7 Healthy Summer Foods
By Tiffany Gagnon
Whether the weather forecast has you dreading sweat-soaked tees or looking forward to pitchers of lemonade, staying adequately hydrated has to top your list of priorities this season.
These eight foods, in peak season during summer months, are either rich in necessary electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, or boast high water content to help you do just that. Even better—most are low in calories. So stock your picnic basket with these healthy eats if you want to keep that beach body of yours in check while cutting your risk of passing out during that “heated” game of cornhole at your next family get together.
Watermelons are about 92 percent water, but that doesn’t mean the nutrient content is watered down. They contain solid levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, in addition to amino acids, antioxidants and lycopene–a phytonutrient that gives fruits their red hue. This particular nutrient has been found to boost heart and bone health, and it also boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Not to mention, one cup of this fruit diced is a mere 40 calories, earning it a spot in your beach-body diet plan.
Cucumbers contain an even higher percentage of H2O than watermelon, at about 95 percent water. Cucumbers will not only hydrate you, but also boost your weight-loss efforts thanks to their high water content and low calorie count. One medium-sized cucumber contains only about 45 calories, so you can chomp away guilt-free. Put your peeler away, too; the skin of a cucumber retains many of its nutrients including vitamin C and vitamin K, which helps regulates blood clotting and contributes to healthy bones.
“Proper hydration is essential during this time of year. Prolonged periods or high activity outdoors can cause the body to not only lose water, but also essential electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium through the sweating process. These nutrients help keep water where it is needed – in the body tissues – for normal body function,” explains Angela Lemond, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Celery is 95 percent water, about six calories per stalk and full of vitamins A, C and K, B vitamins, folate and potassium.
Tart and sweet, cherries are like candy from the earth. They’re about 81 percent water per volume, and are at their peak in the summer, so take advantage while you can. One cup of cherries clocks in at fewer than 100 calories and boasts B vitamins, cancer-fighting flavonoids and three grams of fiber. They’ve also been marked as a natural sleep aid thanks to their melatonin content. So if a long day at the beach has you wired, drink a small amount of tart cherry juice or enjoy a cup of cherries for dessert; they’ll help you maintain your toned physique by replacing less virtuous desserts and moving along your snooze process, keeping ghrelin–the I’m hungry hormone–in check.
Summer salads are the perfect way to keep your body from losing essential nutrients and electrolytes in the hot weather, and not just from juicy mix-ins like strawberries or cucumbers. “Prolonged periods outdoors can not only cause the body to lose water, but also essential electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium through the sweating process. These nutrients help keep water where it is needed—in the body tissues—for normal body function,” says Lemond. Spinach contains 157 mg of magnesium per cup, and is also a great source of calcium. If you’re concerned about any young folk getting enough of this green veggie, Lemond adds, “Raw spinach is generally more accepted by children than cooked, and when topped with fresh, ripe strawberries and a sweeter dressing, they are sure to enjoy it.”
Few things are better than a fresh, juicy tomato at the peak of the summer season. On salads, sliced into sandwiches, or sautéed in an omelet, tomatoes are a top pick when it comes to healthy summer eats; they’re about 94 percent water and low in calories. In fact, a medium-sized tomato will only cost you about 20 calories. Despite their low calories counts, tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene, vitamin C and potassium among a host of other good-for-you nutrients. Studies have found that lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) helps protect your skin against the sun’s damaging rays. So, not only will this fruit help replace lost electrolytes like potassium, but it will help fight against and even work to repair nasty sunburns from the inside-out. If you’re just looking for a quick snack, pop some cherry tomatoes in your mouth–they actually contain the highest amount of lycopene per serving versus other types of tomatoes.
It’s not just produce that can keep your body hydrated in the heat. Dairy can also help replace lost electrolytes. “Dairy foods contain healthy quantities of all electrolytes, so it’s an excellent option for outdoor entertaining on hot summer days. Try blending up a smoothie with skim milk, vanilla yogurt, frozen bananas, some crushed almonds and a dash of vanilla extract,” says Lemond.