Home-grown superfoods

Jane Murphy / 11 April 2016

British summertime brings a bumper harvest of delicious fruit and vegetables that are bursting with healthy benefits.



Asparagus

British asparagus is in season from late April until June. It's a rich source of immunity-boosting vitamin C, as well as vitamin K, which encourages healthy blood-clotting.

A mild diuretic, asparagus helps eliminate toxins from the body. It may also have anti-diabetic benefits, according to a study from Karachi University in Pakistan. Researchers found that regular asparagus consumption can keep blood sugar levels in check and increase insulin production.

Related: Find delicious asparagus recipes

Watercress

Harvested in the UK from April to October, watercress is packed with nutrients, including vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, iron and folic acid.

Another benefit? A plant compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate, found in good supply in watercress, may suppress the development of cancer, say researchers at Southampton University. Volunteers who ate 80g watercress each day were found to have elevated levels of cancer-fighting molecules in their blood within hours.

Related: The top 20 things to eat

Strawberries

From early May, it's time to grab a punnet and go strawberry-picking, with the season reaching its peak in June and July.

A juicy snack of seven strawberries is enough to provide your full recommended daily intake of vitamin C. They'll give you a brighter smile, too. The reason? Strawberries contain malic acid, an enzyme that encourages saliva production, so helps rinse your teeth clean.

Related: Protect your smile

Blackberries

The British blackberry season starts in June and continues until early November. Newer varieties are higher in natural fruit sugars and lower in acid than traditional blackberries, making them a super-sweet snack.

Blackberries – along with other antioxidant-rich berries – have been found to boost brain health and may help prevent age-related memory loss, according to a report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Related: Eat the rainbow – the colourful foods that will help you stay healthy

Radishes

The great British radish is in season throughout late spring and summer. A handful of radishes makes a great sunny-day snack, particularly if you're watching your weight, because they're low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fibre – plus they take longer to eat due to 'the crunch factor'. They're also rich in an enzyme called diastase, which aids healthy digestion.

Related: How to choose the best healthy snacks

Rhubarb

In season until late spring, rhubarb is a great source of fibre and cancer-fighting chemicals called polyphenols. If you're looking for a good excuse to make a rhubarb crumble, you may be pleased to learn that baking rhubarb dramatically increases its levels of polyphenols, according to a study from Sheffield Hallam University.

Related: Try these delicious rhubarb recipes

Beetroot

Packed with antioxidants, UK beetroot is ready to harvest from early July onwards. Among its many health benefits, it contains a mineral called silica, which encourages the body to utilise calcium efficiently and so reduces risk of osteoporosis.

Beetroot is also rich in nitrates, which have been found to help lower blood pressure. One glass of beetroot juice a day is enough to significantly reduce blood pressure, says a recent study from Queen Mary University of London.

Related: Understanding antioxidants

Cherries

Not so long ago, the UK cherry season only lasted for a few weeks. But thanks to our warm days and cold nights, it now extends from June until September.

Antioxidant-rich cherries make a healthy sweet snack. And several recent studies have extolled the virtues of drinking cherry juice. A daily glass of tart cherry juice can help reduce symptoms of gout, say researchers at Northumbria University; while two glasses of cherry juice each day can encourage sounder sleep, according to a Louisiana State University study.

Related: Try this twist on an Italian classic – cherry tiramisu

Gooseberries

Green gooseberries, best eaten cooked, come into season in June - with juicier dessert varieties, which are sweet enough to eat raw appearing a little later in the summer. These easy-to-grow but often-overlooked berries are a particularly good source of dietary fibre and immunity-boosting vitamins A and C.

Related: Treat yourself to gooseberry and elderflower cake

Celery

Crunchy celery is harvested in the UK from early June right the way through until November. It's a great snack to choose if you're watching your weight: one stick of celery contains just two calories. Rich in vitamin C, potassium and iron, it also contains a compound called luteolin, which may reduce risk of dementia by preventing age-related inflammation in the brain and associated memory problems, according to research at the University of Illinois.

Related: Try this delicious celery soup with Stilton cheese

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