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8 delicious summer foods that are good for you, too

Caroline Kaufman | 8/15/2014, 9:02 a.m.
Farmers markets are brimming with beautiful, ripe produce for the picking, local foods are flooding the supermarket, and it's finally ...
Peaches from a Farmer's Market (Jeremy Harlan/CNN)

— Farmers markets are brimming with beautiful, ripe produce for the picking, local foods are flooding the supermarket, and it's finally time for juicy berries and stone fruits to take center stage.

With only a few short weeks before we say goodbye to summer's superstars, don't miss the benefits of these eight great summer foods:

Cherries

Bing cherries, with their deep scarlet hue, are more than just a messy sweet treat. They contain two potent antioxidants that fight cancer and heart disease: quercetin and anthocyanins.

They also contain naturally occurring melatonin, a supplement famous for its sleep inducing-qualities. However, foods that contain melatonin might actually help with weight control by stimulating the growth of brown fat, a type of fat that burns calories instead of storing them, according to recent studies.

Recipe: Grilled Chicken and Fresh Cherry Salsa by Iowa Girl Eats

Watermelon

True to its name, this deep pink fruit is 92% water. That's great news if you're watching your weight because eating hydrating foods helps you eat less and feel more satisfied at meals. People with elevated blood pressure may also want to reach for a slice: A recent study found that high-dose watermelon supplements significantly lowered blood pressure in overweight individuals.

Pick a watermelon that feels heavy for its size and give it a good knock; if it sounds hollow, you've got a winner.

Recipe: Chopped Vegetable, Watermelon and Feta Salad by Smitten Kitchen

Tomatoes

Whether they're ripe and red on the vine, or beautifully ugly heirlooms, tomatoes never taste better than when they're in season. Some evidence suggests that the antioxidant alpha-lipoic-acid in tomatoes may help reduce blood sugar levels as well as protect brain and nerve tissue.

Choose tomatoes that are firm with a slight give to pressure and have an earthy smell. Store at room temperature.

Recipe: Power Green Lean Lasagna by NourishRDs

Strawberries

One cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange and more fiber than a slice of bread -- all in just 45 calories. They're also rich in antioxidants such as quercetin, a natural anti-inflammatory, and ellagic acid, which slowed tumor growth in animal studies.

For best flavor, refrigerate berries in their original clamshell or a container lined with a paper towel. Don't wash them until you're ready to eat and serve at room temperature, recommends the California Strawberry Commission.

Recipe: Farmer's Wife Strawberry Granola by Gwen Koda for the California Strawberry Commission

Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines and plums)

Juicy stone fruits have compounds that may fight metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke. These compounds may also help combat breast cancer, according to a 2010 lab study.

Ripe stone fruits should be firm but yield slightly to the touch.

Recipe: Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon Honey Yogurt Dip by Cleveland Clinic

Zucchini

Summer squash grows rapidly in the warm months, which is why many backyard farmers spend late summer pawning off their abundant harvest on friends. Since they're 95% water, shredded zucchini is a perfect low-calorie way to sneak moisture and nutrition into baked goods such as muffins and main courses such as meatballs.