June 20, 2024

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These 7 Summer Fruits and Vegetables Are Healthy for Your Heart, According to Dietitians

5 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Summer fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, blueberries, and peaches are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support heart health.
  • Opting for locally grown produce can provide fresher, nutrient-dense, and cost-effective options.
  • Experts recommend incorporating these fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks in creative ways, such as blending fruits into frozen treats and making refreshing salads with watermelon and zucchini.

If you want a heart-healthy poolside snack or picnic side dish this summer, look for seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Plenty of summer produce contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help lower blood pressure and support heart health. These fruits and vegetables can also keep you hydrated as summer weather sets in. 

“Go for local produce if possible as they tend to be fresher, higher in nutrients, and budget-friendly when in season,” Sherry Gray, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian and extension educator at the University of Connecticut, told Verywell in an email.

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables maximizes heart health benefits and gives you a mix of antioxidants, Gray added.

“If [you’re] not used to using vegetables and fruits in your diet, start by adding one or two to your day and increase from there,” she said.

Consider these 7 fruits and vegetables to boost your heart health this summer.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a nutrient-rich summer staple packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain folate, which helps regulate blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can contribute to heart disease risk, according to Gray.

Research has associated lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, with a lower risk of stroke and heart disease.

Tomatoes come in several varieties, including plum, heirloom, green, cherry, and beefsteak, so look for different colors and sizes when shopping for tomatoes this summer.

“I like to cook tomatoes in pasta and add fresh arugula, a little olive oil, and parmesan cheese,” Gray said.

Blueberries

Summer berries, like blueberries and blackberries, contain anthocyanin pigments. These pigments provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and may lower heart disease risk.

Blueberries are a good source of fiber, which is a major focus area for heart health, according to Heather A. Hodson, RDN, CDN, CDCES, the clinical nutritionist for NYU Langone’s Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

Hodson explained that blueberries offer additional benefits beyond heart health, including vitamin K, which supports blood clotting and bone building, and manganese, which aids immune and reproductive function.

“In the hot summer months, many of us turn to frozen treats to help cool off. Remember that fruit can be fabulous for this. Freeze chunks of cut-up fruit or blend and pour into popsicle molds for a sweet and fiber-filled dessert or snack,” Hodson told Verywell in an email.

Peaches

Peaches, a summer stone fruit, are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. These nutrients help improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and protect against heart disease.

This stone fruit also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives peaches their signature yellow hue. Once converted into vitamin A in the body, it helps reduce heart disease risk.

Peaches work well grilled or mixed into salsas. Hodson recommends adding peaches to summer fruit salads.

“Keep things simple by sticking to a few of your favorite fruits, or take this a step further by adding unexpected twists like seasonal fresh herbs,” she said.

Apricots

Apricots, like peaches, are a summer stone fruit with antioxidants that help protect against coronary heart disease. They also contain the fiber pectin, which acts as a natural laxative, according to Bethany Doerfler, RD, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

“This summer sweet treat is packed with vitamins A, B, and C as well as phenolic compounds and carotenoids, which can improve blood vessel health,” Doerfler told Verywell in an email.

To fully enjoy the sweetness of apricots, she recommends replacing your usual dessert with fresh apricots topped with cinnamon and yogurt.

“Substituting fruit for dessert is a positive lifestyle change that adds up to greater cardiovascular health,” Doerfler said.

Watermelon

Watermelon is a refreshing fruit with potassium, fiber, and lycopene, the same antioxidant found in tomatoes. Research has associated lycopene with improved blood pressure control and prevention of cardiovascular disorders. Limited research suggests that L-citrulline, an amino acid in watermelon, can lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness.

Many watermelon studies use supplements or extracts, so people would need to eat over two pounds of the raw fruit per day to reach similar amounts.

However, Doerfler said all produce have vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support heart health. Hence, it is a good idea to add a variety of fruits, including watermelon, into your summer diet.

“Try watermelon with pickled onions and a mild crumbled cheese like feta for a unique summer salad,” Doerfler said.

Zucchini

Zucchini and other summer squash are a good source of potassium, an important mineral for managing blood pressure and lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Most Americans don’t consume enough potassium, so focus on adding more zucchini and other potassium-rich produce to your diet this summer to support heart health.

“I personally love to roast vegetables, including zucchini and cabbage, whether on the grill outside, on a sheet pan in the oven, or in a skillet on the stove. I often will lightly spray with olive oil and add my favorite no-salt seasonings such as garlic, onion, pepper, parsley, dill, and ground mustard,” Dawn Earnesty, PhD, RDN, a registered dietitian and senior extension specialist at Michigan State University Extension, told Verywell in an email.

Earnesty said zucchini also contains vitamin C and fiber, which support healthy digestion and aid in removing cholesterol from the blood.

Strawberries

A small 2021 study found that consuming 2.5 servings of strawberries per day helps improve cardiometabolic risk factors and insulin resistance.

Strawberries contain antioxidants and vitamin C, which attack free radicals that can cause damage to your heart, according to Melissa Ann Prest, DCN, RDN, a registered dietitian based in Seattle and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Enjoy fresh strawberries on their own, blended into a smoothie, chopped in a salad, or as a topping for oatmeal or Greek yogurt.

“In general, we are not eating enough fruits and vegetables,” Prest said in an email. “Make a goal this summer to add a fruit or vegetable to at least two meals and one snack.”

What This Means For You

Incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables into your summer diet can have significant health benefits, particularly for your heart and cholesterol levels.

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