K. Some studies show that certain substances in kale bind to bile acids in the digestive tract, preventing them from reabsorption into the body. That helps reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the body. Other heat-tolerant greens to enjoy in the summer include mizuna and Manoa lettuce, which yield new greens every three to five weeks.
Tomatoes, especially heirloom varieties, are bountiful in the summer months. They are the juiciest and go great in summer salads, so we encourage you to eat them raw. Tomatoes happen to be great sources of vitamins A & C and disease-fighting antioxidants like lycopene. Each tomato has its own unique taste and nutritional profile, so get your hands on grape, Roma, heirloom, and beefsteak varieties this summer.
The summer months are quite hot, so you need all the hydration help you can get. Cucumbers are more than 90% water and can help you reach your daily hydration goals. The high water content also helps your body break down food and absorb nutrients more efficiently. Cucumbers are naturally rich in vitamin K, which is a big bonus for bone health. Sufficient vitamin K levels reduce your risk of bone fractures and encourage healthy bone mass.