There are countless delights of summer – more sunshine, BBQs, longer days, vacations and, of course, the bounty of delicious seasonal fruits that begin to appear in stores and at farmer’s markets. It is a misconception that fruits are too high in sugar to be included in healthy meal plans for those with diabetes. In fact, fresh fruits when eaten in controlled portions, can be a great addition to meals and snacks because they are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, water and are also relatively low in calories. Below are a bunch of summer fruits to incorporate into your daily diet to enjoy all of their health benefits, flavor and to add variety to your meals and snacks.
Benefits: This fruit is the epitome of summer – crisp, sweet, and refreshing. Not only does watermelon help with hydration due to it high water content, but it also contains immune boosting antioxidants like vitamins A and C, as well as the mineral potassium which is key for heart health and helps prevent muscle cramps.
How to choose and store: Whole watermelons are best if they have smooth waxy skin, free of dents, a pale yellow underbelly and sound hollow when tapped. A whole uncut watermelon can be stored in a cool place or the fridge for up to 10 days, and once cut it should be wrapped tightly in plastic (or smaller pieces placed in an airtight container) and placed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Portion sizes and serving tips: 1 ¼ cup cubed watermelon is considered one carbohydrate serving (15 grams). Aside from enjoying some fresh cut watermelon after a BBQ meal, other fun ways to serve it include in salsa recipes, mixed fruit salad, or pairing it with low fat feta cheese, basil and balsamic vinegar atop greens for a fresh savory side salad.
Benefits: Peaches are part of the stone fruit family, meaning they have a large stone, (aka pit) in their center. These thick-skinned fruits, which have soft sweet insides, are a great source of vitamin C. One fresh peach provides nearly 15% of your daily needs of this important antioxidant that helps protect against infection as well as certain cancers.
How to choose and store: Peaches tend to be at their best mid summer and are ready to eat they if they are soft and heavy for their size. You can also determine a peach’s ripeness by smelling it – the more aromatic the better. There are four varieties of peaches- white, yellow, donut, and nectarines. You can store peaches on the counter at room temperature until they are ripe enough to eat, whereas already ripened peaches should be stored in the refrigerator.
Portion sizes and serving tips: One medium sized peach, about 5 ounces in weight and 2 ¾ inch across, will also provide 15 grams of carbohydrate and is a reasonable portion. Fresh peaches are delicious sliced on salads, atop Greek yogurt, in salsas, and even grilled for a tasty and healthy summer dessert.
Benefits: Plums belong to the same fruit family as peaches and apricots, however there are many more varieties of plums in comparison to other stone fruits. In addition to being high vitamin C like many other fruits, plums contain plant chemicals, called phytochemicals, that have shown to decrease inflammation and heart disease. Plums are also high in fiber, namely dried plums, called prunes, which help with regularity, as well as promoting bone health.
How to choose and store: Select plums that have smooth skin -free of cracks, that feel heavy and are soft near the stem. Avoid plums that feel too soft, as they are likely over ripe. Keep plums on the countertop at room temperature until they are ripe and then place them in the refrigerator. If you need to ripen a plum quickly, try placing it in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days. There are over 100 types of plums available in the United States and popular ones include the black, red and pluot varities.
Portion sizes and serving tips: One whole plum that is 2 inch across, equals 15 grams, or one carbohydrate serving. Plums are great in sauces and salads, eaten whole as snacks and they can even be pickled!
Benefits: Blueberries are often referred to as a “superfood” because they are low in calories, high in fiber, as well as being chock full of nutrients like flavonoid antioxidants which protect against heart disease and cancer, reduce aging and preserve brain function. One particular flavonoid present in blueberries, called anthocyanins, may have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar metabolism as observed in multiple studies.
How to choose and store: Choose blueberries that are plump, firm, smooth-skinned with a deep blue-black hue and a light dusting of gray on the surface, called bloom. Keep blueberries in their plastic packaging in the refrigerator and rinse them right before eating to keep them fresh longer.
Portion sizes and serving tips: A generous ¾ cup of blueberries counts as one carbohydrate serving, 15 grams. Blueberries taste delicious on hot or cold cereal, in yogurt, atop salads or blended in smoothies. Freeze extra ripe blueberries to snack on as a cool, refreshing treat.