Health Benefits of Fruit

Fruit has been recognized as a good source of vitamins and minerals, and for their role in preventing vitamin C and vitamin A deficiencies. People who eat fruit as part of an overall healthy diet generally have a reduced risk of chronic diseases. USDA's MyPlate encourages making half your plate fruits and vegetables for healthy eating.

Fruit are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin C and folate (folic acid). Try incorporating blueberries, citrus fruit, cranberries or strawberries which contain phytochemicals that are being studied for added health benefits. 

Eating Fruit Provides Health Benefits

The nutrients in fruit are vital for health and maintenance of your body. The potassium in fruit can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Potassium may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss as you age.

Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy need adequate folate. Folate helps prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida.

More Health Benefits of Fruit:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruit may reduce risk for stroke, other cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes.
  • A fruit containing eating pattern is part of an overall healthy diet and may protect against certain cancers.
  • Fruit helps maintain optimum health due to the health promoting phytochemicals it contains – many of which are still being identified.
  • One to 2-1/2 cups of fruit are recommended each day, depending on how many calories you need. To find out how much fruit you need, try the Healthy Eating Planner.
     
     

Blueberries are an all-star food and a colorful and delicious addition to anything from your morning bowl of cereal to your evening scoop of ice cream.

Blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are responsible for the blue/purple color of these berries. Anthocyanins are more than just pigments -- they are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to inhibit free radicals from damaging cells in the

body1. This ability suggests that anthocyanins may play a role in cancer prevention2.

Studies suggest that the antioxidant properties of anthocyanins may protect against cardiovascular diseases (including stroke) as well as neurodegenerative disorders of aging, such as Alzheimer’s

disease2. Anthocyanins in blueberries may also improve learning and

memory.

Blueberry History

The blueberry belongs to the genus Vaccinium. Other berries in this genus include cranberries, lingonberries and huckleberries. The blueberry is one of the few fruits that are native to North America.

Native Americans gathered fresh blueberries for centuries, and revered them so much that parts of the plant were used for medicine. In 1620, Native Americans taught pilgrims in the Plymouth settlement how to gather blueberries, dry them, and store them for the winter.

Did you know?

There are more than 450 different types of blueberry plants! The plant grows wild around the world. The wild blueberry is a hardy, small bush that can survive in the wild as far north as Arctic North America.

The Southern Rabbiteye blueberry thrives in the southern regions of the U.S. The Northern Highbush variety grows wild in the forests of North America.

July is known as National Blueberry Month, because blueberry production reaches its peak during this month.

Where are Blueberries Grown?

North America produces nearly 90% of the world’s blueberry crop. The North American blueberry harvest runs from mid-April through early October. Michigan produces the largest blueberry crop in the United States, followed by Oregon, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Tips for Enjoying Blueberries

  • Sprinkle on top of pancakes or in pancake batter.
  • Mix blueberries in your favorite morning cereal.
  • Blend milk, blueberries and yogurt for a delicious smoothie.
  • Add dried blueberries to your trail mix.
  • Substitute dried blueberries for raisins in your favorite recipes.
  • Stir in blueberry juice into lemonade or iced tea.

Tip

Do not wash blueberries until just before eating or using in your recipes to prevent berries from becoming mushy.

Unwashed blueberries will stay fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator if kept dry.

Enjoy the health benefits of blueberries.

 

     
     
Health Benefits of Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits, in addition to tangerines and pomelos. Not only are the citrus fruits in this diverse group delicious and refreshing, they earn their definition of an all-star food because they contain compounds called flavonoids,

 which may have anticancer properties1

Citrus flavonoids are also antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals

 and may protect against heart disease1. Studies show that citrus

 flavonoids may improve blood flow through coronary arteries, reduce the ability of arteries to form blood clots and prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques1.

Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, and are good sources of folate and thiamin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body

from damaging free radicals2. It is also required for the synthesis of collagen, which helps

wounds heal and helps hold blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bone together. Folate is necessary for cell division and DNA synthesis. Thiamin is a B vitamin important in metabolism.

Wonderful World of Citrus Fruit

While the orange is a favorite among citrus, there are many other unique varieties of citrus that you may not have heard about. Try something new!

Cara cara orange – a type of navel orange that looks like a regular orange on the outside, but is a distinctive pinkish red on the inside. Cara cara oranges are very sweet and have a tangy hint of cranberries.

Blood orange – smaller than the average orange, the blood orange gets its name from the striking bright red to maroon interior. Blood oranges have an intense orange flavor with a hint of fresh raspberry.

Pomelo – the largest citrus fruit, the pomelo closely resembles the grapefruit. Pomelos have a thick yellow to green skin, with an interior that ranges from white to deep pink. Pomelos taste sweeter and less acidic than grapefruit.

Minneola tangelo – a hybrid between the grapefruit and tangerine, this fruit has a refreshing combination of tart and sweet flavors.

Did you Know?

The vitamin C in citrus fruit strongly enhances the absorption of iron in food. Vitamin C binds to iron in the digestive tract and the iron-vitamin C complex is absorbed together.

