8 Great Summer Fruits With Incredible Health Benefits
Summer is a time for sun and fun! It’s also the time for sweet summer fruits – and all the great health benefits that come with them! Many summer fruits are like high-powered vitamins packed with essential nutrients with the bonus of being better-tasting.
Here’s a list of 8 great summer fruits to seek out and enjoy this summer. What makes them so great? Well, for one, they’re all full of great nutrition. But more than that, you’ll enjoy eating them.
To make this list, the fruits didn’t simply have to offer great nutritional value. They had to be easy to prepare, meaning minimal carving, slicing or chopping. And they had to make a great snack, which means you could pop it in your mouth and go.
Let’s get started, after all, summer doesn’t last forever!
These little blueberries have a very short season for harvesting, it runs only about one month. And you want to get them fresh while you can. For being so small, they deliver big nutrition with vitamins C, K and manganese, a mineral that plays a role in blood sugar management and carb burning. Blueberries are also packed with antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which may have a protective effect on the heart, liver and brain!
A single cantaloupe is a week’s worth of a refreshing summer snacking. Plus, a single serving offers a full day’s value of vitamins A and C. Cantaloupe is also a great source of folate, the B vitamin you need to make red blood cells, support the immune system, convert carbs into energy and support cellular renewal through its role in making DNA for new cells. Plus, every bite of cantaloupe includes a full range of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants.
Here’s another fruit that is summer exclusive! They make their appearance in the early summer and by autumn they’re mostly gone. Cherries offer great nutrition, especially vitamin C and fiber which supports healthy digestion. They’re also rich in antioxidants and carotenoids, featuring anthocyanins. Research even suggests eating cherries helps protect against gout by breaking down uric acid.[i] Whether you eat them for taste or health benefits, just make sure to get several handfuls this summer.
Figs make an appearance around mid-summer, so grab them while you can. They supply a full range of nutrients including vitamin A, B vitamins as well as minerals like calcium, iron, zinc potassium and manganese. They’re also considered in some cultures to be an aphrodisiac. Plus, fresh figs are easy to eat. Pluck the stem, rinse well and take a bite.
This tropical fruit can often be gotten year-round, but its season is summer. It’s red or orange color tells you it’s a great source of vitamin A. It’s also great for vitamin C and folate. Papaya contains the potent phytochemical lycopene which may offer protection against cancer.[ii] Every bite of papaya also supplies papain, an enzyme which supports protein digestion making it a great fruit to support digestive health too!
If you ever get the chance, eating a ripe, sun-warmed peach will be an unforgettable experience. And it would be a healthy one too! Peaches are a great source of vitamins A and C, while also providing B vitamins the body needs for energy. They’re also a great source of antioxidants and fiber. Some people even claim putting peach slices on the skin is a great way to treat wrinkles and dark circles.
Here’s another of the incredible tropical fruits. And it’s a lot easier to prep than it might seem. Cut off the top and bottom, then cut down the sides to remove that fibrous exterior. Four more slices around the tough inner core and you’ve got a snack for a week. Pineapple supplies an excellent source of vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals like iron, magnesium and even copper. Plus, a single serving offers a whopping 76% of the daily recommended intake of manganese. Plus, pineapple contains bromelain, another enzyme which aids digestion by helping to digest protein.
Of all the summer fruits, does any say summer more than watermelon? A picnic favorite, it really belongs on the table all summer long. Yes, it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and C along with magnesium and potassium, but its high water content makes it refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
Watermelon also contains lycopene and a triterpenoid compound known as Cucurbitacin E which research shows supports the immune system and may have anti-cancer properties.[iii] Maybe grab another slice of the watermelon at the next family picnic, right!?
[Nutrition information supplied by SELFNutritionData.]
[iii]Attard E1, Martinoli MG. Cucurbitacin E, An Experimental Lead Triterpenoid with Anticancer, Immunomodulatory and Novel Effects Against Degenerative Diseases. A Mini-Review. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(17):1708-13.
We know exercise is an important part of healthy living but — is one type of exercise better than others? What is the exercise the brain loves best?
Aerobic exercise has been touted for heart health for years, and it turns out that aerobics appear to be the kind of exercise that provides the greatest benefit for the brain too.
