Top 10 Healthy Summer Vegetables and Recipes
Summer is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to “lighten” up your diet with vegetables in season. Vegetables have so many health benefits including deceasing inflammation and risk of diabetes, improving immunity, neutralizing free radicals, improving gut health, aiding in weight management and more! We did a roundup of our favorite nutrient-packed summer veggies. Check out the blog post by Nikki Kim, a recent graduate with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. And grab your FREE Summer Vegetable Recipe Guide
Top 10 Healthy Summer Vegetables
Arugula is a member of the cruciferous family such as radish, cabbage, and broccoli. This leafy green offers a peppery, slightly spicy flavor and makes a great base for salads.
- Health benefits: Abundant dietary fiber and phytochemicals in arugula can help lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. In addition, arugula is especially high in vitamin K which may improve insulin resistance. Nitrates in arugula may also help lower your blood pressure.
- Nutritional content: While low in calories (5 cal/cup), arugula is nutrient-dense with vitamin C, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Two cups of raw arugula (80g) will provide 72% of vitamin K, 13% of vitamin C, 10% of calcium, and 9% of magnesium of the daily needs.
- Peak season: May through September
- Tips: With its crispy and crunchy texture, arugula makes a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and pasta. Also, it tastes great with vinaigrettes!
Beetroots, commonly known as beets, are a deep-purple root vegetable.
- Health benefits: Dietary fiber in beets can improve the digestive system and support weight management. Also, beets contain inorganic nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Studies have shown that a high concentration of nitrate in beets can help manage and/or lower blood pressure, which can have positive effects on heart health.
- Nutritional content: Beets are an excellent source of folate as well as potassium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. One cup of cooked beets (170g) provides 34% of folate, 11% of potassium, and 8% of vitamin C of recommended daily intake.
- Peak season: June through December
- Tips: Beets are especially delicious and easy to make when juiced, and they can add a nice color to your salads and bowls, too.
Asparagus is one of the first plants to signal that spring has arrived. It is also one of the only few perennial vegetables, meaning that its tender spears grow year after year.
- Health benefits: Asparagus is a nutritionally well-balanced vegetable and provides various health benefits. In fact, asparagus is an exceptionally great source of folate, an essential nutrient for reproductive health. Also, other nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals that contribute to oxidative stress, improving your immune system. The high concentration of insoluble fiber in asparagus helps digestion by adding bulk to stool, making it softer and easier to pass through your intestines. Moreover, asparagus can serve as a natural diuretic. This helps rid the body of excess fluid, salt, and toxins in kidneys.
- Nutritional content: One cup of cooked asparagus (180g) provides 67% of folate, 15% of vitamin C, 10% of zinc, and 14% of fiber of the daily value.
- Note: You might experience smelly urine after eating asparagus. This is due to asparagusic acid in asparagus, producing many sulfurous byproducts. It’s known to be normal.
- Peak season: May and June
- Tips: There are many ways to cook asparagus; roasted, grilled, and blanched. It makes a great side dish with fish and meats.
While spinach doesn’t give you super strength like in the cartoon “Popeye The Sailor Man”, it is one of the most nutritionally abundant leafy green vegetables.
- Health benefits: Alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant in spinach, has shown to help lower blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients. Meanwhile, a high concentration of magnesium and potassium play an important role in maintaining muscle and nerve function, as well as blood pressure. Magnesium also plays an important role in decreasing risk of diabetes. Also, most of the carbohydrates in spinach consist of fiber, promoting a healthy digestive tract.
- Nutritional content: While providing low calories, spinach packs high amounts of vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, calcium, and vitamin C. One cup of cooked spinach provides 377% of vitamin A, 39% of magnesium, 24% of potassium, 36% of iron, 66% of folate, 29% of vitamin C, and 17% of dietary fiber of the recommended daily values.
- Peak time: May through September
- Tips: Spinach is a very versatile ingredient that you can enjoy in many different ways. Although you will absorb higher levels of vitamins and minerals when spinach is heated, raw spinach still provides a good amount of nutrients.
- Red bell pepper
Crisp and sweet, bell peppers come in green, yellow, orange, and red. Interestingly, green peppers are just unripe red peppers, and ripe ones have more abundant nutrients.
- Health benefits: Exceptionally rich in vitamin C, red bell peppers not only help boost your immune system but also increase absorption of iron, lowering risks of anemia. Various carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin can also help improve eye health.
- Nutritional content: Red bell peppers contain more than 300% of your daily vitamin C intake. This is almost 3 times more vitamin C than what an orange contains. In addition, red bell peppers are also a great source of beta carotene, folate, potassium, and fiber. One cup (chopped) of raw red bell pepper contains 317% of vitamin C, 17% of folate, 22% of vitamin B6, 9% of potassium, and 13% of dietary fiber of the daily values.
- Peak time: July through October
- Tips: Thanks to exceptionally rich vitamin C in red bell pepper, it helps increase your nonheme (found in plants) iron absorption from the GI tract. Try incorporating red bell peppers with iron-rich foods such as grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Kale is one of the most powerful superfoods that’s loaded with essential nutrients and antioxidants. There are many different types of kales, curly kale being the most popular.
