While all fruits are healthy choices, here is a selection of what is considered as the healthiest fruits. These sweet selections have the most documented health benefits in scientific studies.
One medium fresh apple has only 95 calories, yet it is rich in vitamin C and fiber, including a type of soluble fiber called pectin, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and protect against heart disease. In fact, research shows that people who eat apples have more nutritious diets.
Apples contain a phytonutrient called quercetin, which has been linked to slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, thus improving blood glucose control. Eat the skin to gain the most fiber and phytonutrient content.
Research links apples to numerous health benefits, including weight control, digestive and immune health, cancer prevention, and cardiovascular health.
Peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries are all members of the Prunus genus, which share a similar characteristic: a very large, hard seed, or “stone,” in the middle of the fruit.
The nutritional profiles of stone fruits vary depending on the type and variety of fruit, though they are all generally rich in soluble fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, and phytochemicals, at a calorie bargain (about 60 calories per one-half cup serving). Peaches, nectarines, and apricots are also rich in vitamin A, as well as the phytochemicals linked with their colors. Plums are high in vitamin K and the unique phytochemicals neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid. Cherries are rich in anthocyanins, which provide their deep-red color.
Stone fruits have been linked with preventing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. The stone fruits that contain beta-carotene, such as peaches, nectarines, and apricots, are also linked to a lower risk of eye disease. Anthocyanins in cherries have been found to reduce arthritis symptoms, muscle pain, and the incidence of upper respiratory symptoms after exercise, as well as improve parameters of cardiovascular health.
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Bananas are among the most popular and healthiest fruit in the U.S. Each medium banana furnishes a generous supply of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, fiber, potassium, and copper. In addition, bananas contain plant sterols linked with heart health, as well as special types of fibers that foster the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.
Studies have also found that bananas may be an ideal food for athletes, since they are a source of sustained energy and their mineral content aids in preventing muscle cramps.
In general, berries are high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Studies have placed berries at the top of the list in terms of antioxidant content because of their rich cache of phytochemicals, which include anthocyanins, procyanadins, and ellagitannins.
Multiple studies indicate that berries may have a profound impact on health, lowering the risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related mental decline. In addition, they have specific benefits, such as cranberries’ role in preventing urinary tract infections, blueberries’ protective effects on brain and cardiovascular health, and raspberries’ defense against metabolically-based chronic diseases.
Citrus fruits—oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, and limes—offer up refreshing, clean flavors and aromas that bring a wealth of nutrients to any menu.
Citrus fruits are famously rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, but it offers much more. You will find a burst of potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and fiber in citrus fruits. In addition, citrus fruit contains more than 170 different types of phytochemicals that vary depending on the type and color of the fruit. Benefits linked to citrus fruits include protection against heart disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, cognitive decline, age-related eye diseases, and diabetes.
Beyond its vibrant color and sweet flavor, the mango is a nutrient superstar; it’s very high in vitamin C, and it also provides fiber, vitamins A and B6, folate, and copper. In addition, mangos are packed with phytochemicals. Research has linked mango intake to improved glucose control and body fat composition, as well as bone health, and studies investigating possible cancer-protective effects of mangos are underway.
Eating melons can help keep you hydrated due to their high fluid content; some melon varieties have a water content of 90 percent. Melons are typically low in calories (about 60 calories per cup) and rich in vitamins A and C and potassium, in addition to a variety of phytochemicals. For example, orange-fleshed melons are rich in beta-carotene, and watermelon contains heart-healthy lycopene and the amino acid citruline, which is linked with heart health.
Studies have linked melon consumption to an improvement in biomarkers of cardiovascular health. Some interesting research also suggests that drinking watermelon juice might aid in reducing muscle soreness caused by exercising.
Pomegranates have served as a celebratory food for thousands of years, as well as traditional medicine for healing all manner of ailments, such as infections and indigestion.
One serving (one-half cup of arils) provides 72 calories, along with a rich supply of the antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin K, heart-healthy potassium, and fiber.
Scientists are particularly interested in the pomegranate’s phytochemicals, which appear to protect the body against damaging free radicals. Studies suggest that pomegranates may be helpful in protecting against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and cognitive decline.
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