Seven Superstar Fruits to Benefit Your Health
This is the Part 2 in a three part series about nature's healthiest superfoods.
In Part 1, we focused on the most nutritious veggies, and in Part 3, we'll review the healthiest nuts.
Only one-quarter of Americans eat fruits and vegetables five or more
times a day, which is unfortunate because within these foods are some
of the healthiest nutrients you can put in your body.
Further, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent data shows, 35 percent are eating fruits and veggies just once
or twice a day!1
Last month we explained that people who eat generous amounts of veggies are likely to have a reduced risk of chronic diseases ranging from stroke and heart disease to cancer and cataracts. We also detailed the six healthiest veggie superfoods you can add to your dinner plate.
Not to be outdone, fruits have their share of healthy properties as well. When you unwrap a banana or peel a grapefruit, it's akin to opening your own personal treasure chest of wonderful nutrients. Within each colorful package are antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients and more, each with a unique purpose and benefit within your body.
That's why this month we'll be focusing on the sweeter side of the functional food arena … and sharing seven fruits that offer outstanding advantages for you and your family.
Seven Healthy Fruits to Enjoy for Your Health!
Whether you fancy blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or even the more elusive acai berry, when it comes to berries, you can't go wrong.
Berries have high levels of anthocyanins, compounds that give them (as well as grapes and other red, purple and blue fruits and veggies) their color and high antioxidant levels. Along with helping to protect your cells from free radicals, studies have shown these antioxidant phytonutrients can:2
- Protect against liver injuries
- Significantly reduce blood pressure
- Improve eyesight
- Offer strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
- Lessen mutations caused by mutagens from cooked food
- Suppress the spread of human cancer cells
Further, as written in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, "Because of their diverse physiological activities, the consumption
of anthocyanins may play a significant role in preventing lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases."3
Not bad for a handful of berries!
We've all heard the phrase "an apple a day can keep the doctor away"... and it turns out that apples really are a smart choice, especially for your heart health.
Among the heart-healthy antioxidants in apples are quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid. These powerful com-pounds help to protect your cardiovascular system from oxygen related damage.4 Apples also contain flavonoids, which studies have found can help reduce your risk of death due to coronary heart disease, heart disease and all causes.5 Not only do flavonoids help lower your risk of heart disease, but they also may help fight it if you already have it.Aside from the antioxidants, apples are also an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which may be beneficial for your cholesterol levels.
Research indicates that people who eat apples also have a 27 percent lower risk of having metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high levels of triglycerides, low levels of good "HDL" cholesterol and too much fat around your waist, which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.6
For best results, eat your apple a day with the skin on, as that's where many of the antioxidants are located.
Grapefruits are often overshadowed by oranges, arguably the most popular citrus fruit in the United States, but they are just as valuable in nutrients and taste!
These sweet-sour citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, but that's far from all. They're also rich in lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient that gives them their pink or red flesh.
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that may lower your risk of heart disease while fighting free radicals and helping to maintain the integrity of your cell membranes (which is important to allow cells to intake nutrients and filter out toxins).
It's also been found to help suppress tumor growth, which it may do by stimulating cell-to-cell communication.7 Abnormal growth of cells that occurs due to poor cell communication may be one cause of cancerous tumors, so lycopene may be an important cancer-fighting antioxidant to include in your family's diet.
Grapefruit even contains phytonutrients known as limonoids, which studies have shown may fight mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon cancers.8
Like the other fruits we've highlighted so far, papaya is an excellent source of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, which offer benefits for your heart health.
But this sweet fruit is unique in that it contains several protein-digesting enzymes, including papain, which may help lower inflammation in your body. Many diseases are worsened by inflammation, including arthritis and asthma, so eating more of the nutrients in papaya may be beneficial for these conditions.
You may be familiar with papain, as it's often used to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements. However, you can get digestive benefits from eating the whole fruit as well. Its combination of fiber, folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E may help to lower your risk of colon cancer and may help keep cancer-causing substances away from healthy colon cells.9
New to papaya? Slice it in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds (they're edible but have a peppery flavor), squeeze on a bit of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor, and enjoy!
Tiny kiwi fruits pack a powerful punch in terms of their vitamin C content (1 kiwi will give you about 95 percent of the recommended daily value), and they also show promise for fighting cancer.
A study from researchers at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand found that eating two to three kiwis a day may help prevent cancer, possibly due to its antioxidant content increasing the repair of damaged DNA.10
Other research has also revealed that kiwis may help reduce blood clotting, offering protection against stroke and deep vein thrombosis. They also have a laxative effect, which is useful if you’re suffering from constipation.11
As its name implies, most of watermelon (about 92 percent) is water, but the other 8 percent is loaded with beneficial nutrients, including lycopene and B vitamins, which are essential for energy production.
This summertime favorite is also rich in citruline, a phytonutrient that is converted to the amino acid arginine when you eat it. This amino acid has benefits for your heart, circulation system and immune system. It also helps to relax your blood vessels, and may offer "Viagra-like effects" and even increase your libido!12
Along with offering potential benefits for erectile dysfunction, arginine helps to improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.13
If you're in the mood for a sweet healthy treat, a banana is a smart choice. As one of the best sources of potassium out there, bananas may help to lower your blood pressure and protect your heart.
Bananas also help your stomach lining produce a thicker barrier against acids, helping to protect from stomach ulcers and their damage. They also contain protease inhibitors that can help reduce bacteria that cause stomach ulcers in the first place.14
Bananas even contain fructooligosaccharide, a prebiotic that helps "feed" good bacteria (probiotics) in your digestive tract. This compound also helps to increase your ability to absorb nutrients, including calcium.15 Remember, this is just a sampling of the tasty fruits available to you and your family. Including a wide variety of fruits and veggies in your family's diet -- from apples and bananas to peppers and tomatoes -- will give you the best array of nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Related Blog Posts:
Apples: The Natural Probiotic
7 More Non-Organic Foods to Avoid
1 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Data and Statistics” 2007
2, 3 Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2004 December 1; 2004(5): 239–240.
4 World’s Healthiest Foods, Apples
5 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, No. 3, 895-909, March 2007.
6 UPI.com “Apples cut heart disease, metabolic risk” April 9, 2008.
7 World’s Healthiest Foods, Lycopene
8 World’s Healthiest Foods, Grapefruit
9 World’s Healthiest Foods, Papaya
10, 11 FoodNavigator.com “Kiwis Could Protect DNA From Damage, says Pilot Study”
July 26, 2006
12 ScienceDaily.com July 1, 2008 J Clin Outcomes Manage, 2007 Mar;14(3):161-171.
13 American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism 2006 Nov;291(5)
14, 15 The World’s Healthiest Foods, Bananas.