Eating more vegetables and fruits is advice for just about everyone. Fruit is packed with vitamins and minerals and has few calories. I am writing this in the summer when there are sweet peaches, juicy watermelons, and perfect strawberries in my market.
“Fruits and vegetables both come packaged with innumerable health benefits we have only begun to define,” says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., R.D., senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“… you can actually get higher quantities of some nutrients per fruit than in the same amount of vegetables.”
The ideal daily goal is 1½ to 2 cups of fruit. That’s easy to do this time of year, when a variety of sweet produce is in season, but don’t forget to look for frozen during the winter months. A serving of most fresh fruit or frozen fruit is about 1 cup or 1 piece. Fruit is high in water, so it is low in calories per bite but keep in mind that this is not true for dried fruit like raisins and prunes. Also, whole fruit will keep you full for longer than 100% fruit juice.
Whole fruits supply fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and carotenoids.
Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemical compounds produced by plants to help them thrive or thwart competitors, predators, or pathogens. They are found in the cells of a wide variety of plants, algae and bacteria. They are the plant pigments responsible for bright red, yellow and orange hues. They help plants absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis. People who eat foods containing carotenoids absorb these antioxidants that can also protect you from disease and enhance your immune system.
Carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A, which is essential for growth, immune system function, and eye health. They also have an important antioxidant function. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, carotenoids deactivate free radicals which are single oxygen atoms that can damage cells by reacting with other molecules,
Many people are concerned that summer-ripe berries can’t possibly be as healthy as kale, but that is just not true.
Because fruit contains natural sugars, many diets unfortunately recommend avoiding it or at least severely limiting fruit. But the sugars in fruit do not have the same negative effects on the body as high-fructose corn syrup or other types of sugars added to foods.
“Although the natural sugar in fruit is chemically similar to table sugar, our bodies process whole fruit differently because of the fiber, phytochemicals, and micronutrients,” says Hannah Meier, R.D., research associate at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. “Fiber slows the rate that the natural sugars are released into the bloodstream, preventing the spikes and crashes that might otherwise be experienced after eating a sugary treat.”
And the phytochemicals in berries might have an additional impact on weight. In a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at Harvard tracked more than 120,000 men and women for up to 24 years. They reported on their weight every two years and their diet every four years. The study found that those who ate the most phytochemical from plants were better able to maintain their weight as they got older. Anthocyanins are the phytochemicals that give blueberries, strawberries, and other blue, red, and purple fruits their color. They appear to have the most powerful effect.
Even people with diabetes should eat fruit.
“We tell diabetics to be mindful of portion sizes of fruit and count them as part of their carbohydrate intake,” Hunnes says. “But overly limiting fruit is dangerous because you’re cutting out vitamins, minerals, fiber, and extra water you could be getting in your diet.”
Fruits and vegetables are the bedrock of a blood-pressure-lowering diet call DASH. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension include about 2 1/2 cups of fruit a day. Eating fruit helps with getting enough potassium. Potassium is key in lowering blood pressure because it relaxes blood vessel walls and also helps to offset the negative effects of a diet too high in sodium.
According to the Department of Agriculture, when fruit is consumed in the recommended amounts, it contributes 16 percent of our recommended fiber intake and 17 percent of our potassium. Typical American diets are low in these nutrients. The fiber in fruit helps fill you up, and that may help with weight control, especially if you choose lower-calorie fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
A serving of strawberries has 91% the Food and Drug Administration’s Daily Value of vitamin C. it also has 8% of folate, 5% of potassium, 4% of magnesium, 3% of both vitamin K and iron!
- Guavas – pink
- Guavas – pink
- Dried apricots
- Kiwis – gold or green
- Dried peaches
- Guavas – pink
- Kiwis – gold or green
- Guavas – pink
- Kiwis – gold or green
- Guavas – pink
- Grapefruits – pink or red
Tips on choosing the right fruits:
- Mangos should give slightly when squeezed gently. Because color isn’t a good way to tell whether a mango is ripe, sniff them for a sweet aroma.
- Papayas ripen best at room temperature. Eat when they are mostly yellow-orange. Slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the black seeds, cut off the rind, and slice into chunks. Papayas are even better with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- Kiwis do not have to be skinned to eat. The gold kiwi is sweeter, has a less fuzzy skin than the green and it has a smaller core. Gold kiwis have nearly twice as much vitamin C as the green variety but green kiwis have more vitamin K. For a short time in the fall or winter, a grape-sized fruit call a kiwi berry can be found and they are delicious.
- Pineapples that are ready to eat will have deep green leaves and yellowish skin. Cut them up when they start to smell sweet and store in the refrigerator.
- Bananas should be kept on the countertop. Storing them in the fridge slows ripening and turns the skins black. If you don’t want your bananas to ripen too fast, store them away from other fruits. If your bananas get overripe, peel, chop and freeze. These chunks are great to add to a smoothie.
Apples and Pears
- An apple’s skin contains half the apple’s fiber.
- Color isn’t a good way to tell if a pear is ripe. A pear producer’s advice is to check the neck of the pear. it will be ripe when the flesh around the stem yields to gentle pressure. There is an exception: Asian pears stay crisp and are usually picked when they are ripe.
