Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani
Blueberries: The Indigo-Colored Antioxidant
When: May through October. In many areas, you can harvest them yourself; visit PickYourOwn.org to find a farm and see what's available when.
Why: These berries-one of the few foods that are naturally blue--have sky-high levels of antioxidants, which combat the damage done by inflammation. Anthocyanins, the natural plant compounds that give blueberries their deep color, may have antidiabetic effects as well.
How: Aside from go-tos like pancakes and smoothies, blueberries also add a sweet kick to grilled pork.
Red Bell Peppers: A Sweet, Crunchy Punch of Vitamin C
When: May through September, although since red peppers are actually mature versions of green ones, you may not see them in markets until later in the season.
Why: While all peppers are very low in calories (about 25 per cup), reds--which taste sweeter and milder--are best for you. They contain 11 times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers, and while the green variety delivers 60 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, red gives you 240 percent.
How: Dip them in hummus now; roast them in big batches for salads, grilled cheese sandwiches and snacking later (they'll keep for a few weeks in the fridge). Or try them in vegetarian sloppy joes or sautéed with ginger, garlic and chili for a vibrant side.
Tomatoes: The Summer Heart, Skin and Brain Protector
When: Late June through September.
Why: Lycopene is highest in very red tomatoes; the antioxidant has a long list of benefits, from protecting skin against the sun's burning rays, to slowing arterial aging, to fighting heart disease, stroke, memory loss and impotence, say Drs. Roizen and Oz.
How: Dr. Roizen notes that it takes 165 raw tomatoes to equal the health perks of just 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce; this easy recipe works as well on pasta as it does as a hot or chilled soup. If you want to enjoy tomatoes raw, try combining them with watermelon in a gorgeous (and gluten-free) salad.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Cut the Grocery Bill (and Save the Planet)
Watermelon: A Pick-Me-Up with Added Benefits
When: Domestic watermelon is available from April until November, with peak production from May through August.
Why: Aside from its ability to refresh us, watermelon also delivers lycopene. And a recent study led by food scientists at Florida State University suggests it can be an effective weapon against prehypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease.
How: A smoothie made with watermelon, coconut water, lime juice and mint leaves is an ideal cooler on a hot day. Also try serving wedges of the fruit at cocktail hour with a light sprinkling of shaved Pecorino Romano and black pepper, or put it on skewers with shrimp and grill.
KEEP READING: 3 More Summer Superfoods
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