Follow nutrition headlines and it may be tempting to focus on one fruit that’s exciting to health researchers.
Unfortunately, the stars of the produce stand can change their rankings as quickly as the front-runners on “American Idol.” One week we’re told to cheer for red grapes; the next it’s cantaloupe.
How should a person choose which fruit to eat for maximum health benefits?
Don’t fixate on one fruit, but eat a variety instead, say nutrition experts.
“Fruits contain many of the vitamins our bodies need on a daily basis,” says Donald L. Johnson, A.R.N.P.-BC, with Clark and Daughtrey Medical Group. “Fruits that are higher in vitamin A include apricots and mangos, for vitamin C try blackberries and guava, and B 1,2 & 6 are found abundant in apricots and blackberries. So, using different fruits provide different benefits. Selecting a variety of fruit can be as easy as picking a pallet of colors in the produce section at the grocery store.”
In fact, with the luscious range of summer fruit available, people should make it their goal to eat more fruit, period, dietitians say.
Fruits are high in dietary fiber and water content so you fill up without too many calories.
In addition, fruits contain vitamins, such as A and C, the mineral potassium, as well as plant chemicals that may reduce a person’s risk of chronic disease. People who consume more fruits may have a lower incidence of larynx, esophagus, stomach or lung cancer.
“Fruit plays a natural, tasteful, and nutritional part of a healthy diet,” Johnson says. “The American Heart Association recommends 5-9 servings of fruit a day. Adding variety in the fruits (and vegetables) in your diet provides a variety of vitamins, including A, C, and several B vitamins, fiber, antioxidants to help the body renew itself, and natural sugars. Fruits make great snacks due to the healthy benefits they provide, AND they do not contain any bad cholesterol. In fact many fruits contain soluble fiber and can actually lowered your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. So, including these fruits can actually lower your chance of heart disease.”
When shopping, pick from the color wheel.
Add green in honeydew melon and kiwifruit, red in watermelon, and yellow and orange in papaya and cantaloupe.
Also, Johnson says fruit can often be eaten by everyone.
“Diabetics can enjoy fruit as a part of their daily diet, but must remember that they do contain sugar and that they may find a lower spike in their blood sugars if they eat fruits with higher fiber contents as these help balance the carbs found in fruit,” he says.
“Fruits are great snacks,” says Jennifer Patzkowsky, a registered dietician with the Polk County Public Schools. Try easily portable fruits such as bananas, apples and oranges. They even come in their own wrapper.”
To satisfy a sweet craving, cut up a bowl of fresh fruit for a colorful salad, she adds.
Think beyond the predictable fruit occasions.
Five ways to enjoy seasonal fruit
1. Layer your favorite cereal, nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt and a half-cup berries into a tall glass for breakfast.
2. Spear peach wedges on skewers and grill alongside pork tenderloin, chicken thighs or shrimp.
3. Prepare a salad lunch or dinner of baby spinach greens, crumbled blue cheese, scallions, walnuts; add sliced strawberries or plums.
4. Stir a handful of fresh raspberries into sugar-free ginger ale or iced tea.
5. Give a fresh-fruit boost to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For example, make it peanut butter, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries or peach preserves and finely chopped peaches.
How much is enough?
U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended fruit intake
Children: 11/2 cups
Adult women age 19-30: 2 cups
Adult women 31 and up: 11/2 cups
Adult men: 2 cups
story by BEV BENNETT