Nutrition & Summer Produce

Shelby Stein, RDN, LRD – Community Dietitian

As the temperature starts to get warmer and the days longer, you’ll likely start seeing some summer produce available in the grocery stores. Or if you have a garden, you’ll be enjoying some delicious produce in a few short months. Some of the common foods we associate with summertime are packed with health benefits. Below are a few of my favorite summer
fruits and veggies along with what makes them so good for us.

1. Watermelon. Just as its name implies, watermelon has a high water content and is very hydrating. It also contains lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect our skin cells from damage, such has damage caused by too much sun exposure. Choosing a watermelon at the store has always been struggle for me until a friend shared his tips on how to pick the best watermelon. The first tip is to look for the ‘field spot’, which is the yellow spot on the rind. This is the place where the watermelon rested on the ground in the field. Look for this spot to be a shade of yellow, not completely white. The second tip is to look for ‘webbing’, which is the brown spots or lines around the field spot. This webbing means that bees touched the pollinating part of the water many times and more pollination equals sweeter fruit.

2. Corn. This dietary staple is rich in fiber (promotes healthy digestion and steady energy levels) and many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Corn is sometimes referred to as a ‘starchy vegetable.’ This means that it contains more starch, a type of carbohydrate, than other vegetables. Although it has a higher carbohydrate content than other vegetables, corn can be part of a healthy diet, even for people with diabetes. One medium ear of corn contains approximately 90 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, and 2 grams of dietary fiber. Corn is a good source of iron and magnesium, both important minerals. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help promote eye and skin health.

3. Cherries. Fresh cherries are a sweet summer treat. These little fruits are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. They are rich in potassium, a mineral that is often under consumed but plays many important roles in the body, such as blood pressure regulation, normalizes heart function, and muscle contraction. Anthocyanins, antioxidants that contribute to the dark red color of cherries, help to protect our cells from damage that can lead to cancer. One cup of cherries contains just under 100 calories and over 3 grams of dietary fiber.
Below is a recipe perfect for summertime. It incorporates both watermelon and corn for a nutrient packed meal!

Grilled Lime Chicken with Watermelon Salsa
Recipe By: Diabetic Living Magazine

• 2 cups chopped watermelon
• ½ cup chopped cucumber
• ½ cup chopped orange or yellow sweet pepper
• ½ of an ear fresh sweet corn, kernels cut from cob
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 to 2 fresh jalapeno pepper(s), stemmed, seeded and chopped
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
• 1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
• ¼ cup lime juice
• 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds total)
• 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. For salsa, in a medium bowl combine watermelon, cucumber, sweet pepper, corn, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion. In a small bowl combine ½ teaspoon of the lime peel, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, the brown sugar, salt and crushed red pepper; add to watermelon mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour to let flavors combine.
2. Sprinkle chicken with lemon-pepper seasoning. In a small bowl combine the remaining ½ teaspoon lime peel, the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice and the oil.
3. For a charcoal or gas grill, grill chicken on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170°F), turning once halfway through grilling time and brushing with the oil mixture during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Serve chicken with salsa.

If you’d like to set up an appointment with a registered dietitian for support in your nutrition and health goals or for assistance in planning a healthy diet, please give the diabetes program a call at 701-627-7931!