Useful Tips

Store citrus fruit at room temperature if you'll eat it in a week or so; otherwise, it will keep in the crisper for six to eight weeks.

Squirt some lemon juice on fresh cut fruits or fresh guacamole to prevent them from browning quickly.

Enjoy health benefits of citrus fruit with recipes with lemon or orange.

 
     
     
Health Benefits of Cranberries

People are raving about this tart little berry as an all-star food, and with good reason. Cranberries contain a powerful cocktail of plant chemicals like flavonoids and phenolic acids that are being investigated for their role as antioxidants in the body1.

Researchers are also looking at cranberry extracts for their potential in future cancer-treatment drugs2.

In addition to antioxidant properties, there is limited evidence that cranberries lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by influencing the lipoprotein profile3.

Health Benefits of Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice been used for decades for the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTI). Multiple studies suggest that drinking cranberry juice may decrease UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the cells that line the bladder4.

Cranberry Trivia

  • The Algonquin Indians may have been the first people to harvest wild cranberries. They used the berries for food, medicine and as a symbol of peace.
  • The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod named the berry “ibimi”, which means bitter berry.
  • Cranberries are filled with air pockets, which makes them bounce. In fact, you can tell if a cranberry is fresh by whether or not it bounces. Rotten berries will not bounce. The air pocket also allows cranberries to float in water.
  • Cranberries are composed of almost 90% water.
  • There are about 3,333 cranberries in a gallon of cranberry juice!

Did you Know?

Wisconsin produces the largest cranberry crop out of all the states in the U.S. In fact, the cranberry is Wisconsin’s official state fruit.

Cranberries do not grow in water, but on low-running vines in marshes. When the fruit is ripe, the marsh is flooded. The floating berries are then more easily harvested.

Cranberry Craze

Don’t let the tartness of this berry discourage you, there are many ways to enjoy cranberries!

  • Substitute sweetened dried cranberries in any baked good recipe calling for raisins.
  • Sprinkle your salad with dried sweetened cranberries for a tart surprise.
  • A homemade cranberry glaze can liven up any chicken or pork dish.
  • Add a splash of cranberry juice to lemonade for a refreshing treat.
  • Make your own, healthier soft drink by mixing 1 part cranberry juice with 1 part club soda.
  • Mix 1/4 cup raw cranberries with 1 small unpeeled orange (diced) and 1/4 sugar in the blender. Blend for 40 seconds, then mix with whipped butter for a refreshing new treat to add on your morning waffles or pancakes.

Tip

Take advantage of cranberries' tartness by using them to replace vinegar or lemon when dressing your green salads. Toss the greens with a little olive oil then add color and zest with a handful of raw cranberries.

One serving of raw cranberries is 1/2 cup.

Enjoy the health benefits of cranberries by serving cranberry recipes

 
     
     
Health Benefits of Grapes

Grapes are loaded with nutrients and provide many of the same health benefits of lemon or orange wine, without the alcohol.

Phytonutrients, plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds. are bioactive compounds that are not designated as traditional nutrients, but have been shown to have health benefits in humans – grapes are loaded with them, particularly in the skin.

Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant synthesized by the grape plant for antifungal and defensive properties. Numerous research studies have demonstrated the health benefits of resveratrol. It lowers risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing lipid oxidation and it modulates levels of lipids and lipoproteins in the body. Resveratrol is also a potent antioxidant, which not only reduces oxidation, but also helps to strengthen other antioxidant substances in the body.

The polyphenols found in grapes, have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing platelet aggregation which prevents blood clots, protect low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” from free radical damage, lower blood pressure, and improve the function of blood vessels.

Grapes are also an excellent source of manganese and a good source of vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, and vitamin C.

Grapes - History + Use

Grapes grow in clusters of 6 to 300 on vines. They range in color from crimson to black to yellow. Grapes were first cultivated as early as 5,000 BC. They are mentioned in many biblical stories where they are referred to as “fruit of the vine”.

European travelers spread them all over the world during their travels. They were first brought to the US in the 17th century, where they migrated to the central valley of California and thrived due to the climate and absence of grape-preying insects. Today California produces most of the grapes consumed in the US.

Grapes should be stored in the refrigerator and washed right before eating. To keep them fresh longer, grapes can be frozen by arranging them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and placing them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, they can be stored in a plastic bag. Frozen grapes make a delicious snack, especially on a hot day.

                            Grape Tips

Grapes can be enjoyed alone as a snack or used in a variety of recipes. Below are some ways to increase the amount of grapes in your diet:

  • Serve stewed grapes with meat items
  • Add grapes to rice dishes for a touch of sweetness
  • Add to a green salad or fruit salad
  • Place sliced grapes on your favorite sandwich
  • Serve grapes with cheese and crackers

Grape juice is an excellent way to take advantage of the health benefits of grapes without the alcohol content of wine. Studies have shown that juice made from concord grapes have the highest amount of antioxidants when compared to other juice products.

Enjoy Health Benefits of Grapes - 

 
     
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