A Guide to Choosing Summer Fruits

A Guide to Choosing Summer Fruits

Most American’s don’t get enough fruit in their diet and are missing out on an abundance of health benefits. Fruit provides a variety of color to your plate and with color comes phytochemicals, which are powerful compounds that improve health. Benefits of a naturally colorful plate range from boosting your immune system to fighting cancer. Below are some of the advantages of our favorite summer fruits.

Berries
Berries are a delicious and sweet super-fruit that add color to your meal or snack. Whether it’s blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, they are all packed with antioxidants (1), which prevent cell damage caused by things like air pollution, smoke, alcohol and even a poor diet. Berries have been said to possibly play a role in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. (2)

When choosing berries look for firm, plump berries that are uniform and rich in color. Strawberries should be shiny and free of yellow or green spots. If they are in a container, they should move freely, without sticking together. Signs to avoid include soft, damaged or molded berries.

Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe contains beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A, once eaten. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells of your body and is shown to be important with the health of the eyes, immune system and red blood cells.

The best way to choose a cantaloupe is to find a round melon that feels slightly heavy. There should be little to no green and it should smell sweet, maybe even a bit musky. Cantaloupes can be used in smoothies, as a component of a green salad, or made into a sorbet.

Nectarines and Peaches 
While peaches and nectarines are very similar in the nutrients that they provide, nectarines have twice as much vitamin A and slightly more vitamin C and potassium than peaches. Antioxidants such as Beta carotene, which gives the flesh of peaches and nectarines their golden color, help reduce inflammation, improve immune function and protect DNA in a way that may reduce cancer risk. Food with high vitamin C are linked to lower risk of esophageal cancer and foods such are peaches are linked to lower risk of prostate, colorectal, stomach, lung and mouth cancer. Research shows that nectarines contain compounds that may prevent tumors and cancer. (3)

When choosing nectarines and peaches, pay attention to the color. Look for an orange, gold color, they’re the most tasty and sweet. If you see green, it means it’s not ripe, but if you leave it at room temperature for a day or 2, it will ripen and taste better.

Watermelon
Watermelon is 92% water and can help keep you hydrated during the hot summer. Aside of the claims that watermelon can help with decreasing the risk of prostate cancer, constipation and inflammation, it’s possible that watermelon may reduce the risk of heart disease due to its lycopene content. (4)

When choosing a watermelon, look for the spot where the melon rested in the field. It should be a creamy yellow or even orange. Avoid melons that have a nonexistent or white “field spot”, or are shiny. All are indicators that the melon may not be ripe. You also want one that seems heavy for its size, indicating that it’s nice and ripe, and full of water. Look for a stem that is dried, a green stem indicates that the melon was picked too soon.

Apricots
The benefits of apricots seem endless. Studies show they can make skin healthier, fight infections and protect against lung and mouth cancer. They are reported to help with constipation (5), strengthening bones, improving heart health, reducing fevers, helping with anemia, and improving arthritis or gout.

Ripe apricots are firm, but soft to the touch and golden in color. They should be used within a few days, as they continue to ripen quickly. Avoid apricots that are hard or green as they aren’t ripe and may not develop full flavor. Apricots can be added to salads, smoothies, used dry in trail mix or just eaten as a fruity snack.

Plums
As with most of the summer fruits, plums are rich in antioxidants, and help prevent heart disease and decrease cholesterol. (6) The darker the color, the richer in antioxidants. Dried plums, formally known as prunes, can prevent constipation, cardiovascular disease and possibly colon cancer. (7,8)

Plums that are flavorful will feel heavy but should be a little springy at the stem end of the fruit. Sweeter plums need to be picked from the tree, since they don’t continue to sweeten after they are picked like other fruit. As with all fruit, if it has a delicious smell, it’s going to be delicious, so don’t forego the “smell test” when choosing your fruit.

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  1. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2008, 56 (18), pp 8418–8426
  2. J Agric Food Chem. 2014 May 7;62(18):3886-903.
  3. Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):57-61.
  4. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 71, Issue 6, June 2000, Pages 1691S–1695S,
  5. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Dec 28; 18(48): 7378–7383
  6. EXCLI J. 2014; 13: 650–660.
  7. World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Oct 21; 22(39): 8806–8811.
  8. J Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 12 (2013): 1277-1302.