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Fall in love with stone fruit: bite into the taste of summer with the season's stone fruit that includes peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries.

Backyard parties, warm summer night walks, and lazy days at the beach are some of the many joys of flip-flop season. But a perfectly ripe plum or juicy peach are among summer's sweetest gifts. Peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, and plums--all members of the so-called stone fruit family, because their flesh surrounds a hard, stone-like pit--are at their sun-kissed flavor peaks.

But the juicy orbs can infuse your summer menu with more than great taste and aroma; they also promote wellness with their nutritional payload.

Stone fruit super nutrients. Stone fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C, which can help lower blood pressure numbers, according to a 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. Further, a 2014 British investigation determined that extra doses of vitamin C can improve blood vessel functioning. Now that's just peachy news for your heart health.

These fruits are also rich in vitamin A, needed for optimal immune, organ, and eye functioning. Beta-carotene, the primary form of vitamin A in stone fruits, also may lessen the signs of aging, says a 2016 European Journal of Nutrition study. Plums are a good source of vitamin K, which can lower the chances of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase disease risk.

Cherries, particularly the tart variety, are rich in anthocyanin antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and lower the risk for conditions like heart disease, arthritis and certain cancers. Scientists at Texas A&M University believe polyphenol antioxidants in peaches and plums might help halt the proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Eating stone fruits, most notably peaches and nectarines, also supplies dietary fiber to help promote regularity and reduce hunger. These summer fruits are low in calories, so eating your fill during their fleeting season is waistline-friendly.

Subzero Hero

In the offseason, Imported stone fruits leave a lot to be desired. So load up on them when available from local sources and freeze extras for a sweet reminder of sunnier days. To freeze, spread pitted halves (whole pitted, in the case of cherries) on a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching each other. Place the tray in the freezer until fruits are solid, then transfer into airtight containers for freezing.

A Bumper Crop of Stone Fruit
FRUIT                       FINE POINTS

Apricot        Select plump apricots with a rich,
               golden-orange color that are slightly
               soft to the touch with a sweet aroma.
Cherry, sweet  Bing and Rainer are tow summer
               stalwarts. Look for firm, plump cherries
               with lively green stems.

Cherry, sour   Montmorency, a common variety, is
               bright red. Select those that are plump,
               universal in color, and without any
               soft spots.
Nectarine      Select those that give slightly when
               squeezed, but pass on those with green
               or wrinkly patches. A sweet, flowery
               smell means nectarines are ripe.
Peach          There are two main types: Clingstone,
               with flesh that adheres to the pit; and
               Freestone, with flesh that easily separates
               from the pit. Look for unblemished
               peaches that are firm yet give slightly
               to the touch.
Plum           The sweet-tart fruit comes in a variety
               of sizes and colors, including gold,
               purple, and red. Choose those that are
               plump, moderately firm with smooth,
               taut skin and no brown spots.

               STAR NUTRIENTS*       CULINARY TIPS

Apricot        Vitamins A and C      Add to kebabs, use in gazpachos
                                     instead of tomatoes; add to warm
                                     oatmeal, salads or grilled cheese.
Cherry, sweet  Fibre, potassium,     Blend into smoothies, stew in a
               Vitamin C             saucepan and serve over waffles
                                     or pancakes, grill and drizzle
                                     with
                                     chocolate.
Cherry, sour   Vitamins A and C      Chop and add to tuna or grain
                                     salads, blend into popsicles,
                                     stir
                                     into yogurt, use in pies.

Nectarine      Fiber, vitamins A     Chop into salsas or muffin batter;
               and C                 add slices to fruit crisps or
                                     flatbread pizzas; serve with
                                     sliced
                                     baguette, fresh mozzarella, and
Peach          Fiber, potassium,     balsamic vinegar.
               vitamins A and C      Enjoy as an out of hand snack, add
                                     slices to salad, freeze, then
                                     blend
                                     with Greek yogurt for instant
                                     fro-yo, chop and stir into mashed
                                     avocado fora dip.
Plum           Vitamins A, C, and K  Grill cut sides and top with Greek
                                     yogurt, poach slices in wine
                                     to serve over chicken, use as
                                     a base for bars or crumbles,
                                     make a plum barbecue
                                     sauce to serve with meat.


Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

1c steel-cut oats

Pinch salt

3 c water

1/2 c milk or non-dairy milk

2 diced peaches

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional

1/4 c chopped almonds or pecans

1/4 c shredded coconut 1 Tbsp maple syrup

1. Bring oats, salt, and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan; remove from heat and let soak overnight.

2. In the morning, stir in milk, peaches, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Warm over medium-low heat. Serve with nuts, coconut, and maple syrup, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 263 calories, 11 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 8 g sugar, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 7 g fiber, 24 mg sodium.

--Matthew Kadey, MS, RD
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Author:Kadey, Matthew
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2016
Words:840
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