“In a giant fruit basket, here’s what I found: Grapes and Grapefruit, Plums, sweet and round, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries too, Dates and Figs, as sticky as glue!
Apples and Pineapples, Cherries and Pears, Peaches with skin, with soft, fuzz hairs
Apricots, Oranges, A lemon and lime, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Fresh in their prime
Ripe Bananas, A juicy tangerine The tastiest fruit basket I’ve ever seen.”
This lovely poem by Meish Goldish sets the mood for enjoying the delicious ‘fruit of the earth’ that can well be eaten raw. The “Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte is another favorite that speaks about the most common of fruits.
With the temperature suddenly showing an upward trend, and appetites at their ebb, there’s no better way of appeasing your palate and ensuring that you get your required energy along with a helpful dose of protective vitamins and minerals than by feasting on an array of fruits that are plentiful during the hot summer months.
From a nutritional standpoint, fruits are low in calories and the much-dreaded fat and are important dietary sources of vitamins (particularly vitamins A and C and folate), minerals (potassium, in particular), and fiber. They contain no cholesterol and can contribute substantially to fiber intake, a food component almost always low in diets.
Avocado is the only known fruit that gets the lion’s share of its calories from fat, and while these are the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats with no cholesterol, you pay a caloric price. And for all those conscious of the “sugar” in fruit, rest assured that the fruit sugar – fructose – is often recommended for, and consumed by, people with diabetes mellitus because the fiber in fruit slows down the absorption of sugars from the fruit.
FRUITS AND HEALTH
Dietary fiber, the non-nutrient food component abundant in fruits, is primarily a complex carbohydrate, which absorbs water and holds onto it in the intestine, thus helping enlarge and soften the stool, thereby easing elimination and preventing constipation. Dietary fiber, due to its bulk and satiety feeling experienced after consuming fiber-rich foods, also helps control the amount of food eaten, thus aiding in weight control.
It also helps lower serum cholesterol levels and control blood glucose levels, and may also be linked with decreasing the incidence of certain cancers such as colon cancer. The dietary fiber component of fruit is concentrated in its skin, and hence it is always advisable to consume fruits with their edible peels, for example, apples, chickoos, pears, peaches, and guavas.
Potassium is the primary electrolyte present inside the human cell, and, along with sodium, is required for maintaining the fluid balance within the body as well as for the transmission of nerve impulses. Potassium, unlike sodium, is associated with lower rather than higher blood pressure values, and hence fruits, which have high potassium and low sodium content, are an ideal food choice for people with hypertension.
Much is known about the role that vitamin A plays in the body – vision, the health of epithelial cells, growth, development, reproduction, and cancer prevention – and most fruits are excellent sources of this vital vitamin, with mangoes, watermelon, papaya, apricots, bananas, apples, avocado, grapes, peaches, kiwi, berries and grapes scoring exceptionally high on the vitamin A scale.
Vitamin C, more appropriately referred to as Ascorbic Acid, is best known for its role as an antioxidant that reduces the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the stomach, and is also essential for the absorption of dietary iron, wound healing, and the activity of certain cells in the immune system required to keep infection and disease at bay. Although ascorbic acid is widely scattered in the plentiful fruits available, especially citrus fruits and berries, it is a very labile vitamin and is easily lost upon exposure to air. Hence, eat fruits at one sitting and never leave them cut to be eaten at a later time.
With convenience foods becoming the ‘in-thing’ today, one would wonder how canned and preserved fruits compare to fresh fruits. Conventional wisdom has said that fresh produce is always better than processed. However, research shows that canned fruits generally stack up very well against fresh.
Although there is some loss of vitamin C content during heat processing, canning usually results in stable levels of most essential nutrients, and the amount of a vitamin or mineral or fiber (if the skin is left intact) in canned food remains the same, even after one to two years of storage. Canned fruits, however, may have a higher energy content due to the added syrup (used to enhance flavor and preserve texture).
All said and done, chomping on fruits is the ideal route to get you going the nutritious way. So…hesitate not a minute longer and give your friendly fruit vendor, and yourself, a reason to smile!!