GETTY IMAGESBy Brenda Kearns
Stock your shopping cart with these fresh, fat-fighting picks
Who can resist a bowl of juicy red berries? Pop 'em freely, because they're the perfect summer snack: filling, light on calories and laden with nutrients from omega 3 fats to cancer-fighting polyphenols. "Just half a cup of strawberries provides over 70 percent of your daily Vitamin C, plus fiber and an array of antioxidants," says weight-loss coach Jackie Keller.
Sweet, juicy cherries contain just 87 calories per cup -- and if you enjoy them three times weekly in place of heavier desserts, you could shed up to five pounds this summer alone, say researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. Bonus: Cherries are loaded with anthocyanins -- antioxidants that University of Nebraska researchers say can help kill cancer cells and lower your liver's production of artery-clogging cholesterol by as much as 10 percent.
"Whether eaten whole, dried or pureed into sauces, plums are low in calories and a good source of both dietary fibers and Vitamin C," says Keller. Dried plums (also known as prunes) are the perfect grab-and-go healthy snack, and they make a rich, sweet dessert when stewed into compote. Plus, they can help suppress appetite thanks to their low glycemic load.
From pattypan to zucchini, summer squash delivers major vitamins and nutrients (including magnesium, potassium and copper), to the tune of a mere 80 calories per half cup. With its bright colors and earthy flavor, squash makes the perfect side dish to any meal. On BBQ days, toss zucchini on the grill.
"Sweet red peppers are such a good source of beta carotene, and top the charts of vegetables for that important antioxidant," says Keller. "Green bell peppers also contain generous amounts of Vitamin C." Peppers, like zucchini, grill up beautifully…for a rich, colorful side dish that fills you up on just a few calories.
Dense with antioxidants -- plus protein and omega 3 fats -- mangoes are a delicious, low-calorie way to bulk up meals with exotic flavor, ensuring "healthy" fare doesn't fall into a rut. Toss on top of oatmeal or yogurt, in salads and even in stir-fries.
This often-overlooked herb is packed with slimming potential. According to USDA researchers, each cup contains 984 micrograms of vitamin K -- a nutrient that prevents fluid retention and flushes out bloat, helping women shed three pounds of excess water weight if they serve it up daily. Use parsley to add a seasonal flare to salads, and add it to dressings, mayonnaise, omelettes, rice and potato dishes, soups, burgers and other main course meals to balance and brighten their natural flavors.
"One of the real gems found in beets is the B vitamin folate," a key nutrient for women, says Keller. "Beets help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer." Naturally sweet and agreeably buttery, beets can turn a salad into something special without adding lots of calories.
"If Mother Nature had a vote for her ultimate superfruit, figs would be it," says Dr. Paul Gross, author of Superfruits. And why not? They pack fiber, potassium, folate and vitamins for heart health into one incredibly sweet, low-cal fruit. Having been around for 6,000 years, figs might have even kept Cleopatra trim. For a snack that sticks with you, try the black mission figs -- the seeds release even more nutrients and omega fats then the flesh itself.
The superstars of the slimming fruits, blackberries contain just 62 calories per cup, they're packed with six grams of appetite-taming fiber, plus they're low in sugar, fat-free and packed with berry flavor! Even better, they're a great source of manganese -- a tough-to-find mineral that helps muscle cells soak up and burn fats -- all-told, helping women shed up to 14 pounds per year, if they enjoy one cup daily, say University of Maryland researchers. Bonus: Tufts University research shows that blackberries contain 220 percent more cancer-fighting antioxidants than even broccoli!
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GETTY IMAGESBy Brenda Kearns