Even though the heat wave may have passed where you live, it's still summertime!
• Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and developer of a cookbook series to reduce cancer risk.
Why I love them: Raspberries are so beautiful, and since we also eat with our eyes, just seeing them on my plate makes me happy.
[Read: 13 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Happier.]
Why they're good for you: Talk about a delicious way to get the dietary fiber we need for a lower risk of colon cancer and better overall health! One cup of raspberries provides eight grams of fiber – as much as you'll find in a heaping bowl of many whole-grain cereals! Raspberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C. They also contain health-protecting natural compounds including anthocyanins, ellagitannins and ellagic acid. These compounds are being studied for their possible anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
How I eat them: I use frozen black and red raspberries all year long to top my morning oatmeal and in smoothies. I especially enjoy the texture of fresh local raspberries in a bowl on their own, in cereal and smoothies, mixed with plain yogurt or as a topper for salad greens. They also taste great with a small scoop of lemon sorbet or topped with some shaved dark chocolate.
[Read: 5 Secret Smoothie Ingredients.]
Red Bell Peppers
Why I love them: I love the crunch that red bell peppers add to any dish or meal, and I love their sweet flavor that blends well with so many other foods and seasonings. They are sturdy enough to work well for dipping when cut in wide slices, and they provide a colorful, tasty and low-calorie, low-sodium alternative to chips or crackers to accompany hummus and other bean dips or tzatziki (Middle Eastern cucumber-yogurt dip).
Why they're good for you: All colors of bell peppers are nutritious, vitamin C-rich choices. But the red peppers have ripened enough to develop extra-high nutrient levels. One medium red bell pepper (or a cup of slices) supplies more than a day's worth of vitamin C. Red bell peppers get their color from beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, two health-protective compounds that also make them a good source of vitamin A. They are also a good source of folate.
How I eat them: Red bell peppers are so versatile. They are great dippers, work well in a vegetable salad and also taste great when combined with fruits like peaches to make a salsa. They're also delicious when grilled, either alone or in kabobs. Red peppers also work well as part of main-dish salads with black beans or garbanzo beans. In the dog days of summer, they're especially delicious as part of a cooling bowl of gazpacho.
• Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of "1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes"
Why I love them: Tomatoes are super juicy and in season in the summer, which means they're at their peak of ripeness, nutritional value, flavor and color. But I also make sure the tomatoes I get are truly vine-ripened fresh and never refrigerated since chilling halts ripenening and negatively affects texture.
Why they're good for you: Besides their versatility, two key benefits of tomatoes are the vitamin C and lycopene they contain.
[Read: 5 Red Foods to Eat for Your Heart.]
How I eat them: During the summer, I love to eat raw or grilled tomatoes. I enjoy tossing pasta with fresh diced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, garlic, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and pinch of sea salt for a really simple, tasty meal. I'm also a fan of grilling up skewers of cherry tomatoes with a marinade of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, coriander, a pinch of allspice and sea salt, with fresh cilantro to finish. One of my favorite summertime breakfasts includes an over-easy egg sandwich with baby arugula, an extra-thick slice of an heirloom tomato, fresh sage and a squirt of lemon juice.
• Linda Feingold, MEd, MS, RD, nutritionist and exercise physiologist
Why I love them: For me, nothing beats a delicious, juicy orange – especially after a hot, sweaty, outdoor run. Just looking at an orange makes me think of the summer sun!
Why it's good for you: A medium-sized orange contains about 80 calories, is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fiber. It also provides some potassium and calcium.
How I eat them: I enjoy dipping orange slices in plain, fat-free Greek yogurt with sprinkles of cinnamon for breakfast. I add them to salads at lunchtime. Not usually thought of as an on-the-go snack, I sometimes peel an orange in the morning, separate the slices and throw them in a baggie to eat as a snack later in the day or for a bit of relief while I'm waiting for a train in the uber-hot NYC subway.
[See: Unusual Uses for Greek Yogurt.]
• Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, consulting sports nutritionist for the Cincinnati Bengals
Why I love them: There's nothing like enjoying ripe, juicy peaches when they're in season to offset the summer heat.
Why they're good for you: Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and also have some filling fiber. And like all fruits and vegetables, they provide valuable antioxidants to protect against disease.
How I eat them: I like to cut a peach in half, remove the pit and brush the peach with a mixture of 1 to 2 teaspoons of canola oil, 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey and the leaves of a sprig of fresh thyme. I then grill it for about 2 minutes on each side. I eat it alone or topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
• Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Why I love them: Strawberries have a firm, sweet texture that makes them a satisfying way to stay hydrated, especially in the summer.
Why they're good for you: Strawberries are about 91 percent water, have only 50 calories per cup and are a good source of fiber.
How I eat them: I love to eat plain strawberries as a snack while sitting on my deck or on the go. I also enjoy adding fresh, juicy strawberries to salads. With a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, strawberries, pecans and spinach make a classic combo. Strawberries also taste great as a smoothie when blended with a little ice or frozen kiwi or pineapple. For a refreshing summer beverage, I add cut strawberries to cold seltzer water with fresh basil or mint (usually leftover from a dish I made the night before). And when I want a sweet, creamy treat, I dip strawberries in vanilla Greek yogurt – and sometimes add chopped almonds or walnuts for crunch. Or I'll blend fresh strawberries with vanilla Greek yogurt and freeze for fruity, creamy freezer pops.
What's your favorite way to eat to beat the heat?
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Zied Health Communications, LLC, based in New York City. She's an award-winning registered dietitian and author of three books including Nutrition At Your Fingertips. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, Zied inspires others to make more healthful food choices and find enjoyable ways to "move it or lose it" through writing, public speaking, and media appearances. She writes the twice-weekly blog, The Scoop on Food, for Parents.com, and her new book, Younger Next Week, will be published by Harlequin Non Fiction on December 31, 2013. You can connect with her on twitter (@elisazied) and through her website: www.elisazied.com.