Most of us just aren’t hydrated enough — and with the sizzling summer heat coming soon, getting adequate fluids (and electrolytes) is a must. Without enough fluids we get dehydrated, which has a negative impact on our physical and cognitive performance; and can also cause headaches, muscle cramping, dizziness, irritability and fainting. And when we exercise, we can sweat as much as 2.5 liters of water per hour, which can cause a loss of electrolytes potassium and sodium, impairing the function of vital organs like the heart.
The good news is electrolytes and even some fluids are readily available in foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. And the best part about summer is that it's easier than ever to get your minimum 9-A-Day of fresh produce. Summer offers a wider selection of ripe and juicy fruits and vegetables than any other season.
Here's my list of some in-season fruit to kick off your summer with a fresh and fruity splash:
Red, yellow or green, sweet or tart, crisp or mealy, no matter how you slice them, summer-fresh apples are a good source of fiber. The pectin in apples is a soluble fiber, which can help in the management of high cholesterol. And the skins of apples contain antioxidant flavonoids and polyphenols — phytochemicals that can reduce free radical damage and help prevent oxidative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Summer is the season for fresh figs. Fresh or dried, sweet figs are one of the highest fruit sources of fiber, and they also contain significant amounts of minerals potassium (great for replenishing losses in sweat), calcium and iron.
The rich color of tender apricots gives away their rich content of beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A). Beta-carotene and vitamin C both in apricots are antioxidant vitamins. Sun-sweetened apricots are also a good source of fiber and potassium. Tote a bag of apricots with you to the gym (along with your water bottle, of course) and enjoy them as convenient pre- or post-workout snacks.
Plums and peaches
Plums and peaches are ripe and ready these balmy months. Luscious peaches have beta-carotene and vitamin C as well as fiber. Purple and red plums have fiber and vitamin C, and the skins contain anthocyanidins, potent antioxidant phytochemicals.
The berry family is in season and bursting with flavor. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries and more are high in fiber and vitamin C. The deep red and purple color of the berries also indicate the presence of the phytochemicals anthocyanadins. Cherries are another summer ripe fruit that contain these wholesome nutrients as well.
Mangoes and papayas
The tropical mangoes and papayas are irresistibly mouthwatering summer fruits. Succulent mangoes are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber. In fact, just half a mango has over 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A (as beta-carotene). Papaya is another rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber, and also contains potassium and folate. Folate prevents developmental defects in fetuses and supports cardiovascular health.
And what would summer be without ice-cold, refreshing watermelon. All the melons, including cantaloupe, casaba, and honeydew, are summer fruits. Cantaloupe with its peachy-orange flesh is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. The casaba melon contains vitamin C and potassium, and the honeydew is a good source of vitamin C. Juicy watermelon is a rich source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, and a good source of lycopene. Lycopene, most popularized in tomato products, is an antioxidant carotenoid that has been shown to prevent prostate cancer.
So whether you're exercising or just trying to stay cool, there's nothing quite as tasty (and nutritious) as beating the heat with the thirst-quenching fruits of summer. And with the abundance of choices this season, every day this summer can be a savory experience.
For more healthy eating tips visit Phil’s website www.supermarketguru.com
Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.