9 Summer Foods That Are Healthier Than You Thought

Let's go beyond blueberries, salmon, and tomatoes to enjoy these often overlooked but surprisingly healthy foods of summer.

By Lauren Gelman
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    Watermelon

    This beloved thirst quencher is packed with vitamins A, C, potassium, and the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, according to WebMD. It’s also one of the richest natural sources of the amino acid L-citrulline, which helps regulate arterial function and may lower blood pressure, as discovered by researchers in a 2010 Florida State University study.

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    Shrimp

    Yes, shrimp contain cholesterol. But many researchers think that the cholesterol you consume from food plays a negligible effect on cholesterol in your bloodstream. (That number tends to spike in response to a higher intake of certain saturated and trans fats). Shrimp is also high in protein, low in fat and a good source of heart-protective omega-3s and vitamin B12, according to Outside magazine.

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    Iceberg lettuce

    Darker greens may have more nutrients, says Prevention magazine, but that doesn’t mean iceberg has none. If an iceberg wedge is your favorite salad, note that one cup of shredded leaves delivers about 20 percent of your daily needs for vitamin K, and 15 percent for vitamin A. Even if you use iceberg as a salad base for other healthy veggies, you've got a great vehicle for overall nutrition.

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    Popcorn

    Real, popped-at-home corn is a terrifically healthy snack. It may even have more antioxidants than certain fruits and vegetables, researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found last year. Air-popped and without butter, it’s low in fat and high in fiber, says Today nutrition expert Joy Bauer, RD—“five grams of fiber in a four-cup portion is pretty darn impressive for a snack food.”

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    Potatoes

    This starch gets a bad rap, in part because it’s so easy to fatten up with oil, cheese, or creamy sauces. But baked at home, the humble potato is actually nutritious. According to Cooking Light, one 160-calorie medium potato is one of the best sources of heart-healthy potassium and fiber. Just go easy on the toppings.

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    Celery

    Celery boasts a surprising array of good-for-you nutrients, including anti-inflammatory compounds that soothe your digestive tract, disease-fighting antioxidants, and vitamins such as folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Crunch on that next time you swirl it around your Bloody Mary or use as a vessel for French onion dip.

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    Sunflower seeds

    Nuts are a healthy snack favorite among nutritionists and other health experts. But don’t forget the sunflower seeds. According to the Chicago Tribune, they’re a terrific source of vitamin E—a quarter cup provides more than 90 percent of your daily need. They also offer a healthy dose of such key minerals as manganese, magnesium, and selenium.

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    Sauerkraut

    Go ahead, pile it on that hot dog. Fermented foods like sauerkraut are a unique source of probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. “These healthy microbes help with digestion and nutrient absorption,” writes Darya Pino Rose, PhD, in her new book Foodist. “Without them our gut health deteriorates substantially, setting the stage for many chronic diseases.” Many new studies are fingering gut bacteria as a key player in many health conditions, from obesity to allergies.

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    Mushrooms

    Cooking Light notes that mushrooms are the only vegetable source of vitamin D; and “many compounds have been identified in mushrooms that show potential for boosting immunity and possibly protecting against cancer,” says Pino Rose in Foodist.

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