While year round we are able to find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the grocery store, many of them were shipped quite a distance to get to us. When warmer weather abounds, you may have noticed that the quality of certain fruits improves drastically. This makes sense given that warm weather equals a local growing season for many items.
Local fruits don’t have to travel as far, so they are even fresher when they arrive (vs. otherwise being picked slightly unripe and ripening while being transported). They also have a lower likelihood of being damaged during transport. As an added bonus, supply is often high and prices tend to drop for in season items.
In season fruits are a great addition to meals, and they make it much easier to get in our recommended “5 A Day”. Below are a few of my favorite fruits that are coming into their peak growing season and why I believe they deserve a spot on your plate.
The skin of a blueberry gets its rich color from chemicals called anthocyanins, which have antioxidant effects. Antioxidants help to protect our cells from damage from free radicals associated with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, aging, and more.
In addition to containing antioxidants, blueberries are also a good source of fiber, containing 4 grams per cup. Women should aim for 20-25g of fiber each day, and men should aim for 30-38g per day.
Blueberries tend to be available year round, but local harvests start in the springtime. For year round quality berries, opt for frozen (or if you have an abundance of leftover fresh picked blueberries, freeze them!). Frozen blueberries are a great option to have on hand in the freezer and lend themselves well to adding into smoothies, on top of oatmeal, and into yogurt parfaits.
Apricots are great for digestion and eye health. They are also quite low in calories. 2 fresh apricots provide 34 calories and 1.5 grams of fiber. They also contain antioxidants such as beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which help to fight free radicals in the body.
Apricots have very fragile skins, which doesn’t bode well when shipping. Due to this, they are hard to find when not in season. May is the start of their peak harvest season.
They can be enjoyed on their own, but also add a unique twist when sliced and added to a grilled chicken sandwich!
Although technically a vegetable, rhubarb is often considered a fruit due to being used in so many sweet dishes. You can only find it in its fresh form in springtime. Like blueberries, rhubarb is rich in anthocyanins. It is also a great source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting.
While rhubarb is often found baked into pies and other sweet treats, it can be easy to get creative and use rhubarb in many different ways, such as in refreshing summer drinks or savory sauces. It is important to note that the leaves of rhubarb are toxic and should not be ingested. Definitely something to be wary of if you are growing it at home.
Strawberries can be found in the grocery store most months out of the year, but the quality vastly improves once spring and summertime hits. Like most fruits, they consist of mostly water, making them a low calorie option. 1 cup of strawberries = roughly 48 calories, and contains 3 grams of fiber.
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps to support our skin health and immune system. While many fruit plants can be difficult to grow unless you have adequate space, strawberries can often be found growing in patio containers or in hanging baskets. This can make them a fun and space conscious way to test out your green thumb this summer while also benefitting from the (literal) fruits of your labor!
With only 1 in 10 Americans currently meeting the recommended dietary intake guidelines of 1.5-2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day, eating more foods from these categories can be a great goal to set for yourself this spring.
I understand that for some, eating more fruit can lend pause. I hear time and time again of individuals limiting fruit in their diet due to its sugar content. While it is true that fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, these are something that healthy adults don’t need to shy away from. The health benefits of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit make it a wonderful addition to our diets across our entire lifespan. So go ahead and enjoy these in season picks to the fullest!
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Giampieri F, Forbes-Hernandez TY, Gasparrini M, Alvarez-Suarez JM, Afrin S, Bompadre S, Quiles JL, Mezzetti B, Battino M. Strawberry as a health promoter: an evidence based review. Food Funct. 2015 May;6(5):1386-98. doi: 10.1039/c5fo00147a. PMID: 25803191.
“Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html#:~:text=Depending%20on%20their%20age%20and,of%20a%20healthy%20eating%20pattern.
Kaitlin Bruun, RD, LD has a BS in Dietetics from North Dakota State University. She is originally from northern MN and has lived in Rochester for over 4 years. She has a passion for helping others reach their health and wellness goals, and enjoys helping others implement sustainable healthy habits in their own life. In her free time, you can find her gardening, biking, walking, lifting weights, and traveling back up to the northern part of the state.
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