Tastes great and is always ready to eat, fruit which is also known as “Nature’s Candy” is a convenient snack, satisfies our sugar cravings, or is something that can be added to foods for some pizazz. Any way you eat it, it will add valuable vitamins and minerals our body needs for optimal health.
Health benefits of fruit
I find that most individuals understand and accept why vegetables play such a big role in this recommendation, but many don’t understand why fruits are so important. Many shy away from fruit for many reasons including the belief that fruit is not good for them because they are high in sugar, and calories, and don’t have the same benefits as their vegetable counterparts. These reasons are all incorrect as fruits have many health benefits including being jam-packed with nutrients.
- Many are excellent sources of vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for your health. It plays many roles in the body. For example, it: helps heal wounds, acts as an antioxidant and helps the body absorb iron. It is generally found in citrus fruit such as oranges, lemons, tangerines, grapefruit, and kiwis
- Good source of vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for your health as it plays many different roles in the body: It may help keep skin healthy, keep good night vision and it is part of normal bone growth. Vitamin A is found in fruits such as mango, cantaloupes, papaya, apricot, tangerines, and guavas.
- An excellent source of potassium: Potassium plays a very important role in regulating fluid in our body, regulating blood pressure, as well as muscle contractions. Potassium can be found in fruits such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, honeydew, apricots, and grapefruits.
- They are high sources of antioxidants and flavonoids: Antioxidants and flavonoids protect our body from the damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. This damages cells which play a role in aging, inflammation, and diseases such as cancers. This damage can be caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, pollution, prolonged sun exposure, and other toxins. Antioxidants and flavonoids can be found in fruits such as apples, berries, cherries, and citrus fruits
- An excellent source of fiber, and provides our bodies with great sources of carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of fuel. Fiber delays the absorption of carbohydrates by the body to help regulate blood sugar. This fuel can either be used right away for energy, or stored in the liver or muscles to use later on. The fiber fruit contains also has many other health benefits; it helps to decrease cholesterol, helps to control appetite, it also helps to regulate bowel movements
- Hydration: Fruits have a higher water content which helps to keep the body hydrated.
How much fruit should we be eating a day?
According to Canada’s Food Guide, we should be aiming to have half our plate with fruits and vegetables. The confusion I find most people have is how much of this should be fruit and how much should be vegetables. Well, there are no actual numbers as to how many servings of each you should have. However, I tell my clients to try and aim for half their plate in vegetables and then aim for about 2-4 servings of fruits (this number will also depend on your age, activity, and health goal). But it is a good starting point. The other common question I get is what is a serving of fruit? This can be:
- 1 fruit the size of a tennis ball (i.e. 1 medium apple, orange, pear, etc.)
- 2 small fruits, such as apricots, plums, kiwis
- 1 cup of cut-up fruits or smaller fruits, such as melon, grapes, cherries
- 2 Tbsp of dried fruit (such as raisins)
Tips from a Registered Dietitian to increase fruit consumption
Now that we know of all the amazing health benefits fruits can offer us, how can we increase our consumption of them?
- Fruits are great snacks, they are easy to just grab on the go as most are ready to go with no preparation required.
- They can be added to things like smoothies and baked goods, or just tossed onto cereal or yogurt.
- I make it easier for everyone in my household by having the fruit ready to go. When I bring them back from the supermarket, I wash everything that needs washing, and place it in easily accessible places, on the counter, or at eye level in the fridge so that it is easy to grab but also visible to remind everyone to eat it.
- Fruit can not only be eaten fresh, but it can also be just as nutritious and convenient to have in the form of frozen fruit or dried fruit.
- Frozen is equally comparable to fresh, with the same nutrition.
- If you are choosing fruit in canned format, look for them to be packed in water or their own juice. Avoid using those that are packed in syrup, as they have a high amount of added sugar.
- There also needs to be some caution with dried fruit, but only regarding quantity. The carbohydrate content in these two options is more concentrated because they have been dehydrated.
So, next time you are running out the door or craving something sweet, reach for your favorite organic fruit!
Sofia Kalamaris, RD, CDE