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With summer’s rising temperatures also comes a bounty of fresh produce, including sweet-as-candy strawberries, juicy tomatoes and ripe melons. Now’s the perfect time to get the nine servings of fruits and veggies recommended daily, says Marjorie Nolan, a New York City-based registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Although you can’t go wrong with any piece of produce, there are some standout nutritional stars. This shopping list boasts the best -- and healthiest -- bets from your fruit stand.
Headed to the beach? Snack on some fresh salsa or gazpacho, and you may not need any aloe vera. According to a study from Britain’s University of Manchester, a diet high in tomatoes can increase your protection against sunburn by nearly 25 percent. Researchers say that the nutrient lycopene may counteract damage caused by ultraviolet rays. Serve tomatoes with olive oil or other healthy fat, which can aid lycopene absorption.
Just eight of these juicy berries deliver all the vitamin C you need for the entire day. Not only can this vitamin boost keep summer colds at bay, but it also combats slackening skin, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Vitamin C helps the body produce collagen, a protein that promotes skin elasticity,” says Nolan. Add the sweet fruit to your cereal, smoothie or salad.
Sink your teeth into an ear and you may save your eyes. Two antioxidants in corn -- lutein and zeaxanthin -- can slash your risk of developing vision-robbing cataracts, say researchers from Ohio State University. At the market, reach for yellow corn -- the sweet, white variety isn’t as high in these protective nutrients.
You don’t need to lay out by the pool to become a bronzed beauty. According to a recent study from Britain’s Bristol University, carrots can give you a golden glow from the inside out. How? The vegetable is rich in beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid pigment that occurs naturally in the skin.
Although it may get stuck in your teeth, this green can actually safeguard your smile. “Spinach is high in calcium, a mineral that lowers your risk for gum disease,” says Dr. Mark Schlessinger, a periodontist based in New York City. It’s also packed with folate and vitamins A, C and K, which combat heart disease and cancer.
No backyard BBQ would be complete without this juicy melon. That’s a good thing, since the fruit is bursting with heart-healthy lycopene and beta-carotene. Bonus: Watermelon is more than 90 percent water, and hydration improves skin’s appearance.
Chew on this: Celery is good for your waistline and your teeth. Since the low-cal (only 6 per stalk!), crunchy snack takes time to chew, it starts up saliva production that can neutralize cavity-causing bacteria, says Schlessinger. Plus, its fibers can act like a natural toothbrush, sweeping your teeth and gums with every bite.
“This veggie can help give you shinier hair and stronger nails,” says Nolan. Cabbage is a top source of sulfur, a mineral our bodies use to produce the natural hair-and-nail strengthener keratin. At your next block party, add a big scoop of vinegar-based coleslaw to your plate (but steer clear of the creamy kind: It can contain a whopping 19 grams of fat per cup).
Sharon Liao is an award-winning health editor and writer who has been on staff at Prevention, Fitness, and Reader's Digest magazines. She has contributed to Seventeen and Weight Watchers Magazine, as well as The Intellectual Devotional: Health.
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