Enrich Your Healthy Plate With Tropical Fruits

In addition to the bananas, apples, grapes, oranges and peaches that often fill the collective American fruit bowl, there is a rich variety of tropical fruits available—some year round, and at affordable prices.

Only 15% of American adults eat the recommended amount of fruit, which ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 cups per day depending on daily calorie needs. Diversifying your fruit portfolio can inspire you with appealing new tastes, textures, aromas and colors, thus making you more likely to include fruit in your overall eating pattern. 

With fruits, as with vegetables and other foods, eating a variety is key, because it provides a range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients and flavors. So don’t get too caught up in which particular fruits you choose. Additionally, remember that to improve overall diet quality, fruit should replace less healthy foods.

“The best approach to increase fruit intake is to use it to replace foods made with refined-carbohydrate or added sugar,” says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory.

Try these tropical fruits fresh cut as snacks, in salads, in desserts without added sugar, in sauces or meat dishes or as a side to a main dish.

  • Papaya: Commonly available tropical papayas have striking orange flesh and black seeds. To eat: Slice the papaya in half length-wise, remove the seeds and scoop out the fruit. Or, peel the skin before slicing and pitting so you can cut it into slices or cubes.
  • Guava: Guavas come in multiple varieties with different characteristics. The tastes range from sweet to tart and may remind you of pineapple, papaya, banana or lemon. To eat: Wash the guava, slice or cube, and eat with or without the rind.
  • Star Fruit: Also known as carambola, when sliced this fruit makes perfect five-pointed stars.  One variety of star fruit is tart; the other one is sweet. To eat: Rinse, slice, and eat raw.
  • Kiwi: Kiwis are sweet, with hints of strawberry, banana, and nectarine flavors. To eat: Pare off the fuzzy outer peel and then slice or cube for salads. Or, slice in half, scoop out the fruit with a spoon and eat.
  • Lychee: Lychees contain an edible translucent white fruit around a pit or seed. To eat: Peel off the outer skin with your fingers, remove the hard central seed and eat the fruit.
  • Mango: Mango flesh is intensely sweet when ripe. To eat: Remove the skin with a paring knife, and then slice the flesh off the large inner pit.
  • Persimmon: The Asian persimmon is native to Japan, China, Burma and India but is cultivated commercially in California. Asian persimmons are sweet when firm, but “astringent” persimmons must be fully ripe and soft to be palatable. To eat: Wash, slice and eat raw.
  • Pomegranate: This fruit has a tart flavor and, in juice form, has gained popularity as an alleged health drink. The edible part of pomegranates are the seeds, called arils, covered with a red juicy coating. To eat: Slice pomegranate in half, scoop out the arils and either eat the entire seed or suck the juice off the arils and spit them out. To better harvest the arils, free them from the pithy covering while immersing the fruit in a bowl of water; they will sink to the bottom and the pith will float. Sprinkle them on salads, too.

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