5 Foods to Stock Up On in July, According to Dietitians

Make the most of summer fruits and vegetables with this seasonal produce guide.

<p>Brittany Conerly</p>

Brittany Conerly

Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RDReviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD

While I love the gourds of fall and the grassy green shoots of spring, it’s the summer produce that always brings me the most joy. Maybe it’s because the warmer weather that comes along with the juicy melons and even juicier tomatoes reminds me of picnics and beach excursions. Or perhaps it’s because my work as a registered dietitian becomes a little easier: I let the delicious, nutritous seasonal foods do all of the talking. July is one of the best times to enjoy a myriad of fruits and vegetables, and these are some of the ones dietitians think you should be stocking up on.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are an excellent example of summer produce at its best. To me, there’s nothing more simple or more delicious than a perfectly ripe tomato. It’s sweet, juicy and doesn’t need much more than a pinch of salt and pepper. Adante Hart, M.P.H., RDN, LDN, agrees and recommends trying a variety of tomatoes. There are heirloom tomatoes, but also yellow grape tomatoes and other types that are worth adding to meals and recipes. Hart recommends choosing tomatoes that are firm, with bright skin.

Choose them for flavor, but also for nutrition! “Tomatoes are a great source of nutrients like lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can be protective against cancers,” says Hart. It’s also a cardioprotective compound, and research suggests that diets rich in tomatoes are linked to lower heart disease risk. Hart notes that tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help protect against infection and promote the healing of cuts and wounds.

If you’re looking for ways to enjoy tomatoes, Hart suggests pairing them with basil to make a red sauce to accompany your favorite pasta dish. Use tomatoes, along with hot peppers, onions and additional spices, he says, to create the base of sauces used for jollof rice and other similar rice dishes. “You can even blend tomatoes with other veggies into a nice gazpacho, great for hot summer days,” says Hart.

Related: Our 25 Favorite Tomato Recipes We Can't Wait to Make This Summer

2. Watermelon

Perhaps one of the most beloved fruits of the summer, watermelon is a refreshing treat that’s best enjoyed in July, says Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD, a Charleston-based registered dietitian. “Watermelon is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and B6, as well as potassium,” says Manaker. Since it’s about 92% water, it’s also incredibly hydrating, she adds, which makes it ideal for enjoying when it’s hot outside. And its benefits don’t end there. Manaker adds that thanks to watermelon’s high antioxidant content, particularly lycopene, it may help combat oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Choose watermelons that are heavy for their size. Look for a yellow “belly” which indicates ripeness from sitting in the sun. Do a visual check and avoid any melons that have soft spots or cuts. There are plenty of ways to enjoy watermelon this July. Try it in some of our favorite summer recipes or simply cut a slice and eat it as is (squeeze some lime on top for a flavor boost).

3. Blueberries

The little blue orbs are just as gorgeous as they are delicious and nutritious—and they’re in season in July, which means you can enjoy them at their peak ripeness. Samantha Cassetty, M.S., RD, a nutrition expert and partner with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, notes that July also happens to be National Blueberry Month. That’s perfect timing because summer is usually when we’re more active, playing sports and enjoying outdoor activities. Since blueberries are an excellent source of manganese, they can help promote energy production and protect against oxidative stress, says Cassetty. That’s important, she says, because “when the body undergoes oxidative stress, it causes inflammation and metabolic damage, which can slow down recovery from muscle strain and injury.” Blueberries are also rich in anthocyanins and are a good source of vitamin C, both of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support muscle recovery.

Toss berries into a smoothie or smoothie bowl, add them to overnight oats, enjoy them in salads or use them as a topping for whole-grain waffles. Freeze extras to enjoy another time.

4. Okra

“Okra, the undeniable queen of the South, is also the unrecognized star of mid- to late-summer produce, packed full of flavor and health benefits,” says Danielle Sanders, M.P.H., RDN, LD, CHES. This beloved ingredient is a rich source of folate, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and K, which can help support a healthy pregnancy and promote heart health, says Sanders. While okra can develop a gooey texture once cooked, Sanders points out that the gel-like substance created is necessary for thickening classic Southern stews and soups. Besides adding textural benefits, Sanders notes that a 2023 systematic review found that the mucilage in okra may also improve glycemic control in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

While we love deep-fried okra, it can also be prepared in more nutritious ways for regular consumption. Sanders notes the veg’s versatility, and suggests stewing, sautéing, grilling, roasting and even pickling your summer bounty. She also notes that its popularity “extends beyond the South and has food traditions around the globe. It’s frequently found in cuisines from regions including India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean.”

When shopping for okra, Sanders recommends avoiding the larger pods that can be more woody in texture. Instead, choose pods with vibrant color (green or red) that are 2 to 3 inches in length—these are the most tender. Need some ideas? Sanders recommends “roasting the whole pods with some olive oil and a low-sodium Creole seasoning blend, or sautéing it with fresh tomatoes for a reimagined version of a summertime staple.”

Related: How to Store Okra

5. Apricots

You may first think of berries and melons, but stone fruit is also in season in July. And cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Dana Angelo White, M.S., RDN, ATC, recommends you enjoy apricots while you can! She loves their “sweet, unmistakable floral notes that have just the right amount of sassy tang.” As for nutrition, apricots are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help support weight loss if that is your goal. They also contain an impressive amount of vitamin A, which supports immune function, healthy vision and reproductive health. “Apricots are also chock-full of other inflammation-fighting antioxidants, so there are plenty of good reasons to stock up while they are in season,” says White.

White loves adding apricots to baked goods, using them to make jam and chutney, and showcasing them on cheese boards. She even admits to using them as a pizza topping! Her latest go-to dish is “lightly grilled apricot halves slathered with whipped goat cheese, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chopped pistachios—it’s a must-try!”

The Bottom Line

If you love summer produce but aren’t sure what to try, tomatoes, okra, apricots, watermelon and blueberries are great options—especially in July. Not only can you enjoy them in a variety of ways, but they each offer an assortment of nutrients to support health and well-being. Consider them a delicious way to fuel your summer.

Related: 31 Days of Dinner Recipes to Make in July

Read the original article on Eating Well.

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