Bored by bananas? Up to your ears in apples? Rejoice. The fruits of summer are returning to produce aisles, adding luscious color and sweet aroma to your shopping experience. In fact, as you load your cart with baskets of berries and bagfuls of cherries, who can fault you for popping a few in your mouth before you hit the checkout line? (To be safe, though, take produce home and wash it first.)
Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health say five servings a day of fruits and vegetables should be the lower limit for optimum health. Try three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit to protect against disease. (If you’re a small person and sedentary, you may be okay hitting the lower end of that range.) Nutritionists remind us that fruits are “good” carbohydrates, providing an assortment of disease-fighting vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that may be more beneficial than those in pills. Fruits are low in calories, rich in fiber (do you get the recommended 20–35 grams of fiber a day?) and, as part of a healthy diet, can help lower your blood pressure, slash your risk for stroke and heart disease and fight certain cancers.
When including fruits in your diet, strive for variety. You may love peaches, but don’t forget apricots, nectarines and plums. Different fruits offer different mixes of nutrients and fiber. Cantaloupe has beta-carotene and watermelon boasts lycopene—both substances are plant pigments that fight cell damage. Cherries and berries—blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries—offer an array of powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals that studies suggest may benefit your heart, veins, eyes and joints. Mix your colors regularly for the best overall health benefits. Enjoy summer’s sweet bounty guilt-free, whether for dessert or an on-the-go snack.