Fruits that pack the best nutritional punch
Forget all that negative talk about its sugar content– experts say fruit is still a vital part of a healthy diet. So which types should you reach for?
Fruit has been having a hard time lately. Some say it’s full of sugar, is fattening and others claim it irritates the gut.
But other experts have rushed to defend fruit for its powerhouse nutrients and the crucial role it plays in a healthy diet.
University of South Australia Bachelor of Nutrition and Food Sciences program director Dr Evangeline Mantzioris says there is another important bonus of fruit: “It’s delicious.”
“Fruit is an incredibly valuable source of nutrients that help our body to reduce the development of diseases,” Dr Mantzioris says.
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Why natural sugar is not the enemy
Although fruit contains sugar, Dr Mantzioris says it is so minimal compared with processed food and drinks that it doesn’t impact our health.
Dietitian Joel Feren says fruit is a “wonderful source of fibre, antioxidants and other plant-based compounds to help reduce the risk of diseases like cancer”.
“Eating more fruit can even improve our mental health. It just can’t be put in the same basket as confectionary or soft drink,” Joel says.
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Which types of fruit are best for you?
Dr Mantzioris says it’s important to eat a range of coloured fruits.
“All the different colours in fruit are responsible for different phytonutrients and, in fruit, they all work together,” she says.
“This is as opposed to using supplements where you don’t get all the phytonutrients in the appropriate amounts and combinations.”
Strawberries, watermelon, red grapes, pomegranates and raspberries are packed with lycopene, which reduces the risk of heart disease and may protect against prostate cancer.
Pomegranates are a good source of ellagic acid, which helps reduce the risk of cancer.
Citrus fruits, papaya and pawpaw are filled with vitamin C and carotenoids, which go on to form vitamin A.
Vitamin A is important for the immune system, eye health, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and boosts the amount of collagen.
Tip: Any fruit that doesn’t turn brown when you cut it will contain some vitamin C.
Kiwi, avocado, grapes and green apples contain vitamin K, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to improve eye health and the immune system.
Blue and purple fruit
Blueberries, plums, dark red figs and blackberries are filled with anthocyanins and resveratrol, which are good for the heart, blood vessels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as dementia, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Bananas are great for reducing the risk of heart disease, inflammation, cancer and contain resistant starch to maintain a healthy microbiome.
It’s a myth that the more yellow the banana, the more sugar it contains.
Rather, the carbohydrates change and the taste of the fruit’s sugar becomes more pronounced.
Tip: Bananas are recommended when suffering gastro because they can help to re-grow healthy bacteria.
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3 essential fruit tips
- Eating two to three pieces of fruit daily
- Eat seasonal varieties for freshness and cost
- Eat fruit whole rather than in a juice or smoothie to ensure you get the fibre.
Written by Catherine Lambert.