It’s Summer – Reach for Fruit

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on July 20, 2006 · 0 comments

From watermelons to peaches to blueberries, the abundance of fresh, delicious fruit is just another reason to love summer.

Fruit doesn’t just taste good; it adds color and variety to meals. And, research has shown that it contains many health protective substances. (For dedicated vegetable-haters who have vowed to eat nothing green, fruits make a great alternative, offering many of the same nutrition benefits.)

There is considerable evidence that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, birth defects, cataracts, diabetes, and obesity. That’s a pretty impressive list.

But most of us eat only one serving of fruit a day, and almost half of that is fruit juice. “5 A Day,” a national health program, encourages Americans to eat at least 5 and up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Summer is a great time to expand your fruit intake. But don’t confuse fruit with vitamin supplements or fruit juice.

In studies of the effects of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene (a type of vitamin A) in supplements versus foods, food won–pills were not as effective as the real thing when it came to reducing disease risk. It may be that there is interplay between the vitamins and other substances, such as antioxidants or pigments, found in fruits. Or, there may be substances in fruits, yet to be understood, that offer the disease-prevention affect.

There are advantages to eating fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. It takes longer to eat the whole fruit, which helps you to feel fuller longer. A medium fruit is usually lower in calories than a cup of fruit juice. And, fruit has fiber, which doesn’t make it into juice.

Some people avoid fruits thinking they are high in sugar. It’s wise to limit canned fruits and fruit drinks with added sugar, but fresh fruits contain fructose or fruit sugar. Fructose does not raise insulin levels and may reduce total calorie intake when included in meals. This natural sugar, also found in honey, is not a sweetener we need to avoid.

Our table will help you to compare the calories found in summer fruits. All values are given for a 1 cup serving so you can compare one fruit to another. For fruit with edible skins, the values are for fruit that has been cut up but not peeled (grapes, peaches, plums, cherries, etc.). For fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, or pineapple, the values reflect a 1 cup serving of cut-up, peeled fruit. When you peel fruits you lower the fiber content, so eat fruit unpeeled whenever possible.

Tip: Like the convenience of pre-packaged, cut up fruit? A recent research study showed that packaged sliced or cut-up fresh fruit retained its nutritional quality just as well as whole fresh fruit. Less work, and equally good for you.

The fruits listed have no fat or cholesterol and are very low in sodium, averaging 4 milligrams a cup. In addition to the rich nutrients listed, each provides smaller amounts of other vitamins, minerals, and disease-protecting antioxidants, which add up with multiple servings.

Don’t discount fruit, like apples, that seems to be low in nutrients; the fiber found in apples is particularly heart healthy. Remember: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Fruit Rich In* Calories/Cup
Apples Fiber 57
Apricots Fiber, Vitamins A & C, Potassium 79
Banana Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 134
Blackberries Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 62
Blueberries Fiber, Potassium 83
Cantaloupe Vitamins A & C, Potassium 60
Cherries Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 74
Grapes Vitamins C & K, Potassium 110
Guava Fiber, Vitamins A, C & Folic Acid, Potassium 112
Honeydew Vitamin C, Potassium 61
Kiwifruit Fiber, Vitamins C, K & Folic Acid, Potassium 108
Mango Fiber, Vitamins A & C, Potassium 107
Nectarine Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 61
Orange Fiber, Vitamins C & Folic Acid, Potassium 85
Papayas Fiber, Vitamins A, C & Folic Acid, Potassium 55
Peach Fiber, Vitamins A & C, Potassium 66
Pear Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 96
Pineapple Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 74
Plum Fiber, Vitamins A, C, K & Folic Acid, Potassium 76
Raspberries Fiber, Vitamins C & K, Potassium 64
Strawberries Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium 49
Tangerine Fiber, Vitamins A & C, Potassium 103
Watermelon Vitamins A & C, Potassium 46

* A rich source = 2 or more grams of fiber, or 10% or more of the daily requirement for vitamins A, C, K, and folic acid, or 10% or more of the daily requirement for potassium in a 1 cup serving.

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