If ever there were a time of year when it just feels right to eat well, June is it.
The air is sweet and warm and there are oodles of healthy options in the grocery store (or, if you're lucky, the local farm stand) that can help keep you energized through the long summer days.
Here are seven of our favorite June superfoods -- fruits and veggies just now coming into season that each have their own, unique nutrient profiles and delicious flavors.
Any June-specific nutritional superstars we overlooked? Let us know!
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Figs may be little in size, but they're in the big leagues when it comes to nutrients. <br><br> "Figs are 80 percent higher in potassium than bananas and are extremely easy to digest. They also have more iron than most other fruits and are extremely high in magnesium," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jul/15/health/he-figs15" target="_hplink">The <em>Los Angeles Times</em> reports.</a> "All of this for about 20 to 40 calories per fig. No wonder they are often called nature's most nearly perfect fruit." <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> The great thing about getting figs when they're fresh and in-season is that you can keep things simple: wrap them with prosciutto for an indulgent treat or toss a few on a light, arugula-topped summer pizza. You can also chop a figs and throw them on top of your morning oatmeal.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Apricots have high amounts of vitamin A as well, as good amounts of vitamin C and potassium. Better yet, they're sweet and juicy, making them a pitch-perfect summer treat. <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Only about <a href="http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/hsmrs/NJ Quick Steps/NJ_Qk_Steps_Participant/Apricots.pdf" target="_hplink">16 percent</a> of the apricots grown in the U.S. are actually sold fresh, so take advantage of their peak season -- May to June -- and enjoy them as-is. Fresh apricots are also delicious chopped and thrown on top of yogurt or your next <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/healthiest-frozen-treats_n_1546068.html" target="_hplink">healthy frozen treat.</a>
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Two words: vitamins and variety. <br><br> "Summer squash and zucchini are at their peak freshness in summer and low in calories and fat," <a href="http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_zucchini_recipes" target="_hplink"><em>Eating Well </em>reports.</a> "You also get vitamins C and A, but the best part is they shine in savory and sweet recipes alike, so you can bake them up in tempting quick breads as well." <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Zucchini is great in summer salads, cooked as a side or in baked goods. As an added bonus, June is a prime-time for zucchini flowers (pictured here) which can be quickly fried for an appetizer.
Black Eyed Peas
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Though it's a southern tradition to eat 'em on New Year's, black eyed peas flourish in the warm summer months and don't hold up well in the cold. They're <a href="http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/black-eyed-peas-nutrition-selection-storage" target="_hplink">excellent source</a> of vitamin B1, as well as a good source of fiber, magnesium and zinc. <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Work black eyed peas into salads or use them to make a dip for your next veggie platter. If you're looking to keep things really easy, try making some in the slow cooker.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> "Watercress contains many phytochemicals, such as glucosinolates, which are plant compounds that offer disease prevention," <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/338825-watercress-health-nutrition/" target="_hplink">Livestrong reports.</a> It adds that the peppery, somewhat bitter green "has a higher antioxidant concentration than apples or broccoli." <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Watercress is often thought of as a garnish, but a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining/05cress.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> article extolling its many virtues is a good reminder that watercress can be enjoyed in many ways. <br><br> "Watercress can be quickly blanched and pureed, often with the addition of some spinach in classic recipes, and be turned into a soup, a sauce or the basis of a savory souffle or custard,"<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining/05cress.html" target="_hplink"> it states.</a> "And it's a stir-fry staple. For these uses, the heavy stems may be left on."
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> In addition to being maybe <em>the</em> quintessential summer fruit, strawberries have myriad health benefits: they can help <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/lower-cholesterol-naturally-foods_n_1404549.html" target="_hplink">naturally lower cholesterol</a> and they're even a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/20/teeth-whitening-8-home-remedies-for-whiter-teeth-_n_811178.html#s226279&title=Strawberries" target="_hplink">natural tooth-whitener</a> (strawberries contain malic acid, an enzyme found in some whitening toothpastes). Not enough for you? One serving of strawberries packs <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/vitamin-c-foods_n_1457397.html#s=911247" target="_hplink">more vitamin C than an orange</a>. <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Simply wash and eat! Or use strawberries in a summer desert (we're thinking pies, tarts, as a topping on fro-yo or drizzled with balsamic vinegar), include them in a fruit salad or toss a few into a savory green salad to add a bit of sweetness.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> Kiwi fruit is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/vitamin-c-foods_n_1457397.html#s=911277" target="_hplink">packed with vitamin C</a> -- more than you need in one day. They're also a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/high-fiber-foods_n_1543165.html" target="_hplink">good source of fiber</a> and antioxidants. <br><br> <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> You can just peel and eat kiwis, toss them into a salad or add them to a summer-y smoothie.