The summer holidays are about to start, and the weather is heating up. It’s always important to soak in the slower summer days and give yourself a break during the holidays. But this year especially, after such a tough year of COVID restrictions and ups and downs, we all deserve it! Plus, the summer break is a chance for a fresh new year start. So let this year begin with healthy, clean eating. And that means fruit! Not only does fruit taste so delicious and refreshing in the hot summer months, but all fruits have compounds that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and are important contributors to an overall healthy diet, reduced muscle soreness and even cancer prevention.
Here are our four favourite fruits of the summer!
It just isn’t summer without watermelon. It’s delicious, hydrating and contains only 50 calories per cup. Don’t limit yourself to just one cup because it is an excellent source of vitamin C, and we know that it’s better to get vitamin C from food instead of pills or powders. However, watermelon’s superfood status comes more from the high amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. This form of vitamin A is good for skin, immune function and reduces risk for cancer. As a rich source of lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, watermelon can reduce the risk of age-related blindness and macular degeneration. These antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients reduce oxidative stress and may lower inflammation.
#2. Cherries and tart cherry juice
While the term “superfood” is overused these days, cherries have a lot of reasons to deserve the label. Like the other foods mentioned in this article, cherries also reduce inflammation and combat oxidative stress to cells. There are different kinds of cherries containing different bioactive compounds, but most studies focus on tart cherries consumed mostly through juice or powders and sweet cherries consumed fresh. It has been shown that cherry consumption among athletes can decrease pain, soreness and muscle damage. Drinking tart cherry juice either from fresh or concentrate can promote faster recovery after a hard day of exercise. Cherry juice has become a popular product that is available at most health food stores. Dancers might consider adding cherries or juice to their post-dance recovery smoothies or even adding a couple of tablespoons of the concentrate directly to their water bottle. It could be delicious and performance-enhancing to combat the tart flavor of the cherry juice with a squeeze of watermelon juice in the water bottle, encouraging hydration in the process.
Wild blueberries, which actually have higher antioxidant levels than their cultivated sweeter cousins, can be consumed fresh, dried and in recipes such as cornbread. The dark blue colour of these antioxidant-rich berries have anthocyanins and polyphenols that have been shown to improve memory, cognitive function and even can help heal the brain after traumatic injury.
Blueberries and cherries get all the press in the sports nutrition world, but while blackcurrants are less popular, they certainly aren’t short on nutrients or performance-enhancing potential. Blackcurrant extract has been shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness after exercise. They are high in the same anthocyanins that blueberries have, and their consumption also mitigates inflammation and oxidative damage. They might be a little harder to buy since their popularity hasn’t taken off yet, but they can be found frozen, dried and in powder form online.
In addition to these fruits, don’t forget about summer peaches and mango (both high in vitamin A and C), strawberries (extremely high in vitamin C, manganese and beta-carotene) and apricots (dried can be a source of iron).