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Savor the Flavor of Summer

Sure, foods are good for you but very few are super. Now that summer is here, you can get a jump start on improving your health by eating "summer super foods." Nutritionist and author of "The F-Factor Diet" Tanya Zuckerbrot gives us the dish on which dishes are best.

TOMATOES

Summer dish: sliced tomato with balsamic vinegar

Nothing says summer like vine ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes naturally lend themselves to health-conscious summer cooking, being sweet, yet low in calories. In fact, tomatoes are one of the most frequently consumed "vegetables" in the United States, whether raw, steamed, fried, stewed, crushed, pureed, or reduced to a sauce. (Though thought of as a vegetable, tomatoes are botanically classified as fruits.) They are also one of our best sources of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

They also contain beta-carotene and several other carotenoids that may have their own disease-preventing properties, particularly against heart disease and cancer. One carotenoid, lycopene, may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes also offer a good dose potassium which helps to reduce the risk of stroke.

SALMON

Summer dish: Grilled on the barbecue

Summer marks the beginning of salmon fishing season and the time of year when fresh salmon is again available in your local markets. Salmon is low in calories and saturated fats and high in protein. Wild salmon is one of the best sources of health-promoting fats known as the omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s promote cardiovascular health, brain health and provide anti-inflammatory protection.

Cardiovascular health: omega-3’s prevent platelets in the blood from clumping together and sticking to arterial wall in the form of plaque. They also have been shown to drive down triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Brain health: Omega-3’s interact with the fatty layers that surround brain cells and may help protect brain cells from the diseases of aging, like Alzheimer’s.

BLUEBERRIES

Summer dish: sprinkled on top of your morning cereal, tossed in a mixed green salad, or baked into pie

The benefits of blueberries are endless! If you ask health expert, blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

They are one of the richest sources of antioxidants of the fruits and vegetables that have been studied. Antioxidants help fight cell damaging "free radicals". Free radicals are unstable substances that our bodies produce as we get older. They damage human cells and our DNA. Some U.S. scientists believe the antioxidants contained in blueberries help to slow the aging process and reduce the risk of cancer.

Experiments have also indicated that eating blueberries improves short term memory loss and improves balance and coordination. Some studies have shown that blueberries (as well as strawberries and raspberries) contain chemicals that decreased the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells by a considerable percentage.

CORN

Summer Dish: corn on the cob

Is there anything more satisfying at a summer barbecue than an ear of hot corn on the cob? In addition to being sweet and satisfying, there are many health benefits of corn.

One cup of corn provides 18.4 percent of the daily recommendation of fiber. Its high fiber content is one of the biggest benefits of corn. Fiber has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Fiber is also useful in helping to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Corn is a source of several vitamins including folic acid, niacin, and vitamin C. The folate in corn is an important factor in preventing neural-tube birth defects. It's just as important in preventing heart disease, according to studies that show folate can prevent a buildup of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the body.

SUMMER SQUASH

Summer Dish: sautéed or grilled squash

Summer squash contains vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate, and fiber. These nutrients make summer squash a tool in preventing cancers, heart disease, and diseases of inflammation such as arthritis and asthma.

Whether you're trying to lose weight or just adopt a healthier eating program, summer squash's rich fiber content can help you get full faster — and give you many of the nutrients you need.

This article was reviewed by Dr. Manny Alvarez