The Natural Sweetness of Summer
by Anita Longan, MSN, RDN/LD
One of the best things about summer in South Carolina is the abundance of fresh fruits that are available.
Even as we approach summer’s end, we can find plenty of these natural treats. Small roadside stands, farmers’ markets and grocery stores are stocked with locally grown, fresh peaches, berries, melons and other fruits. Next summer, you might even plan to grow your own!
With the bounty of nutritious produce available, it’s difficult to believe that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common in the United States. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, the most comprehensive national nutrition survey to date reports Americans are commonly lacking many nutrients, several of which can be found in fruit that is jam-packed with nutrition.
Including fruit in your meal plans ensures you’re getting vitamins A and C as well as minerals such as potassium and magnesium. They also provide polyphenols, which are important for good health. These are the substances that give fruit their colors, like lycopene (red) and anthocyanin (blue). Some fruit, like watermelon, for example, can even help keep you hydrated on hot summer days.
So, what exactly are the health virtues of fruit-sourced nutrients? Some of the benefits include improved immune function, healthy skin, better blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration, less chance of developing cancers and decreased inflammation.
Fruit also contains fiber, an undigestible carbohydrate that is essential for a healthy intestinal tract. A healthy tract is vital for the immune system and preventing health problems such as inflammation, cancers, heart disease and more.
If you’re watching your carbs, consider having a couple of servings of fruit in your diet as a daily treat. A portion or two of fruit per day can also help curb cravings for sweets.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Anita Longan, RDN/LD, CDE, BC-ADM, provides a variety of diabetes and nutrition programs and counseling at the Diabetes and Nutrition Institute at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence.