Nutrition Articles

3 Fresh Ingredients for Summer

Healthy, Hot Weather Fare

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Summer is the season for cooking fresh and fabulous feasts. The summer months bring ripe and juicy produce that nearly falls off the vines, farmers markets in their fullest glory, and perfect weather for celebrating the bountiful harvest in your very own backyard. Three summer all-stars are tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Delicious and versatile, this trio is also incredibly healthy.

Although commonly regarded and categorized as a vegetable, the tomato is really a fruit, a very healthful one. Tomatoes are known for being exceptionally high in lycopene, a carotenoid that has antioxidant properties and may help prevent cancer and heart disease. Eating tomatoes with fat (try to choose a healthy fat source like avocado, olive oil, or nuts) increases your body's ability to absorb the lycopene.

Besides that famous carotenoid, tomatoes are also a rich source of vitamin C, folate (folic acid), riboflavin, and chromium, each with its own extensive list of health benefits.

For the tastiest tomatoes, grow them yourself or buy them from a farmers market or road-side produce stand. That ensures that your tomatoes are fresh from the vine—and healthier, too. Although tomatoes that have been shipped from across the country are still technically tomatoes, the flavor and texture doesn’t even remotely compare to those that are freshly picked. Select tomatoes with a deep rich color and smooth skin and store them on the countertop, where they’ll keep for a few days. Never refrigerate tomatoes as it changes the flavor and texture.

For more than 200 new ways to cook with tomatoes, check out our top-rated recipes
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I'd be really tempted to throw basil and/or eggplant in with these. My favorite summer produce! - 5/12/2016 1:21:41 PM
  • I love all three. Cucumber sandwiches on a hot day really hits the spot. A little light mayo and salt and pepper is all you need. My husband is a tomato sandwich person. We haven't been successful in growing tomatoes and peppers (banana peppers) so we hit the local farmer's markets and stock up. - 6/17/2015 9:35:01 AM
    I love tomatoes, but despise cucumbers, their smell makes me ill, actually. Peppers are ok, but after a good month of using summer veggies, the family tires of them, same kind of taste, etc. And they are good for you, but not anything will be cured just because you eat them, over stated magic people!! - 4/19/2014 3:40:41 PM
  • AND tomatoes and peppers are on the current list of anti-angiogenic foods that not only help to "kill back" the unwanted blood supply to cancer tumors, but also fat cells. That's a great thing for us!! And they are so pretty on my white salad plate. AND nut butter and vine-ripened tomatoes on Joseph's flax pita bread is delicious. Now, I just might need to make a substitution on my menu plan for breakfast. Thanks for the article. - 8/18/2012 8:05:22 AM
  • I use all three of these ingredients as much as possible. I also supplement and add spark (pun intended) to my dishes by adding fresh herbs from my garden: mint, taragon, basil, lemon thyme, parsley and cilantro. I have just an 11' x 6' balcony and grow lettuces, peas and all my own herbs, plus have room for decor items, two chairs and four 6 purely-for-my-enj
    oyment containers of seasonal blooms! If I can do it in this tiny amount of space, you can do it, too! - 7/30/2012 4:24:20 PM
  • Why not add all these items together with a little vinegar! Cucumber salad anyone? - 7/30/2012 12:26:02 PM
  • I wash all fruits and vegetables with soap and water before I eat them. Is this enough to clean them of the pesticides?

    - 7/19/2012 8:40:24 AM

    AMIE - 6/23/2009 12:24:04 PM
  • Great article. - 8/11/2008 10:06:24 AM
  • WE grow our own tomatoes and cucumbers. THey're easy to grow and delicious. Thanks for another fine article, Liza. - 7/30/2008 8:49:41 PM
  • Thanks for a great article Liza. You're right, there's no taste like a home-grown tomato. I grow cherry tomatoes and they rarely get into the kitchen. They're eaten as I mow the lawn. - 7/29/2008 6:16:24 PM

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