Nature’s pHarmacy – August Produce

In previous posts, we have looked at the produce available locally in the mid-Atlantic region in April, May, June, and July. As the summer winds down, artichokes and bell peppers are ready for harvest in many areas, and some trees and vines have begun bearing fruit. Seedless grapes, peaches, nectarines, and some early varieties of apples may be ready for harvest at various pick-your-own farms and orchards. Let’s learn more about these late-summer stars.


An artichoke is the unopened flower bud of a species of thistle. The base of the outer leaves, a larger part of the inner leaves, and the “heart” are all edible. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant compounds, artichokes are considered a superfood. In a USDA study, artichokes ranked as the non-legume vegetable with the highest antioxidant count!

The fiber found in artichoke is inulin, which is an important prebiotic. In a 2010 study, inulin derived from globe artichoke significantly increased numbers of healthy gut bacteria when compared with placebo. Thus, artichoke may help promote digestive health.

Artichoke and artichoke leaf extract also contain compounds that have been shown to positively affect liver health, blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and antitumor activity.

Fun Fact: Artichokes contain a compound called cynarin that blocks the “sweet” taste receptors on the tongue. The next bite of food or drink of water effectively washes the cynarin away, so you perceive the next thing as being extra sweet. Try it!  

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers come in a rainbow of colors from red to green, with each color having subtle nutritional differences. Red, orange and yellow peppers have similar amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C. However green peppers, since they are harvested earlier, have a different nutritional profile. For example, red peppers contain 11x the beta carotene of green peppers and 1.5x the vitamin C!  Red bell peppers provide 169% of the daily value of vitamin C.

All bell peppers have an impressive nutritional profile due to the variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidant compounds (including lycopene, capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, and luteolin), they contain. Interestingly green bell peppers have the most lutein of all the pepper colors. Chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins are responsible for the fruit’s color as it matures.

Including bell peppers in your diet can promote digestive health, brain health, eye health, joint health, and a decreased risk of some cancers and degenerative diseases.

Fun Fact: The bell pepper is the only member of the pepper family that does not produce capsaicin, a chemical that can cause a strong burning sensation when it comes in contact with your tongue.

Enjoy this stuffed bell pepper recipe with artichoke and quinoa!

Seedless Grapes

Seedless grapes are in season, and their nutritional profile includes vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, with red and blue varieties having greater amounts of these key nutrients than white (or green) grapes.

Resveratrol, a polyphenol compound in grapes, has many health benefits. In 1997, it was reported to have anti-cancer activity, and since then has been extensively studied and found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, lipid- and glucose-regulating, and immunomodulatory effects, as well as protective effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Those effects combined make it an effective agent at protecting against many chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurological and metabolic disorders, liver disease, and cancer.

Grapes also contain potassium and fiber, contributing to cardiovascular health, blood pressure regulation, and digestive health.

Enjoy these delicious pops of flavor at room temperature or freeze them for a refreshing summer treat.

Fun fact: Seedless grapes have to be grown from cuttings!


Peaches and nectarines are considered “drupes” or stone fruit, since they contain a pit, or shell, that contains a seed. They contain vitamins A, C, E, and K, B vitamins, and a variety of minerals and antioxidant compounds. One study in healthy men showed that fresh peach juice reduced damage from oxidative stress for 90 minutes after consumption!

Peaches and nectarines also have positive effects on cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol and blocking a hormone that increases blood pressure. Their fiber content helps support digestive health. Peaches also contain a compound that may improve skin health by helping to retain moisture. Also, the carotenoids, caffeic acid, and polyphenols in peaches and nectarines may help prevent the development and growth of tumors. Finally, in an interesting study, white peaches were found to help bind and excrete nicotine-derived toxins, protecting healthy cells from nicotine damage.

Fun Fact: A nectarine is a variety of peach with smooth skin. The “fuzzy” peach is genetically dominant, whereas the smooth nectarine is genetically recessive.

Early Apple Varieties

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We’ve all heard the adage, but did you know that the apple needs to have its skin on, as most of the antioxidant polyphenols and half of the digestive-health-promoting fiber reside in the skin? Polyphenols are thought to be responsible for most of the apple’s health-promoting benefits.

Quercetin, one of the many polyphenolic compounds found in apples, has been associated with decreased diabetes risk, decreased inflammation and asthma, improved brain health, and more. Other phytochemicals in apple have been shown to decrease cancer risk, decrease the risk of heart disease, and prevent osteoporosis.

Pectin, a prebiotic fiber found in apples, can attract water to the gut and feed the good bacteria there, promoting digestive health. Pectin also helps promote cardiovascular health by binding to bile acids in the small intestine, thereby improving cholesterol metabolism. Also, the high fiber content of apples makes them a good choice for diabetics as the fiber slows the absorption of fructose, preventing blood sugar spikes.

Fun Fact: Apples are 25% air, and that’s why they float in water!

Try our air fryer apple and sweet potato chips two ways recipe!


August brings many end-of-summer delights to the table. If you have the opportunity to visit a “Pick-Your-Own” orchard for peaches, nectarines, or early apples, don’t hesitate to do so. Locally-grown produce has the greatest nutritional value, and there is nothing quite like connecting with the trees and soil that provide your food. Local organic farms and farmers’ markets are the next best thing.

Ask your healthcare practitioner whether LRA testing might be right for you, to determine whether you have any food sensitivities to these delicious fruits and vegetables. (There is this misconception that nightshades such as bell peppers need to be avoided by anyone who has an inflammatory condition. That is not the case. Food sensitivities differ for each individual.)

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