In June, we officially launch into the summer season. Farms and gardens across America are now bursting with in-season summer produce. In June, foods like lettuce, kale and zucchini are at peak flavor and peak nutritional value. But this season is also a great time to think outside of the box. Today, we’ll outline a few more unusual in-season varieties of summer produce that are exceptionally good for your immune system.
The Top 3 Out-of-the-Box Summer Produce to Try This Month!
Not sure where to start? The following vegetables might not be your traditional go-tos when whipping up a meal, but they’re delicious and contain potent plant compounds and antioxidants that help strengthen your immunity, energize your white blood cells, and fight off disease and sickness.
With a crisp white bulb and delicate, feathery leaves, fennel is often used as a garnish on dishes like salmon lox, or as a flavorful culinary herb in soups and stews. Yet it’s far more versatile than that, with many chefs using it braised, sauteed, or even adding to drinks. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, ranking as one of the world’s healthiest foods. A single cup of raw fennel bulb contains approximately:
- 3 grams of gut health- and digestion-enhancing fiber
- 12% of your daily needs of vitamin C Nearly 10% of your daily needs of potassium
- Additional minerals like iron, magnesium and manganese
We all know the value of nutrients like vitamin C, which has been well-researched for its antioxidant properties and the ability to reduce damage to your cells (and thus reduce your risks of chronic disease). But that’s just the beginning:
- Fennel contains 28 different plant compounds for your immune system, such as compound anethole which has antiviral and anticancer effects
- Fennel has been shown to kill various bacteria that cause illnesses
- Fennel may help fight chronic inflammation, and research reveals that inflammation suppresses your immune system
But if you ignore this root vegetable (even its leaves are edible, making amazing varieties of sauces like pesto), you’ll miss out on a rich source of vitamin K, vitamin C, several B vitamins, and zinc (to name a few).
“Zinc is required for the growth and development of immune cells involved in both innate and acquired immunity,” reports the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The institute also notes how zinc is required for “normal immune function” and helps you to synthesize antibodies.
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Rhubarb is quite popular in dishes like strawberry-rhubarb pie and rhubarb jam. But have you considered other ways to incorporate this variety of summer produce into your diet? While its stalks have a tangy, almost sour flavor when raw, it cooks down into a delicious ingredient that contains numerous antioxidants and immune system-supporting compounds.
A single 3.5-ounce serving of cooked rhubarb contains:
- Nearly a third of your daily requirement for vitamin K
- 15% of your daily needs of calcium
- Numerous other nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and potassium
Research suggests that regularly eating rhubarb may:
- Reduce your cholesterol by nearly 10% in just 30 days
- Beat out other summer produce, such as kale, in terms of antioxidant denseness
- Contain plant compounds that fight inflammation, bacteria growth, and viruses
These three delicious in-season varieties of summer produce deserve more of a spotlight in our diets, and this month is the perfect time to give them a try!