The warmer weather is upon us, and that means that seasonal superfoods are filling grocery shelves! Whether you’re meal prepping for the week ahead or making dinner for the family, incorporating these superfoods into your summertime meals is a great way to give a strong nutritional boost to the body.
What Is a Superfood?
Maybe you’ve heard the term before, but do you know exactly what a superfood is? Simply put, superfoods are nutritional powerhouses that offer dense quantities of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals. Think of superfoods as a small bite that packs a big nutrient-rich punch!
The Top 10 Summer Superfoods
Summertime recipes call for fresh, leafy greens, juicy fruit, and lean proteins. Try mixing these ten superfoods into your summer meals to promote healthy living in those warm months:
Kale is a vegetable rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is known for boosting mood and promoting sleep. Studies have shown that when tryptophan is consumed in appropriate amounts, it can promote relaxed feelings and happiness. One cup of chopped kale boasts extremely high quantities of Vitamins K, A, and C, making it rich in antioxidants.
This low-calorie, high-fiber fruit is thought to be the food that has the highest antioxidant capacity out of any fruit or vegetable. Research has shown that blueberries encourage healthy brain function and improve memory, as a result of the antioxidant properties found in them. When consumed, the antioxidants found in blueberries tend to center around parts of the brain that affect memory and intelligence.
If summer has you working out a little bit more, make sure blueberries are part of your workout recovery; studies have shown that blueberries can play an integral role in boosting muscle and tissue repair.
If you thought bananas were the go-to potassium powerhouse, think again; avocados reign supreme with 14% of the recommended daily amount of potassium, whereas bananas only contain 10%. Avocados also contain a whopping 7g of fiber per serving, which helps to promote overall gut health and eliminate free radicals.
Studies have shown that those who eat avocados tend to have healthier diets overall, but also had a lower body weight compared to those who did not consume avocado. Other research has showed that avocados can aid in increasing the rate in which fat is burned, may reduce appetite and overeating, and could help the body burn more calories after eating.
There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than sipping on an ice cold water infused with a lemon slice or two. Besides tasting great, adding lemon to water, salad dressings, and other recipes provides a host of health benefits. Lemons are packed with the antioxidant vitamin C and citric acid which is essential for skin health. Since lemons contain so much vitamin C, they can help to increase the absorption of iron from complementary foods as well.
If you’re looking for an energy boost, this green treat is small but mighty–just the way a superfood should be! Research has shown that consuming kiwi can positively influence energy levels as a result of high Vitamin C, K, and E content. One study in particular showed that males who consumed two kiwis a day for six weeks experienced a 31% increase in energy, along with a decrease of 38% in fatigue levels, and a 34% decrease in depression. With a strong Vitamin C content, kiwi can aid in the reduction of fatigue and boost mental and physical activity (8).
Summertime always calls for grilling and cooking up this lean protein is a great way to give your body powerful nutrients. Salmon contains several B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12, all of which work together to turn consumed food into energy, encouraging brain health. Salmon’s high protein content at 22-25g per serving, makes it an excellent choice for feeding muscles, maintaining weight, and protecting bones.
As the old adage says, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” With its nutritional benefits, it certainly couldn’t hurt to make apples a dietary staple. Boasting a high fiber content, apples have beens shown to play an integral role in reducing body weight, creating satiety, especially when eaten between meals. Apples are also quite rich in vitamin C, which acts as a natural diuretic to the body and can aid in digestion.
Beets are a dietary staple for athletes – and with good reason. Exercise can leave muscles feeling fatigued and stressed, but beets are a superfood that can help offer a host of muscle-recovery benefits. Beets naturally contain nitrates, which are effective when working to increase energy and athletic performance. But wait – you might be thinking that nitrates are “bad,” right? While certain nitrates can do more harm than good, the nitrates found in beets can have positive health effects. Dietary nitrates, which are found in beets, convert to nitric oxide, which aid in eliminating toxins from the body.
Beets have been shown to improve oxygen and stamina, which can lead to better overall performance. Studies have shown that cyclists who ate beets regularly were able to reduce their race times as well as feel less tired after completing a 10k race.
Several studies have been done that found that walnuts play an integral role in improved alertness. Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids and powerful antioxidants such as melatonin play a part in boosting energy. Sprinkling crushed walnuts into oatmeal or adding them into protein bars or bites is a simple way to incorporate this superfood into your diet.
Strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse, as research has linked this superfood to both internal and external health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, strawberries can aid in eliminating free radicals. Not only are strawberries beneficial internally, but they are also rich in vitamins A and C which is essential for skin hydration and elasticity.