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Summer Produce for Health and Performance

Load up on these fresh favorites for a colorful and tasty outdoor season.

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Nothing says summer more than the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit you see at roadside stands, farmers markets, and your local grocery store. (Some of you may even tend your own backyard or windowsill garden.)

Take advantage of these gems, loaded with runner-friendly nutrients that help boost health and performance, speed recovery, and taste incredible.

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Just three lusciously sweet apricots supply almost 80 percent of the recommended value for vitamin A as beta carotene, which helps promote both eye and heart health.  Apricots also provide a good dose potassium, crucial for healthy blood pressure.

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One cup contains only five calories, but packs an array of phytonutrients called indoles that help lower risk for both stomach and colon cancers. With its peppery taste, arugula is a great addition to salads or served wilted with grilled fish.

RELATED: Prep great meals (in less time!) with Runner’s World’s new book Meals on the Run.

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The main ingredient for pesto, basil is loaded with fragrant essential oils that have been shown to reduce inflammation. Reduced inflammation may help lessen the effects of  rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments like heart disease and psoriasis.  Each quarter cup of fresh basil also supplies more than 50 percent of vitamin K needs—important for bone health.

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Beans (green beans, Romanos, yellow wax)

A cup of these summertime favorites supplies a large dose of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K. Eat these raw as a crunchy snack or steamed (until just tender) certain varieties also have minerals like potassium, magnesium, and copper.

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Each one-cup serving contains only 60 calories and supplies a third of your daily fiber needs. Blackberries also have special compounds called anthocyanins, which can help fight off cancer and other chronic diseases.

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Anthocyanidins, a powerful group of antioxidants found in blueberries, give this rich fruit their reputation for warding off many age-related diseases related to oxidative damage, such as cancer and heart disease.

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In a mere 56 calories per cup, this cousin of cucumber supplies a whopping 100 percent of vitamin A needs such as beta carotene, and more than 100 percent of vitamin C needs. Both of these nutrients help ward off various age-related diseases, such as cancer, and they may also help promote skin health.

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This crunchy vegetable is very low in calories and also contains a type of compound called phthalides that studies show help lower blood pressure by relaxing artery walls.

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These summer treats contain the same anthocyanidin compounds as blueberries, which gives this fruit its strong antioxidant capacity, helpful in fending of age-related diseases like cancer.

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This must-have vegetable for summertime meals comes with a wealth of nutrients, most notably folate, a B vitamin that is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and protecting your heart and circulation. Corn also supplies beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red carotenoid that may protect against lung and other types of cancer.

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This vegetable (a fruit, according to botanists) is more than 90 percent water and has only 10 calories per cup, sliced.  Make sure to keep the skin on as it’s rich in fiber and other healthy compounds that help fight high blood pressure.

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Known for its beautiful skin, eggplant is rich in various pigments with potential health benefits. Nasunin is a pigment that, according to research, may protect brain cell membranes from oxidative damage—all for only 27 calories in one cup cooked.

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This lusciously sweet fruit contains water-soluble fiber, the type that helps curb appetite (which can help weight loss), along with lowering blood cholesterol levels.

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This tart berry contains a variety of antioxidants shown to reduce risk for age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer. A cup of gooseberries supplies a wealth of vitamin C and the mineral potassium, both vital for heart health.

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All grapes—green, red, purple—are rich in a health-boosting antioxidant called resveratrol. This compound may help keep cancer at bay, and help lower blood cholesterol levels.

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A tropical fruit that can be grown locally, guava is rich in vitamin C, which protects eye and heart health. Since guava skin can also be eaten, this fruit packs more than 25 percent of the Daily Value for fiber in a medium-sized piece of fruit.

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Honeydew Melons

This melon is more than 85 percent water, and supplies only 60 calories per cup, cubed, and more than 70 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C.

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Half a ripe mango contains only 70 calories but loads of your vitamin C and A needs. Mangos are also rich in pectin fiber, the type that helps lower cholesterol levels and improves heart health.

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One medium-sized juicy nectarine has just 60 calories and comes loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and carotenes (orange-colored pigment). All of these nutrients are key in supporting heart health and a strong immune system.

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This vegetable, a cousin of the cotton plant, is rich in cholesterol-lowering fiber that is also known to help regulate blood sugar levels, key for people with Type 2 diabetes.

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These tropical wonders are loaded with vitamin C— a whopping 300 percent your daily needs in just one serving. Papayas are also rich in other antioxidants, including carotenes and vitamin E.

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Passion fruit

One cup of this luscious fruit provides 100 percent of your fiber and vitamin C needs. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

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A fuzzy relative of nectarines, peaches supply an orange-red pigment called lutein that studies show helps protect eyes from age-related damage. A medium-size peach also supplies potassium and fiber for only 60 calories.

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With their show-stopping colors, peppers are a host of nutrients, including vitamin C that can help protect the skin from UV damage. One green or red pepper has more than 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C, with only 25 calories.

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A cup, cubed, of this sweet tropical fruit supplies half your vitamin C needs, 10 percent of fiber (the cholesterol-lowering kind), and potassium needs all in just 75 calories.

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Deep red and purple plums contain phenols, which studies show protect against oxidative damage that may lead to degenerative disease including Alzheimer’s and cancer. Plums also contain soluble fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels and protect the heat.

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A delicious, sweet berry with more than 50 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C per cup, raspberries also contain ellagic acid and quercetin, two phytochemicals that help fend off various types of cancer.

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Red Currants

Great for jams and jellies, these tart small berry-like fruits come packed with vitamin C that aids in iron absorption. The rich red color also signals the presence of antioxidants—good for heart health.

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Yellow crookneck, zucchini and eight-ball squashes are summertime vegetable favorites that cook well on the grill and in a stir-fry.  These veggies are rich in both potassium (a powerful electrolyte) and vitamin C.

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Abundant in the summer in all shapes and colors, tomatoes are rich in a red pigment called lycopene.  Studies show this pigment is a potent cancer fighter, and that regular consumption of tomatoes and its products  may help lower the risk of prostate cancer.

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