16 Summer 'Superfoods' Under $1 a Serving
Markets explode in a rainbow of fruits and vegetables in summer -- a diversity of color and flavor that's nature's way of tempting us to eat naturally detoxifying and fortifying foods. Many of these fruits and veggies have a short season, peaking on nutritional content and taste while hitting bottom on price. Take advantage by incorporating these 16 summer "superfoods" into a diet for $1 or less per serving.
Nature's candy, these little gems burst with flavor and impressive nutrition. With chart-topping quantities of antioxidants, summer-ripe berries help keep everything from brain to GI tract running optimally. Treat the berries gently to avoid squashing their natural goodness. Toss into salads or use as a topping for yogurt, cereal, ice cream, or chocolate cake. At peak season, fresh berries from farmers markets cost around $3 per pint, which is less than $1 for every half-cup serving.
These orbs of sweetness have long been considered one of the world's healthiest foods. They may even improve memory function -- but health benefits aside, blueberries are just plain delicious and can be enjoyed many ways. Throw a big handful into a smoothie to retain their fresh, raw flavor. At $2 per pint during the warm months, an entire 1 cup serving is just $1.
Kale may have replaced spinach as the green leafy vegetable of choice, but fresh summer spinach is a healthy and tasty treat worth seeking out. Get a Popeye dose of strength and fortification from the high count of minerals and vitamins, not to mention a hefty amount of fiber. For the biggest nutritional bang, eat spinach raw as the base for salads; try one from Allrecipes bulked up with almonds and seasonal strawberries. One-pound bags of spinach, which includes six raw portions or two cooked portions, can hit a low of just $1.50.
These crunchy root vegetables are sturdy detoxers that help cleanse the liver. Radish varieties range in flavor from sweet to spicy and offer considerable bulk for few calories. When sliced or diced, they're an excellent filler for salads and sandwiches. Take meals to the next level by spiralizing a radish into noodles and using in place of pasta. Daikon noodle chicken pad Thai from Inspiralized is a healthy change of pace. Varieties such as daikon can be even cheaper than bunches of traditional red radishes, which go for as low as $1 but yield two servings of radishes and one serving of greens.
Cherries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins and serve as a natural source of melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns. Insomniacs would do well to include one to two servings of cherries in their diets before turning to chemical sleep aids. There are so many ways to use cherries, too, starting with a tempting classic cherry cobbler from Martha Stewart. Ripe cherries can be found at summer farmers markets for $4 per pound, yielding around six half-cup portions.
Full of fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, broccoli is one of the healthiest foods around. Some health benefits, such as lower cholesterol, result only from steaming the vegetable. Steamed broccoli may dredge up childhood memories of limp, overcooked stalks, but when prepared properly and garnished with simple flavorings, it is a crisp and tasty accompaniment to any meal. A medium-size stalk can be as little as $1 during peak season, which is one very generous portion size, or two smaller servings.
Rich in protein, fiber, and amino acids that help support healthy brain tissue, fava or broad beans are a smart addition to any diet. They're creamy with a subtle earthy flavor that lends itself to summertime herbs and bright vegetables. A rich purée similar to hummus, made from these beans in a recipe from Fine Cooking, can be used on crostini, as a sandwich spread, or as a dip for crunchy vegetables. Most markets with fresh fava beans average $5 per pound, which includes four hefty portions.
In addition to the variety of vitamins and minerals that bell peppers provide, some studies have shown they reduce the risk of cancer in animals. Opt for red or orange peppers for a massive dose of vitamin C that far outpaces what's found in their ubiquitous green counterparts or citrus fruits. Many beneficial nutrients are lost when peppers are cooked, so turn to recipes such as a cabbage and bell pepper salad from the blog Natasha's Kitchen to take full advantage. When harvest is plentiful, green bell peppers cost as little 50 cents each; the brightly colored varieties go for $1 per piece.
Hot chilies have been lauded throughout the ages for a variety of medicinal benefits, including aiding in digestion and reducing inflammation. They also add incredible flavor to nearly any dish. Turn garden-ripe chilies into a tasty condiment with some quick pickling with instructions from the blog Cookie + Kate. Keeping a few chilies on hand is a reminder to use them more often in a wider variety of dishes. Prices vary widely depending on variety, though a few cents worth of chili is generally enough to add piquant flavor to any meal.
One of the trendiest health foods, watermelon is now loved not only for its low-calorie sweet juiciness but also for its replenishing electrolytes. Fitness buffs around the world are getting into fresh watermelon in a big way and savoring the juice as the ultimate natural sports drink. Enjoy the melon as is or blend it with a squeeze of lime for a refreshing summertime beverage. While pricey in the off-season, watermelon can go for just 30 cents per pound in summer.
Delightfully sweet and tart, these juicy berries are full of fiber and heart-healthy compounds that also help regulate blood sugar. Due to their natural acidity, they work very well in typically savory dishes such as salads and sauces for meats. Try blending strawberries and straining the liquid to create a pungent sauce as an alternative to sugary syrups, then pour over ice cream or stir into yogurt. Ripe and juicy market berries cost around $4 per quart, which yields $1 per cup.
Beets have been a part of the human diet since ancient times. Both the sweet root and the earthy greens provide many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Their rich flavor is sweet and earthy, expressive of the soil and nutrients within. Celebrate the flavors of summer with a seasonal tomato and beet salad from Martha Stewart. Beets are usually inexpensive, but the tender summer varieties are packed with extra flavor and even less costly at around 75 cents per large beet with greens.
Like its green leafy cousins, chard is highly nutritious. With a milder flavor than kale or spinach, chard is an excellent option for those who are averse to bitterness but still want to include detoxifying and fibrous greens in their diet. Start simple with Epicurious' basic recipe for sautéed chard with onions, which pairs well with any protein or crostini topped with a schmear of ricotta. A bunch of swiss chard that offers two large servings typically goes for $2.
Kiwi fruit is getting a lot of attention for its ability to add sweetness to smoothies and desserts without adding fat or spiking blood sugar. They are also rich in vitamins and fiber, both essential to feeling your best. During summer, kiwis go for as little as 50 cents each.
Lemon prices tend to dip in summer, with more ripe citrus available around the globe. Adding a squeeze to water or tea not only ups the flavor, but also helps the body alkalize and detox naturally. While more expensive than limes, lemons can often be found for about 30 cents, and each yield two servings of flavorful zest and juice.