- Health benefits: Kale is charged with nutrients that promote health benefits such as reducing risks of heart disease, improving bone health, and protecting against diabetes. Kale is certainly one of the best sources to get the necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Nutritional content: Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamins K and C, calcium, potassium, copper, fiber, antioxidants. One cup of raw kale (67g) provides 134% of vitamin C, 9% of calcium, 9 % of potassium, 10% of copper, and 5% of fiber of the recommended daily needs.
- Peak time: June through November
- Tips: The most popular ways of eating kale are smoothies and salads, but kale chips also make delicious and healthy snacks!
While mushrooms are classified as vegetables, in fact, they are edible funguses.
- Health benefits: Although nutritional benefits might vary depending on the types, most varieties of mushrooms provide plenty of fiber and diverse nutrients while being low in calories and fat. Mushrooms can support your heart health and reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes because they are a great source of beta glucagon, a form of soluble dietary fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels. Also, mushrooms’ natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties can strengthen your immune system.
- Nutritional content: Among many different types of mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms have the highest amount of fiber and are rich in nutrients such as selenium, copper, zinc, vitamin D, and B vitamins. In addition, 7 of the 8 essential amino acids can be found in the protein of shiitake mushrooms. A half-cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms (72.5g) provides 72% of copper, 9% of zinc, 5% of vitamin D, and 5% of fiber of the daily values.
- Peak time: June through October
- Tips: Shittake mushrooms are commonly sold dried, and they need to be left in water for some time before cooking. Roasted shiitake mushrooms are perfect with greens and make a great risotto, thanks to the buttery, meaty texture, and umami taste!
- Summer squash
The name “Summer squash” actually indicates squashes that are harvested before full maturity, and they have tender skin and a very mild and nutty taste. Of all types and varieties, yellow squashes have a good reputation for their high concentration of beta carotene, an antioxidant.
- Health benefits: Adding summer squash to your diet can help boost your metabolism of cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrate due to its high concentration of manganese. If you are trying to lose/control your weight, summer squash is a great alternative carb choice, keeping you feel fuller for longer because of the high contents of water (94%) and low carb/calories (31 kcal/medium-sized).
- Nutritional content: Besides high concentrations of beta carotene, folate, and iron, summer squashes are also rich in copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. One cup of raw summer squash (130g) provides 16% of vitamin C, 9% of folate, 19% of manganese, 11% of magnesium, 10% of potassium, and 10% of dietary fiber of the daily value.
- Peak time: July through September
- Tips: Grill summer squash with minimum oil or spiralize and make it into noodles!
Although eggplants are prepared as a culinary vegetable, they are technically a fruit as they form from the ovary after flowering. They belong to the nightshade family along with potato, tomato, and paprika.
- Health Benefits: Eggplants are especially rich in natural chemicals called phytonutrients, which give the pretty purple pigments to eggplants. When consumed, phytonutrients may play an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role. They also enhance brain function and repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins. Thus, with a high level of antioxidants, eggplants can help prevent many chronic diseases and cancers. Also, results from a study suggested that eggplants may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and promote weight loss.
- Nutritional content: Eggplants have an ample amount of a variety of nutrients including manganese, fiber, folate, vitamin C, potassium as well as antioxidants. One cup of cooked eggplant (99g) provides 5% of folate, 5% of potassium, 3% of vitamin C, and 11% of fiber of the daily values.
- Peak time: July through October
- Tips: Roasting is the most simple and delicious way to enjoy eggplants. Try a low carb eggplant crust pizza!
Last but not least, broccoli is one of the most amazing superfoods you can easily find in the market. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable along with brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Broccoli is full of essential nutrients, offering many health benefits.
- Health benefits: Broccoli is a great source of chromium. In fact, a half-cup of broccoli provides almost one-third of the chromium daily value. One study demonstrated that 200 mcg daily of chromium picolinate reduced fasting blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to an increase in insulin sensitivity. Another study suggests the intake of broccoli florets is associated with high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects, and sulforaphane contents (a sulfur compound). Other potential health benefits of adding broccoli into your diet include maintaining healthy brain function, preventing osteoarthritis, detoxifying toxins, and reducing risks of cancer.
- Nutritional content: Broccoli packs some minerals and vitamins such as chromium, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. One cup of raw broccoli contains 135% of vitamin C, 14% of folate, 8% of potassium, each of 4% of iron and calcium, 62% of chromium, and 9% of dietary fiber of the daily values.
- Peak time: June through November
- Tips: Cooking broccoli will alter nutritional values, especially vitamin C, but it is still an excellent source
of minerals and vitamins. Simply steam it and dip it into your favorite hummus or throw it on your protein dishes as a perfect side.
There’s no excuse not to eat your veggies! Your goal should be to make at least 1/3 of your plate coming from vegetables. Choose local veggies in season to get the most nutrition. Keep in mind that some veggies have more pesticides than others (spinach and kale on this list) so you might be best off buying organic when possible. Read about the Dirty Dozen list from the Environment Working Group,
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I’d like to thank Nikki Kim for writing this blog post. Nikki is a recent graduate from New York University with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.
She’s excited to gain more professional experience and develop her career in the dietetics field. Working under the pandemic situation, she finds it fascinating to utilize technology and multimedia graphics to deliver helpful information to the mass. Nikki likes to spend her downtime with her dog, Namu, and her guilty pleasure is binge-watching cooking videos on Youtube.
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.