- Peaches, plums and apricots can ripen in a closed brown bag until they yield slightly to the touch. Then move them to the fridge if you are not going to eat them right away.
- Cherries should be left unwashed until you are ready to eat them to keep them from getting soft and moldy.
Blackberries are sweet, tart and succulent! They belong to the same family as dewberries and raspberries and they grow on thorny bushes called brambles. Blackberries are native to North America.
One cup of raw blackberries has only 62 calories, 1 gram of fat, and only 14 carbs.
Blackberries also have a low Glycemic Index (GI), at 25. GI ranks how carb-containing foods may impact your blood glucose response. A rating of 55 or lower is considered less likely to spike blood sugar levels. Glycemic Load (GL) takes into account the GI as well as the grams of carbohydrates in a typical serving. GL is considered to be a more accurate assessment of how a food can impact blood sugar. Blackberries’ GL is only 4, which is very low.
Blackberries are loaded with vitamin C, an antioxidant that may help fight off infections. One cup of raw blackberries has 30.2 mg of vitamin C. That’s half the daily recommended value. Vitamin C is integral to collagen formation in bones, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Vitamin C may also help you:
- heal wounds
- regenerate the skin
- battle free radicals (molecules released by toxins) in the body
- absorb iron
- shorten the common cold
- prevent scurvy
Some studies suggest vitamin C helps reduce the formation of cancer-causing substances in the body. It is thought that the antioxidants in vitamin C reduce oxidative stress in the body that can lead to cancer.
Blackberries are an excellent source of the two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and it is associated with lowering blood sugar levels and helping a person maintain a healthy level of cholesterol. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but supports healthy digestion. Fiber helps normalize bowel movement, lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. A 100 g serving of blackberries contains 14 percent of the RDA of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot break down into smaller, sugar molecules, as it does with other carbs. Fiber plays an crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels and sugar consumption.
Blackberries also contain vitamin A, which helps several functions in the body. Vitamin A supports the immune system, combating infections and illness. It also supports the growth and maintenance of teeth and bones, as well as keeping skin healthy. Vitamin A is responsible for producing the pigments in the retina of the eye and helps to support sight, particularly in dim lighting.
Blackberries have vitamin E, which is another powerful antioxidant. They also provide you with B-complex vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folate, which are all essential for optimal brain health.
Blackberries are an excellent source of vitamin K. This is a necessary nutrient for blood clotting, which is essential for proper wound healing. Studies have also linked good bone health to vitamin K.
Blackberries contain an array of essential minerals as well, including copper, magnesium and potassium. Plus, they’re rich in phytochemicals.
Blackberries are a good source of manganese which is vital to healthy bone development and a healthy immune system. It also helps your body metabolize carbs, amino acids, and cholesterol. Like vitamin C, manganese plays a key role in the formation of collagen. And the enzyme that helps manganese form collagen, prolidase, also helps wounds heal properly. Manganese may help prevent osteoporosis, manage blood sugar levels, and reduce epileptic seizures. One cup of raw blackberries contains 0.9 milligrams of manganese, almost half the daily recommended value.
Blackberries may improve brain health and help prevent memory loss caused by aging, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The review concluded that antioxidants in berries help fight free radicals and alter how brain neurons communicate. This may help reduce brain inflammation, which can lead to cognitive and motor issues common with aging. These compounds may help scavenge free radicals that play a role in aging and chronic diseases. In particular, anthocyanins, which are responsible for the fruit’s color, were suggested to help protect against cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer and other neurological diseases.
A 2013 study found blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities against some types of bacteria that cause oral disease.
How to Buy
Blackberries are fresh in the markets from June through August. Choose berries that are plump, tender, and bright in color. Avoid containers that are damp or stained, which might be signs of overripe fruit. Remove and discard any moldy or mushy berries so mold won’t spread to other berries.
Unlike some fruits, berries don’t ripen or get sweeter after picking.
How to Store
While blackberries can be easily stored, they’re highly perishable and delicate. To lengthen the freshness and avoid spoilage, do not wash them until you are planning to eat or freeze them. Refrigerate the unwashed berries, loosely covered, in a single layer.
Freezing blackberries can prolong their shelf life up to six months. To do this, rinse the berries, pat them dry, then lay them flat on a baking sheet in a single layer and put them in the freezer. Once the berries are thoroughly frozen, you can store them in a resealable bag or freezer container.
How to Cook
Do not rinse blackberries under running water because the pressure can crush them. Instead, place the berries in a colander and dip them in a bowl of cold water. Gently swish the colander in the water, then allow the berries to drain.
Add blackberries to salads and smoothies.
Nutrition Action/ Photo credit Kate Sherwood/CSPI
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- grind of black pepper
- 4 cups salad greens
- 1/2 cup blackberries
- 1/2 cup cucumber
- 1/4 cup sliced radish
To make the dressing, mix the vinegar, oil, syrup, salt and pepper together.
Toss the greens, blackberries, cucumbers and radishes together.
Drizzle with dressing.