Summer is almost here in the northern hemisphere! As the days get longer and hotter, it’s a great idea to review your shopping list and reach for healthy, nutrient-dense foods that can also provide a source of hydration. Warm weather, sunshine, and increased activity means that the body is losing more water as perspiration in order to keep us cool, so consuming hydrating, healthy foods can help you stay hydrated.
You may find that during sunnier days, you’re intuitively drawn to foods that can be served cold or at room temperature, rather than hot, and that have a higher water content. Fresh fruits and veggies are at their most nutritious when they are harvested in season, and can both refresh and provide you nutrition to keep you active. Many of our chosen top foods also combine deliciously in flavorful summer dishes!
When we think of ideal summer foods, watermelon is usually at the top of the list! This sweet and juicy snack is not only extremely hydrating but also high in antioxidants and other nutrients. Watermelon is about 90% water, so it’s a great pick for helping to keep you and your family cooled down on hot days. Kids love it sliced up, making it a super-easy warm weather snack. It’s also high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can benefit your body in several ways including supporting heart health.
Another food that is high in water content and can help prevent dehydration, cucumber is a refreshing summer nibble. It can be added to salads, sliced and eaten with dips, and even added to your water glass. Cucumber is especially high in electrolytes and vitamin K. Eating moisture-rich foods at times when your body is more prone to dehydration can also help keep your digestive processes functioning properly and prevent constipation.
The flavor of mint has a restorative, cooling effect, so it’s a natural choice to incorporate into your summertime drinks and dishes. You can add fresh peppermint leaves with lime juice to your water for a low-calorie, refreshing beverage, or add it to chilled summer dishes like watermelon feta salad or a fattoush salad. It can also help calm upset stomachs, and freshen your breath! As an added bonus, all types of mint are incredibly easy to grow outside - so if you have a spare planter, you can have a supply of fresh mint all summer long!
Considered a superfood, avocados are rich in healthy fats and dietary nutrients. They’re also extremely filling and, in many dishes, make a great vegan substitute for animal proteins. And, unlike most other fruits, they are low in carbohydrates. Avocados are a great source of potassium, and there is evidence that they may help lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, they’re just delicious! A staple in many Mexican dishes, avocados can be used in any kind of “sandwich” food such as wraps or tacos, or added to salads, grilled, or even served as simple slices garnished with a little sea salt.
5. Leafy greens
Summertime is the right time to enjoy greens - you might be surprised at how much flavor a fresh batch of farmer’s market greens can have! Greens are rich in carotenoids, antioxidants, and folates, and dark leafy greens are especially high in iron. Stick with dark greens such as kale, spinach, or chard to get a higher nutrient density over lighter lettuces. Fresh greens make a great salad base, but can also be used on burgers and in sandwiches, added to smoothies, or as a light side accompaniment to proteins instead of carbohydrate-heavy side dishes like rice.
Another one of those foods that has a high concentration of water, celery is refreshing and hydrating. It makes a great side for hummus or dip and can be added to salads, wraps, and even smoothies or juices. Celery has a lot of surprising benefits; it’s high in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is a mild diuretic. It’s a great choice if you’re trying to eat clean and stay hydrated.
While you should always protect your skin by covering up or wearing sunscreen in the summer, there is some evidence that lycopene, the carotenoid found in tomatoes and other red fruits like watermelon, may help protect your skin against the damaging effects of UV rays. Tomatoes are also extremely high in vitamin C and other nutrients. A freshly picked tomato is an amazing flavor experience, and tomatoes are a uniquely versatile ingredient. They can be served hot or cold; baked, sautéed, added to sauces, salads, burgers and wraps, curries, and even included in chilled summer soups like gazpacho.
Summertime brings with it the opportunity for fresh berry picking, and it’s a worthwhile pastime, too, as berries are incredibly nutritious and especially high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Darker blue, purple, and bright red-colored berries are rich in nutrients and there is evidence that blueberries may help regulate blood sugar. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are commonly available throughout the summer, and are delicious enjoyed on their own, or added to fruit salads, smoothies, or even as a pop of sweetness in a savory salad.
Found in many types of healthy diets, salmon is a staple because of its dense nutritional profile. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart and brain health. It’s also a great source of protein and B vitamins. During the summer, salmon can be prepared in plenty of different ways that complement warm weather flavor profiles; often served barbecued with lemon on a cedar plank, there are many other ways to add grilled salmon to your dishes!