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Summertime, and the fruit picking’s easy

By H.K. Jones

While the warm, sunny months of summer may mean long, lazy days for you, Mother Nature’s busy working overtime. This time of year, markets burst forth with seasonal fruit just begging to be enjoyed. The time is ripe for blueberry pancakes, strawberry shortcake, juicy slices of watermelon, and colorful fruit salads.

Lucky for you, flavor’s not all you get. Summer fruits are not only low in fat and calories, they’re also loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and a bounty of phytochemicals that help you look and feel your best. And many summer fruits (think cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums) can be eaten on the spot. They’re the original fast food! So as grocery stores and markets fill up with fresh, colorful produce this summer, dig in.

All fruit is good fruit, but each serves up a different nutritional cocktail. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered sufficient to meet the requirements of healthy individuals as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find hiding in a cup of your delicious and nutritious summer fruits.

Apricots: 3 grams of fiber, half of the RDA for vitamin A, 26 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, 17 percent for vitamin E and loads of the phytochemical beta-carotene.

Blueberries: 4 grams of fiber, 32 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, and 18 percent of the RDA for vitamin E.

Cantaloupe: 64 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, 12 percent of the RDA for vitamin B-6, 15 percent for folic acid, and 113 percent for vitamin C. Cantaloupe also has phytochemicals such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, flavonoids, coumarins, and phenolic acids.

Cherries: 2.5 grams of fiber and 17 percent of the RDA for vitamin C.

Honeydew melon: 12 percent of the RDA for vitamin B-1, 28 percent for folic acid, and 70 percent for vitamin C.

Mango: 4.5 grams of fiber, 80 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, 14 percent for vitamin B-6, 17 percent for folic acid, 76 percent for vitamin C, and 23 percent for vitamin E. Mangos are also rich in beta-carotene.

Nectarines: 2 grams of fiber, 13 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, 10 percent for vitamin B-3, 12 percent for vitamin C, and 15 percent for vitamin E.

Peaches: 3 grams of fiber, 11 percent of the RDA for vitamin A, 12 percent for vitamin B-3, 19 percent for vitamin C, and 15 percent for vitamin E.

Plums: 26 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, 15 percent for vitamin E, and 12 percent for riboflavin.

Raspberries: 5 grams of fiber, 18 percent of the RDA for folic acid, and 51 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Raspberries also have the phytochemical ellagic acid.

Strawberries: 2.5 grams of fiber, 16 percent of the RDA for folic acid, and 150 percent for vitamin C. Strawberries are also a great source of ellagic acid (a potent antioxidant).

Watermelon: 26 percent of the RDA for vitamin C and 12 percent for vitamin B-1 and vitamin B-6.