Since it’s National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, and we discussed the benefits of vegetables last week, it’s only fitting that we move on to fruits. Aside from being delicious and refreshing, fruits offer excellent health benefits. While it is recommended to get 2-3.5 cups of veggies, the daily goal for fruit is 1.5-2 cups. And during summer, this can be relatively easy as a variety of sweet produce is in season.
Here are some great reasons why you should incorporate fruits into your daily diet.
- Won’t Make You Fat
Fruits contain natural sugars, and while most diet plans often recommend avoiding them, they are not as damaging as high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars in some foods. This is because the natural sugars in whole fruit are processed differently thanks to the fiber, phytochemicals and micronutrients you are also taking in.
Fiber slows the rate that the natural sugars are released into the bloodstream and also helps to fill you up and aid in weight loss. For low-calorie fruits, opt for blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
The phytochemicals in fruits may also aid in weight loss. A 2016 study found that participants who are the most flavonoids (healthy compounds found in fruits and vegetables) were better able to maintain their weight as they got older. It appeared that anthocyanins (the phytochemicals that give difference berries their color) have the most powerful effect.
Lastly, people with diabetes should incorporate fruits into their diet, but be mindful of portion sizes and count them in their carbohydrate intake.
- Full Of Nutrients
Fruits are high in fiber and potassium, and most are good sources of vitamins A and C, folate, and a wide variety of phytochemicals.
The Department of Agriculture states that when the recommended amount of fruit is consumed, it contributes 16% of the recommended fiber intake and 17% of the recommended potassium intake, both of which American diets are often low in.
As mentioned, fiber helps weight management, but it can also improve cholesterol levels, and keeps your digestive system running smoothly.
Potassium relaxes blood vessel walls, thus, is important for lowering blood pressure and also helps to offset the negative effects of a high sodium diet.
Remember, the type of fruit you eat and how you consume it makes a difference. You want to eat as many fruits as possible in their whole form (i.e. skin on). The protective skin and the area just beneath it is where the antioxidants are, which are used by the fruit to protect itself from pests. However, if you must, frozen and canned fruits are fine options. Just be sure there are no added sugars and canned fruit is packed in its own juice, not syrup.
- Good For Your Heart
Fruit intake has been linked to lowering the risk for obesity and high blood pressure, both of which are the main risk factors for heart disease. As an example, trials have shown that by replacing two servings of starchy vegetables or refined carbohydrates with two servings of fruit a day, you can get a 20-25% reduction in risk of heart disease.
And, as discussed, the potassium in fruit helps explain the strong association between increased fruit intake and a lower risk of high blood pressure.
However, it’s not just one nutrient that makes the difference. A 14 year study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who consumed the most anthocyanins over time had and 8-12% reduction in the risk for hypertension. These compounds have been shown to improve vascular function by reducing inflammation in the vessels and improving blood flow.
- Brainpower Boost With Berries
Anthocyanins may also be why fruit (namely, berries) has gained a reputation for keeping your memory sharp. Anthocyanins may play a role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation (both of which can negatively affect brain function and memory). For example, according to a Harvard study from 2012, participants who ate one or more servings of blueberries or two or more servings of strawberries per week delayed cognitive aging by 2.5 years compared to those who ate the fewest berries.
- Lowers Cancer Risk
The link between high fruit intake and lower body weight can also attribute to the lowered cancer risk. The phytochemicals and nutrients (carotenoids, vitamin C, folate) found in fruit may also affect cancer risk.
According to the latest report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, there is probable evidence that a higher intake of fruit may be protective against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, and stomach. Further evidence also suggests that more fruit may help reduce the risk of pancreatic, liver, and colorectal cancer.
- Explore More
According to the USDA, apples and bananas are Americans’ favorites. And while these are great fruits, it’s time to branch out and see what other delicious fruits are out there and what kind of benefits they can provide.
Papaya – Rich in vitamin C & Folate and makes a great addition to a tropical fruit salad.
Passion Fruit – Although the rind is tough, it holds sweet-tart pulp and seeds inside that is high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin A.
Plantain – It may look like a banana, but is often eaten cooked. Sauté or bake them without added fat or sugar for a fiber-rich treat.
Persimmon – The flesh of this fruit is a great source of vitamins A and C.
Kumquat – You can eat the entire fruit, skin and all, meaning you’ll get even more of the nutritional benefits (rich in vitamin C).
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