Health Benefits of Fruit - Part 1
Fruit is a high-quality carbohydrate that is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. The fiber in fruit comes in two forms — soluble and insoluble — and it can be a big help when it comes to weight loss.
The soluble fiber in fruit stabilizes blood sugar, keeps you feeling full, controls your hunger, and it may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Plus, it helps to temper blood sugars by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream after meals, which can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and help keep your mood and energy levels steady. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your food so you can eat more of it without adding extra calories.
You can also think of fruits as “juicy foods,” since they’re mostly made up of water. Fresh and frozen fruit and other foods that have a high water content tend to be low in calories, since all that water adds volume and dilutes the calories. The high fiber and water content in fresh fruit helps fill you up for a minimal calorie cost, making whole fruit a smart addition to any weight-loss plan. The water contained in fruit, like the water you drink, hydrates your cells, flushes toxins from your body, assists with normal organ functioning, and helps you maintain optimal energy levels.
Fruit is especially beneficial for people fighting cardiovascular disease, as research suggests a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease. Heads up — if you’re taking any cardiac medications (or any other medications, for that matter), it’s important to check with your physician or pharmacist to see if any of your meds interact with grapefruit. Compounds in grapefruit and grapefruit juice can affect how certain medications are absorbed and metabolized, so you’ll need to avoid grapefruit completely if directed by a health-care professional.
Common nutrients in fruit include beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, folate, vitamins B6, C, and E, potassium, anthocyanins, and quercetin.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that’s critical for skin health. After you eat fruit that contains beta-carotene, your body converts some of the beta-carotene into vitamin A. In its new form, this nutrient aids in the growth and repair of skin tissue, helps protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, and keeps your hair strong and healthy. Vitamin A may also help guard against macular degeneration. Another carotene found in fruit, beta-cryptoxanthin, may decrease the risk of developing inflammatory conditions, including certain types of arthritis.
B vitamins like folate and B6 may contribute to heart health, healthy hair, and improved memory. Folate also contributes to the production of serotonin, and therefore, it may help with depression and improve mood. Vitamin B6 also helps create dopamine, which may reduce PMS symptoms.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is largely responsible for the health of collagen, a protein that helps maintain healthy skin and cartilage. Vitamin C occurs naturally in the skin, and regularly consuming vitamin C–rich fruits can help replenish your skin’s vitamin C stores and enhance the skin’s natural beauty. Vitamin C aids in joint flexibility, promotes healthy hair, and may slow bone lossand decrease the risk of fractures. Vitamin C may also help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin E works with vitamin C to provide anti-aging skin protection. In addition, vitamin E may help protect the skin against sun damage and fend off cataracts and macular degeneration.
Fruits high in potassium help prevent osteoporosis by decreasing bone resorption, thus preserving bone density as you age. Eating potassium-rich fruit can also help keep blood pressure low.
Fruits are also rich sources of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, potent disease-fighting compounds that give blue, purple, and red fruits their color, and quercetin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory activity. Current research suggests that anthocyanins and quercetin may help slow the rate of age-related memory-loss and protect against arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
When it comes to fruit, there is one important caveat: Fruit is higher in calories and sugar than nonstarchy vegetables (nonstarchy vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.), so you still need to watch your calories and be careful not to overeat fruit. Aim for two to four servings of fresh fruit daily, and limit your intake of calorie-laden fruit juices.
People with celiac disease should note that while fresh fruit in general does not contain any gluten (making fruit acceptable for a celiac diet), dates and figs may be dusted with wheat flour to make them less sticky and so may need to be avoided; check package labels carefully. While the soluble fiber in fruit often eases IBSsymptoms, certain fruits may trigger IBS discomfort. Additionally, some fruits are common migraine triggers, especially citrus fruits and dried fruits with sulfites added as a preservative.Apples
There’s a reason why apples are so popular — they’re delicious and good for you! They have a high water content and more soluble fiber than most fruits, which make them a terrific choice if you’re trying to lose weight or have high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or IBS. Apples with red skin are especially high in antioxidants that can help manage arthritis pain and slow memory loss. If you get migraine headaches, be aware that red-skinned apples are a possible trigger, but yellow- and green-skinned varieties are a safe bet.