University of Wisconsin researchers report that people who do moderate exercise every day have healthier, more active brains. The magic number was 68 minutes per day. Less than that and the benefits were not as great. Doing 68 minutes or more of aerobic exercise showed the greatest benefit. Interestingly, doing more such as 100 minutes worth of exercise daily did not lead to greater benefits.[i]
Previous research has shown that any kind of exercise improves mood. One study followed adults for 30 years. They found those with the most activity had fewer symptoms of depression.[ii]
Now, however, the research specifically identifies aerobic exercise as the most beneficial for the brain. It not only makes one feel good, it protects and improves the physical health of the brain too.
How Aerobic Exercise Supports the Brain
The University of Wisconsin study noted that the moderate aerobic exercise supported better glucose metabolism in the brains of individuals as they aged. The researchers also suggested this may “suggest that [moderate physical activity] might protect against hypometabolism in brain regions that are particularly susceptible to the pathophysiology of [Alzheimer’s disease].”
In the study, they noted that the exercise increases the size of the hippocampus in the brain, offering protection for men and women against memory loss.[iii] This finding corresponded to an earlier study of women ages 70-80 years-old. Those who did aerobic exercise had “significantly increased hippocampal volume.”[iv] More recently, researchers observed increased connectivity in 10 areas of the brain which included frontal, parietal and temporal lobes as well as the cerebellum.[v]
It comes as no surprise perhaps that aerobic exercise also increases BDNF levels in the brain and central nervous system.[vi] BDNF promotes growth of brain and nerve cells, protects the cells, and plays a key role in learning and recall, with low levels of this molecule being common in diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.[vii]
Improved glucose metabolism, increases to BDNF and larger hippocampal volumes aren’t the only ways aerobic exercise supports the brain, according to some researchers. They also suggest the increased blood flow that comes with the heart-pumping exercise that makes you sweat plays a role.[viii] It increases oxygen levels which is also essential to thinking and memory.
Aerobic exercise also helps to reduce cortisol levels. As a Psychology Today article says, aerobic exercise provides an outlet to “burn up” cortisol, the hormone related to stress.[ix] Reducing cortisol is essential as consistently high levels have been identified as a trigger for mental illness and depression.
There will certainly be a lot more research into how and why aerobic exercise benefits the brain. Fortunately, while researchers dig into all those details, we can turn to specific exercises that have been shown to work.
Types of Aerobic Exercises to Do
The University of Wisconsin study said moderate aerobic exercise for a little over an hour a day produced the best results. This begs the question, what constitutes moderate exercise?
For one group of elderly, it only took moderate-intensity (brisk) walking 4 days a week, 30 minutes a day for 12 weeks to see results.[x] Other research suggests aerobic exercise combined with resistance training and Tai Chi work as well.[xi] But aerobic exercise could also include everything from high-intensity interval training workouts to yoga.
The exercise should get the heart beating, but the specific exercise done should fit the lifestyle and physical capacity of the individual. But when all it really takes is a brisk walk, the options for aerobic exercise are almost endless.
[i] Dougherty RJ, Schultz SA, Kirby TK, et al. Moderate Physical Activity is Associated with Cerebral Glucose Metabolism in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease?: JAD. 2017;58(4):1089-1097. doi:10.3233/JAD-161067.
[ii] Pinto Pereira SM, Geoffroy M, Power C. Depressive Symptoms and Physical Activity During 3 Decades in Adult LifeBidirectional Associations in a Prospective Cohort Study.JAMA Psychiatry.2014;71(12):1373–1380. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1240
[iii] Dougherty RJ, Schultz SA, Boots EA, et al. Relationships between cardiorespiratory fitness, hippocampal volume, and episodic memory in a population at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Brain and Behavior. 2017;7(3):e00625. doi:10.1002/brb3.625.
[iv] ten Brinke LF, Bolandzadeh N, Nagamatsu LS, et al. Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial.Br J Sports Med 2015;49:248-254.
[v] Chirles TJ1, et al. Exercise Training and Functional Connectivity Changes in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Healthy Elders. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;57(3):845-856. doi: 10.3233/JAD-161151.
[vi] Sleiman SF, Henry J, Al-Haddad R, et al. Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body ?-hydroxybutyrate. Elmquist JK, ed. eLife. 2016;5:e15092. doi:10.7554/eLife.15092.
[vii] Bathina S, Das UN. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and its clinical implications. Archives of Medical Science?: AMS. 2015;11(6):1164-1178. doi:10.5114/aoms.2015.56342.
[x] Chirles TJ1, et al. Exercise Training and Functional Connectivity Changes in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Healthy Elders. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;57(3):845-856. doi: 10.3233/JAD-161151.
[xi] Northey JM, Cherbuin N, Pumpa KL, et al. Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis. r J Sports Med 2018;52:154-160.