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Nutrition

Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

5 Healthy Benefits of Fruit

Some people believe fruits are sugar bombs primed to explode and ruin your best dieting attempts. In reality, fruits contain a variety of nutrients and plentiful water and electrolytes. Fiber-rich and flavor-filled, fruits can help lower your cholesterol level and lower your blood pressure in only a few months.

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The USDA's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends eating at least two cups of fruit each daily. Paired with eating at least two and a half cups of vegetables, this leads to the general guide of "5-a-day."

But only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. What's more, the parameters are not merely based on some oddball number. Instead, it is set to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Truly, the health benefits of fruit are undoubted and noteworthy thanks to its rich nutrient profile!

5 Health Benefits of Fruit

From curing hangovers to protecting from heart disease, do not miss out on these benefits of fruit.

1. Noteworthy Nutrition

Fruit’s nutritional profile is truly something to write home about. Fruit is naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories while being ample in nutrients. Most commonly sourced nutrients in fruit include dietary fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins A and C.

Fruits also contain plant compounds, also known as phytochemicals. Carotenoids are some of the colored phytochemicals and give fruits their rich, unique colors. But they also provide a number of health benefits.

For instance, watermelon is rich in the carotenoid lycopene. Not only does lycopene gift watermelon's deep red color, but may protect against certain types of cancers and heart disease.

Blueberries are another example of how carotenoids offer color and benefits. They are considerably rich in the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, which is the pigment responsible for red, purple, and blue crops. Beyond its beautiful blue contribution, anthocyanin may inhibit the development or progression of skin cancer by protecting from sun damage.

2. Weight Loss

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced, healthy diet can help those lose weight.

The rich dietary fiber content of fruit also assists in weight loss. High-fiber foods are generally low in calories and tend to be more filling than non-fiber foods. The combination of low-calorie and satiety may facilitate weight loss and/or encourage weight maintenance.

3. Heart Health

Most fruits contain a good dose of potassium, including bananas, prunes, tomatoes, and avocados. Diets rich in potassium from fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased blood pressure overall. The result is related to potassium content, as it lessens the effects of sodium that can increase blood pressure.

Watermelon contains L-arginine, a compound that works to help lower blood pressure. It works at the surface of the lining of blood vessels, which helps relax the blood vessel when it is constricted. Citrulline is another compound found in fresh melon fruits and may also help reduce cholesterol levels in certain individuals.

Apples are a healthful fruit loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber to protect heart health. They also show to increase uric acid in the blood, which may protect blood vessels form damage. Lycopene is a compound found in tomatoes that provide its red color. It may also reduce systolic pressure (the pressure read first on a blood pressure reading).

The compilation of weight loss and heart-healthy factors lowers the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.

4. Hangover Cure?

If happy hour got too happy, most people have their own hangover regimen to off-balance unpleasant symptoms from the night prior. However, this tends to be towards a greasy breakfast platter or large cheese pizza…

But rather than going for less-than-nutritious foods, go for a piece of fruit. Reaching for the fruit bowl may work in a hangover's favor thanks to a number of their healthful properties.

Alcohol is a natural diuretic, ridding water throughout the body, and the primary cause of that pounding headache. Rehydrating the body (and the brain) can help alleviate the pain and get blood flowing. Watermelon is one the best fruits to enjoy for this reason, as water makes up 92 percent of the volume!

Fruits as a whole also tend to be rich in potassium, an electrolyte often depleted related to alcohol's diuretic effect. Consuming bananas and other potassium-rich fruits can help stabilize potassium levels, which may combat against fatigue and muscle cramps after a long night out.

5. Aging and Cancer Protection

Again, the colorful compounds in fruits and fresh foods can really pack a punch for protecting cells from aging and cancer.

Most of these natural plant compounds serve as antioxidants, which fight free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body. Constant exposure of free radicals without the protection of antioxidants can also accelerate the aging process.

But consuming adequate intake of antioxidants may add on more youthful years of life. Antioxidants have also shown to protect against age-related diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Like aging, damaged body cells may accelerate chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Despite conflicting data, most researchers do recognize that the presence of antioxidants may prevent and reduce cancer risk and progression.

As a specific example, strawberries are high in the chemicals anthocyanins and ellagic acid. Studies show consuming berries that contain these bioactive compounds may have potential to protect against cancer.

Preserving the Benefits of Fruit

No fruits should be considered forbidden fruits. However, there are additional considerations when selecting fruits and related products to ensure the integrity of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Choose Whole Fruit Over Fruit Juices:
First and foremost, fruits should be ultimately be consumed in their whole form rather than as a juice. Juices are often concentrated with additional sugars and lack fiber.

What's more, it takes about 5 apples to make one 8-ounce glass of apple juice. Most would have a difficult time eating five apple all at once, but drinking the juice makes it easy. And not to mention, getting 5 apples worth of sugar in one sitting! (Something not likely to occur if consuming the entire fruit…)

A greater consumption of fruit juice is associated with a higher risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes. If deciding to drink a glass of juice, stick to a 4-ounce serving.

Consider the Ripening Process:
The ripening process can also influence sugar content. Take, for instance, a banana. As it ripens, it becomes less starchy and apparently more naturally sweet.

Sweeter, more ripened fruits are often more readily absorbed. This can cause greater spikes in blood sugar, especially if consumed without a protein or fat source.

Be Cautious of Dried Fruits:
Dried fruits are concentrated with calories and sugar and raisins are a great example of this. A ¼ cup of raisins contains 130 calories and are primarily a carb source, supplying 31 grams of total carbohydrate.

On the other hand, you can enjoy 1.5 cups of grapes for only 90 calories and 24 grams of carb! These principles serve true for other dried fruits, including dried cranberries or "Craisins."

Pair Fruit with Protein or Healthy Fat:
Fruit contains the natural sugar known as fructose. This fruit sugar gives fruits their pleasant, sweet taste. However, fructose can also lead to blood sugar spikes and dips.

The natural fiber content does help slow the absorption of fruit. However, pairing fruit with a protein or healthy fat can also help stabilize blood sugar. It also helps induce satiety and increases satisfaction.

Helpful fruit pairings may include blueberries and yogurt, a banana and peanut butter, and grapes and string cheese. Apples and turkey slices and peaches and cottage cheese are also balanced pairings.



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