Unsweetened, natural applesauce can be part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, many types of applesauce that you find on grocery-store shelves contain sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, which increases the calories and sugar. Fresh apples are always best because they have more fiber and nutrients, but if you love applesauce, unsweetened or “natural” will be your best bet. If you have diarrhea-predominant IBS, applesauce may be a good choice during flare-ups since it’s easy on your stomach and provides virtually no fiber.
Fresh apricots have a high water content and are a good source of soluble fiber, making them a fine choice if you’re trying to lose weight or have high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. They are also a very good source of antioxidants that help reduce the risk of arthritis and macular degeneration, in addition to helping maintain healthy skinand hair. The potassium in apricots helps lower blood pressure and the risk of osteoporosis. Dried apricots often contain added sulfites, a potential migraine trigger, so read labels carefully if you suffer from migraines.
Bananas are an easy grab-and-go fruit with a good amount of fiber, which can help with weight loss, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes; potassium, a mineral that helps lower blood pressure and the risk of osteoporosis, and vitamin B6, which can help reduce PMS symptoms and contribute to healthy hair. Bananas also make a great bedtime snack for people who have insomnia, since they are a low-protein/high-carb food that helps produce serotonin, a sleep-promoting chemical.
Cantaloupe, like other melons, has a high water content, making it a great choice for people who are trying to lose weight. It is also a very good source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, antioxidants found in many fruits that help prevent arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration, in addition to helping maintain healthy hair and skin. The potassium in cantaloupe also helps lower blood pressure and the risk of osteoporosis.
Cherries are members of the stone-fruit family and are in season in the summer. They are a good source of beta-carotene and anthocyanins, antioxidants found in many fruits that help prevent and manage arthritis, cataracts, macular degeneration, and memory loss, as well as maintain healthy hair and skin. Like most fruit, cherries also contain high-quality carbohydrates and are made up of mostly water, making them a good addition to a weight-loss plan.
Clementines are a variety of mandarin oranges, smaller than navel oranges and easier to peel and eat. Like oranges, clementines are a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant found in many fruits that helps prevent and manage arthritis, cataracts, macular degeneration, and maintain healthy hair and skin. Because clementines and other citrus fruits are possible triggers for IBS and migraine headaches avoid them if they are problematic for you.
Dates, typically sold as a dried fruit, contain a lot of soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesteroland promote regularity. If you have type 2 diabetes or are trying to lose weight, it is best to limit your intake of dates and other dried fruit because of the higher sugar and calorie concentration compared with that found in fresh fruit. Dried dates may also contain added sulfites, a possible migraine tigger, and they may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent stickiness, so check package labels carefully if you have celiac disease.
Figs can be found fresh or dried. Both types are good sources of soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and promote regularity. If you have type 2 diabetes or are trying to lose weight, it is best to limit your intake of dried figs and other dried fruit because of the higher sugar and calorie concentration compared with that found in fresh fruit. Dried figs may also contain added sulfites, a possible migraine trigger, and they may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent stickiness, so check package labels carefully if you have celiac disease.
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a high water content and a good amount of fiber, making it a great choice for people who are trying to lose weight or prevent or manage heart disease or type 2 diabetes. All grapefruits are a good source of vitamin C, and red and pink grapefruits also offer up a high dose of beta-carotene. Vitamin C and beta-carotene are antioxidants found in many fruits that help prevent arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration as well as help maintain healthy hair and skin. Because grapefruit and other citrus fruits are possible triggers for IBS and migraine headaches avoid them if they are problematic for you. Note: Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can affect how some medications (most commonly cardiac meds) are absorbed and metabolized, so always speak with your pharmacist about your medication/grapefruit interactions.
There are many varieties of grapes. Red, purple, and black grapes contain quercetin and anthocyanins, antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties and may prevent and manage arthritis and slow memory decline. If you suffer from migraines, be aware that dark-skinned grapes contain tyramine, a possible migraine trigger.
Guava, a type of tropical fruit, is one of the absolute best sources of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps prevent and manage arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration, as well as maintain healthy hair and skin. Like most fruit, guava provides high-quality carbohydrates and is made up of mostly water, making this fruit a good addition to a weight-loss plan.
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