A Fresh Look at Food
Fruits and veggies are the new superstars of the food world! Magazines, food shows, and the internet are full of recipes featuring fresh fruit and vegetables – often as the centerpiece of a meal. And with the wide variety of fresh produce available throughout the year, it’s never been easier to incorporate produce into your diet. New dietary guidelines recommend that half of each meal should consist of fruits and vegetables. Research consistently shows that a low-fat diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, as well as cardiovascular and other diseases. This healthy approach to eating will leave you satisfied and full of energy.
Be Fruitful – Be Healthy!
Fruit has so much going for it – vitamins, fiber, antioxidants. And best of all, it satisfies your sweet tooth, making you less likely to reach for candy or junk food. Learn more about the specific health benefits of each type fruit grown by Family Tree Farms.
Which type of fruit is the healthiest?
It seems like everyday there is a new report touting this fruit or that vegetable as the new superfood. While it’s good to know a thing or two about your food, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in trying to find that one “perfect food.” Most nutrition experts believe that it takes hundreds of phytochemicals, found in a wide array fruits and vegetables, working together to create the ultimate benefit for our bodies. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, what matters is variety, frequency, and color.
“Antioxidant” is a broad term given to phytochemical nutrients that protect the cells of living organisms (like us!) against damage (oxidation) caused by “free radicals.” Free radicals are cells which have been damaged and thus are missing a critical molecule. These free radicals then go on the attack, ravaging nearby healthy cells. Free radicals are a created by the body’s own natural processes such as metabolism, but also by exposure to substances the body considers toxic. Antioxidants act as a protective shield for the healthy cells. There are numerous categories of antioxidants, each providing different benefits and each found in different types of food.
So by all means, add blueberries to your oatmeal, and cut up a peach for your kids. But don’t forget to add colorful peppers to your stir fry and include kale in your salad. The “best” fruit or vegetable is really a colorful combination of all of them!
Peaches and Nectarines
Peaches and Nectarines contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol. They’re a good source of vitamin C and contain other important vitamins and minerals including potassium and vitamin A. They’re also a delicious source of beneficial fiber. For those watching their blood sugar, peaches and nectarines rate low on the glycemic index at around 42.
Several powerful antioxidants can be found in peaches and nectarines. Most notable among these are phenols, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), anthocyanin (red pigments) and carotenoid (orange pigments.). The phytonutrients found in the red, orange and white pigments of peaches and nectarines are believed to be beneficial in maintaining healthy prostate and urinary tract systems; healthy heart and circulatory systems; maintaining strong eye health; and fighting off cancer. Multiple studies have looked at the specific antioxidant properties of peaches and nectarines; here are a few of the highlights.
- Two of the phenolic acids found in peaches and nectarines inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting (without adversely affecting normal cell growth). While more study is needed, the results offer the possibility of updating traditional chemotherapy treatment which destroys healthy cells along with the cancerous cells.
- Although yellow flesh varieties have a higher carotenoid content than white flesh, there is no clear trend between the two in overall antioxidant capacity.
- In general, white flesh varieties contain higher amounts of ascorbic acid.
- The skin always contains higher levels of all phenolics, carotenoids and total ascorbic acid than the flesh.
- The levels of individual phenolic compounds and overall antioxidant capacity vary substantially from variety to variety.
Conclusion: With a good supply a vitamin C, plus fiber and antixodants, both white and yellow varieties of peaches and nectarines may be helpful in supporting your immune system and improving overall health. Enjoy them with the skin on to reap the highest nutrient content.
Plumcots and Plums
Plumcots and Plums are fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free. They’re a good source of vitamin C and contain other important vitamins and minerals including potassium and vitamin A. If you’re looking to boost your fiber intake, plums and plumcots are the way to go. They’re also low on the glycemic index, with a score of 39. This makes them a perfect snack, one that wont cause a spike in blood sugar.
Plumcots and plums have been found to have antioxidant levels similar to that found in blueberries or red wine. One study determined that plumcots and plums with red flesh have antioxidant capacity three times that of pomegranates and five times that of red wine. The phytonutrients in plumcots and plums are thought to be beneficial in protecting against cancer and heart disease; for promoting better brain function; and for maintaining prostate and urinary tract health, just to name a few of the benefits. From numerous studies looking at the antioxidant properties of plumcots and plums, scientists have also noted:
- The phytonutrients in plumcots and plums inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting (without adversely affecting normal cell growth). While more study is needed, the results offer a promising update to traditional chemotherapy treatment which destroys healthy cells along with the cancerous cells.
- While red flesh plums generally had higher anthocyanin and phenolic contents than other plums, some lighter-fleshed plums with dark skin also scored high in this category.
- Concentrations of antioxidants vary considerably by variety.
Conclusion: Plumcots and plums are nutritional champs, providing flavorful energy, fiber, vitamins, and beneficial antioxidants to your diet.
Apricots and Apriums
Apricots are excellent sources of vitamins A and C. They are also a rich source of dietary fiber and potassium and one of the best fruit choices for beta carotene. Vitamin A and beta carotene are both important in maintaining healthy vision. Additionally, apricots may help sustain your immune system and promote healthy skin. A serving of fresh apricot rates a low glycemic index score of 20 which makes it perfect for keeping up your energy without spiking your blood sugar.
