By: Ellen Stokes, MS, RD, LD —
As a registered dietitian and nutrition educator, I find that fruit often doesn’t get the nutritional respect it deserves. Maybe that’s because fruit is called “Nature’s Candy” or because it’s found in many calorie-laden desserts like Strawberry Shortcake, Apple Pie, or Banana Pudding.
But, fattening desserts are only part of fruit’s resume. Consuming fruit has many health benefits . Here are three that may surprise you:
An anti-oxidant can combine chemically with the destructive forms of oxygen in our bodies to render them harmless. Research supports a link between the consumption of anti-oxidant-rich foods and a lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease. When USDA scientists tested dozens of foods to determine their anti-oxidant capacities, 15 fruits and only 1 vegetable made the top 20 list. The highest-ranked fruits were not costly, exotic varieties either — the top performers included apples, plums, blackberries, blueberries, and pears.
Fructose is a sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Because fructose is the sweetest-tasting of all natural sugars, a smaller amount has a bigger impact on our taste buds than other natural sugars. Fructose is also low on the glycemic index (GI). That means it won’t raise your blood sugar levels as fast or as high as glucose or sucrose will. Whole fruits contain fiber which means they are digested more slowly which also keeps blood sugars from rising too quickly. Whole fruits like apples, oranges, peaches, and pears are good low-GI choices.
While consuming high-sodium foods can raise blood pressure, consuming potassium-rich foods can help lower blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure contributes to a healthier cardiovascular system and a decreased risk of kidney failure. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium and most are good-to-excellent sources of potassium. However, when most fruits are eaten they are likely to have a much higher potassium content than most vegetables. That’s because fruits are usually eaten raw and often vegetables are not. Cooking, particularly in boiling water, can greatly reduce a food’s potassium content.
As with all foods, fruits should be consumed in moderation. The USDA recommends about 1.5 cups of fruit per day for women and 2 cups of fruit per day for men. Examples of 1 cup servings include 2 large plums; 1 small apple; or a large banana. For more information on appropriate serving sizes: please go to the USDA’s site.
Ellen Stokes, MS, RD, LD is an award-winning video producer, director, and writer in addition to being a registered dietitian. Ellen writes and creates videos about nutrition education, food safety, menu planning, grocery shopping, and healthful cooking on a budget. Ellen has worked with organizations and companies including WebMD, the Partnership for Food Safety Education, and the University of Georgia Food Science Department. Ellen formerly worked for CNN as a writer and producer and teaches food safety and nutrition for Georgia State University. Check her out on Twitter @EllenS_RD.
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