Fruit has gotten a bad rap recently in people’s efforts to eradicate sugar from their diets. However, I strongly believe that this is a big mistake. Fruits are low-calorie and (with the exception of avocados) low in fat, and are plentiful in vitamins and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids the body in ridding fats and cholesterol from the body as well as ensuring regular transit of food particles in excretion. In addition, fruits offer antioxidants which protect the body from oxidant stress and many diseases, as well as boost our immune response.
I especially love blueberries as they contain a special type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins. In fact, all “blue” fruits (blackberries, acai, mulberries and black grapes contain these powerful antioxidants just underneath their skins.
Here is a list of some of the most popular fruits along with their associated health benefits:
APPLE: Apples are packed with soluble fiber and are high in vitamins. Due to their high fiber content they can be excellent aids for individuals who suffer from constipation.
BANANA: This fruit is well known for its high potassium content. Those who have issues with high blood pressure might want to make bananas a regular part of their meal plans in order to manage their pressure issues.
BLUEBERRIES: As stated before, blueberries are one of my favorite fruits because they offer so many health benefits. This fruit is ranked number one in antioxidant activity and may help to lower the risk of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. They also freeze very well. In fact, not too long ago I was in the habit of purchasing large batches of blueberries, then freezing them for use in my morning oatmeal.
CRANBERRY: This extraordinary fruit prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and in so doing can be very effective in preventing urinary tract infections from developing. I recommend the extract or juice to women who are prone to frequent urinary tract infections as it minimizes the chance of developing infections. Cranberries have a strong antioxidant effect as well.
PINK GRAPEFRUIT: This fruit is very high in a form of soluble fiber known as pectin, which can help to lower cholesterol. It also is rich in lycopene and flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer. Beware of this fruit if you take cholesterol-lowering statins or some other medications, as grapefruit can interfere with some medications.
KIWI: This strange, beautiful, tart fruit is packed with vitamins C and E, has 3 grams of fiber in one fruit, and is also rich in potassium and magnesium. In fact, kiwi has more vitamin C than oranges do.
MANGO: This fruit has ample amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have a protective effect on vision and can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
ORANGE: Oranges are rich in folate, an essential substance which helps to prevent neural tube defects in unborn infants and which also has a protective effect against the development of high blood pressure in women. It is also rich in vitamin C and fiber.
PEAR: Pears contain a lot of soluble fiber and for this reason can be very effective in relieving constipation.
PINEAPPLE: This tropical fruit, besides containing large amounts of vitamin C, contains an enzyme known as bromelain which assists in breaking down protein and facilitating digestion. Bromelain also has wound healing properties, helps to prevent blood clots and inhibits cancer cell growth. Pineapples also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to alleviate arthritis pain.
POMEGRANATE: This fruit is rich in antioxidant tannins which have a demonstrated protective effect on the heart. Individuals with high blood pressure or risk of heart attack will benefit from ingesting this fruit on a daily basis.
PRUNE: Prunes are very high in sorbitol which has a mild laxative effect, so the old wive’s remedy of drinking prune juice for constipation was extremely valid. This fruit is also very rich in boron, a mineral which may help prevent osteoporosis.
RASPBERRY: Raspberries are rich in folate, magnesium and ellagic acid, an antioxidant which may help to prevent cervical, esophageal and colon cancer. They also provide large amounts of fiber, as well as vitamins A and C.
STRAWBERRY: Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium. They also have a protective effect against carcinogens.
I realize that many people are not able to locate the fresh varieties of fruits throughout the year, so I want to call attention to the varieties of fruits which are available frozen. Dole offers the following fruits in frozen versions:
- Mixed berries
Frozen fruit is picked, washed, peeled, cut and frozen immediately in order to retain the bulk of its nutritional value. When you are ready to use the fruit, you can either thaw it at room temperature or lightly defrost it in the microwave, though I strongly prefer room temperature thawing.
People who compete may have adopted the attitude that fruit is a big no-no, as they believe the fructose in fruit will potentiate fat retention. However, if you consume small portions with meals, especially with your post-training meal, there is no way that you would consume enough to create such an issue. I strongly disagree with the mindset that fruit consumption should be eliminated during contest prep, as this robs the body of powerful antioxidants and deprives a competitor of natural sweetness, which could result in strong cravings for sweet items which are made with sucrose or artificial sweeteners. If you are extremely concerned about consuming too much fruit, try a small portion (1/4 to 1/3 cup of fruit in the morning with your first meal, and the same portion size with your post-workout meal.