Research into the antioxidant properties of apricots reveals some of the following fidings:
- Eating apricots may protect the heart from further damage following a heart attack.
- The phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity in apricots increase as the fruits ripen. This is largely due to the high content of carotenoids present in the orange skin and flesh.
- While all varieties of apricots contained mostly the same types of antioxidants, the levels can vary considerably from variety to variety.
Conclusion: Apricots are a tasty source of vitamins and fiber. Allow them to ripen to a full orange color to get the best nutritional benefit.
Blueberries hit the nutrition bullseye. They’re packed with vitamin C and are an excellent source of manganese, and important element in bone development. They’re also high in fiber and virtually fat free. Blueberries have a relatively low glycemic index rating of 46.
In many ways, blueberries are responsible for introducing the public to the term “antioxidant”. As researchers started to identify the vast array of micronutrients in food, blueberries were one of the first products to garner the attention of the scientific community. Some of the exciting findings over the years include:
- The compounds in blueberries and other berries were found to change the way neurons in the brain communicate. Alleviating inflammation in the brain allowed for improvement in both motor control and cognitive ability. The hope is that further research will lead to effective treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and other degenerative brain issues.
- Blueberry consumption has been shown to reduce the size and slow the progression of breast cancer cells in laboratory mice. Further research may lead to an oral dose therapy can be developed for use in human trials. Additionally, other studies have shown that the same phenolic compounds in blueberries have been effective in preventing estrogen-induced breast cancer.
- Multiple studies have looked at the relationship between blueberry consumption and a reduction in abdominal fat. Not only did the mice in the study lose weight in their belly area, but their cholesterol improved as did their glucose control and insulin sensitivity. All of these improvements came with no change in diet other than the addition of blueberry powder.
Conclusion – Blueberries are possibly one of the most widely studied foods of all time. Head to toe, it seems there’s nothing these “Little Blue Dynamos” can’t do for you. Blueberries are available year round so start a good habit and make them a part of your daily diet. Your taste buds will thank you now, your body will thank you years down the road.
For an complete listing of recent scientific research involving blueberries, please visit the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Cherries are high in vitamins A and C and a good source of fiber. With only 100 calories in a one cup serving, cherries are a great choice for those watching their caloric intake. And if you’re keeping and eye on your blood sugar, cherries have one of the lowest rankings among fruit on the glycemic index scale at around 22.
It should come as no surprise that cherries are high in antioxidants, particularly the anthocyanins found in dark colored fruits and vegetables. This particular group of phytochemicals has been linked to improvements in everything from brain health to reducing inflammation. Cherries have long been a “folk remedy” for a variety of ailments. Scientific research is now adding credibility to some of these long-held beliefs.
- Strong evidence suggests that cherries not only alleviate the pain associated with gout but can also help reduce recurrences in those with chronic gout. Cherries and cherry extract are thought to help in two ways – by reducing plasma urate, which leads to the buildup of uric acid, and by controlling the joint inflammation associated with gout.
- The same properties that help with gout are also believed to lower general inflammation throughout the body. While this could be quite beneficial to arthritis sufferers, it also holds promise in the areas of cardiac health and cancer prevention.
Conclusion: Cherries can be enjoyed as part of a low-fat, heart-healthy diet. The anti-inflammatory properties are an added bonus.
Satsuma Mandarins, like all types of citrus, are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A. They also contain beneficial fiber as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals. A glycemic index number has not been determined specifically for mandarins, or for many of the subsets of citrus. It is probably safe to assume that a serving of mandarin has a rating similar to that of oranges which is considered low – in the 30 – 40 range.
Vitamin C was one of the earliest nutrients identified in food. Early sailors may not have known exactly why they needed citrus, they just knew that it kept them from getting scurvy – a disease that is virtually unknown today. More recently, research has found that citrus can be helpful in alleviating a number of modern health concerns. A few highlights:
- Consumption of mandarin orange juice, along with a low calorie diet, was shown to reduce plasma biomarkers of oxidative stress in children with high cholesterol. The antioxidant properties in citrus are believed to help lower cholesterol as part of an overall heart-healthy diet.
- Insulin resistance is a key element in the condition known as metabolic syndrome, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. A flavenoid found in citrus called naringenin, was found to be effective in correcting many of the metabolic disturbances associated with insulin resistance. Although this study was done with mice, it creates a promising scenario for the treatment of insulin resistance and diabetes in humans.
- Much has been written about the ability of vitamin C to prevent and shorten the duration of the common cold. But this appears to be one situation where modern science does not bear out the folk science. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “More than 30 clinical trials including over 10,000 participants have examined the effects of taking daily vitamin C. Overall, no significant reduction in the risk of developing colds has been observed. In people who developed colds while taking vitamin C, no difference in the severity of the symptoms has been seen overall.”
Conclusion: Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is one of the most important elements in the human diet. It aids the body in the formation of collagen in bones, cartilage, muscles and blood vessels. Ascorbic acid is a powerful antioxidant and is best consumed in the form of fresh food, with citrus being one of the best options possible.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professionals. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition.