In the 1950s, Ancel Keys (of K ration fame, lived to age 100) found a link between fat in the diet and heart disease. Later research found that it was saturated fat that was linked to heart disease. Eventually, the researchers concluded it was trans fats or fake fats that caused heart disease…in a big way.
We fast forward to the 1980 when diabetes, heart disease and cancer were increasing in incidence. Researchers found that sugar contributed to all of the above diseases. Now it turns out that “fake sugars” or refined carbohydrates cause the problem, not real sugars bound in nature’s envelope of fiber, phytochemicals, potassium, vitamins, minerals, and more.
There is a witch hunt amidst the nutrition and medical communities to exclude whole fruit from a healthy diet. Wrong. There are over 300 studies showing that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lower the risk for various cancers. But refined sugar causes an incredible array of health problems. So people concluded “sugar is sugar”. Doesn’t matter where it came from. Wrong. The original human diet, according to anthropologists, was fruit, eggs, and insects; which is what you can find when your IQ is below room temperature. Fruit has been a mainstay of healthy diets since the dawn of time.
Studies have shown that whole fruit lowers the risk for diabetes. Harvard researchers assessed the diet of 75,000 people over the course of 24 years and found that the most protective food against breast cancer was peaches. Two servings a week cut the risk by 41%. But sugar lowers the immune system, right? Researchers found that the more fruit people ate, the lower their risk for shingles, a viral infection indicative of lowered immunity. The more fruit the men in Hawaii ate, the lower their risk for prostate cancer. And on it goes. There is not one shred of evidence that whole fruit increases the risk for any condition, other than regular bowel movements.
Eating a more plant-based diet composed of whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables promotes healthy living by preventing many ailments and health conditions, and helps in recovery from diseases and infections. We know that the three main macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein and fat are necessary for survival. But, the body also requires many other micronutrients including vitamins, minerals and fiber. One way to help your body stock up on micronutrients and beneficial non-nutrients is to eat lots of fresh fruit regularly.
Fruits have unique health promoting properties
Whereas macronutrient food sources such as grain and pulses are mainly rich in a macronutrient or two and some vitamins, fresh fruits contain a wide array of health enhancing micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins, electrolytes and plant chemicals, also called phytonutrients. Each of the micronutrients plays a part in supporting the body to operate at its optimum.
Because fresh fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and phytochemicals; consuming them regularly provides your body with powerful arsenal to keep it healthy. Besides, vitamins and minerals are required for energy production while the plant chemicals known as phytonutrients reduce inflammation and oxidation thereby lowering the risk of diseases and conditions like cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.
5 Health Properties Found in Fresh Fruit
1. Fresh fruits are rich in health boosting vitamins
Most fresh fruits are rich in at least one vitamin; sometimes several. An avocado for instance contains vitamins C, B-group, E and K, while kiwi is rich in vitamins C and E. Vitamins have many health benefits in the body. They are required for maintenance of overall good health by preventing diseases and other negative health conditions and helping in recovery from infections. Vitamins also have roles in other functions like metabolism, blood circulation and preventing excess oxidation.
Practically every fresh fruit contains some vitamins, but fruits like pomegranates, kiwi, strawberries, apples, pineapples, grapes, mangoes, blueberries, bananas, and grapefruits are better endowed than others.
2. Fruits are rich in minerals and electrolytes
Minerals and electrolytes are essential for various functions including maintaining healthy hydration and pH in the body. Electrolytes are positively or negatively charged mineral component called ions which carry small electric charges used by the body in intracellular and extracellular communication. The body requires different electrolytes in varying amounts for balanced functions in different tissues such as muscles, brain and nerves. Mineral and electrolyte deficiencies and imbalance can cause poor body functions; for instance muscle spasms in case of low magnesium. The more abundant minerals and electrolytes present in fresh fruits include potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and sodium.
Fruits which are highest in these and other minerals and electrolytes include pomegranate, watermelon, orange, strawberry, banana, cherry, mango, and lemon.
3. Fruits contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals
Phytonutrients are bioactive plant compounds that may not necessarily have nutrition value. However, studies have established that many plant compounds have health giving properties including prevention of disease and other conditions. There are thousands of phytochemicals in different plants. But the health benefits of only a few have been identified. Still, it is known that different phytonutrients have complementary working relationships. And because fruits are rich in phytonutrients, consuming a variety of fruits together with other foods; provides many different combinations of plant compounds which enhance available health benefits.
Abundance of phytonutrients has many health benefits including reduced oxidation of LDL cholesterol and reduced aggregation of platelets. They also reduce oxidative stress, prevent DNA and cell damage which slows down aging and reduces risks of development and growth of tumors, including cancers.
The better studied phytonutrients and their health giving properties include:
Carotenoids found in red, yellow and orange colored fruits. The health giving properties of carotenoids include prevention from sight issues like cataracts and macular degeneration. Fruits rich in carotenoids include papayas, mangoes, watermelons, tomatoes, guavas and tomatoes.
Phenolics whose health beneficial roles in humans include reduction of risks of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Fruits like blackberry and blueberry are some of the richest in phenolics.
Flavonoids are also linked to prevention of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer’s and other age-related deteriorating conditions. Apples, oranges and grapes are some of the rich fruit sources of flavonoids.
Fruits are rich in dietary fiber, some of which is soluble. Soluble fiber from fresh fruits such as mangoes, apples, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, blueberries and pears combines with LDL cholesterol within the digestive system thereby helping to excrete it. This helps regulate cholesterol levels in blood and in effect protects against cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Soluble fiber also slows down absorption of sugar which helps prevent blood sugar spikes and is beneficial to people with diabetes.
Insoluble fiber helps maintain good health of the digestive system by absorbing more water as it travels through the gut. This ensures that gut contents remain soft which eases bowel movements and excretion of waste. Additionally, because fiber is not digested in humans, eating more fiber-rich fruits keeps you feeling satiated for longer so that you don’t need to eat too much or too often. This has the added benefit of maintaining healthy weight.
Easier bowel movements and absence of constipation is linked to lower risks of hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Pineapples, cherries, oranges and whole apples are some of the fruits high in insoluble fiber.
5. Miraculous anti-cancer agents
Phytoalexins are substances found in green and red fruits and vegetables. These compounds include resveratrol in red grapes, which is part of the “French paradox”, in which the French have a lower risk of heart disease and cancer in spite of an unenviable lifestyle. In nature, fruits must sit outside and resist the assault of fungi, which would like to ferment the sugars in the fruit. So nature designs a chemical, phytoalexins, which are anti-fungal, and conveniently anti-cancer. Ellagic acid in dark colored berries induce apoptosis, or suicide in cancer cells. The list of power biological response modifiers in fruits is dazzling.
While fruits may contain small amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat, they are better known for other outstanding health giving properties. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It is worth noting that different fresh fruits contain varying amounts of these properties. To maximize their health benefits, you should consume a wide variety of fresh fruits. You should also choose organically grown over conventionally grown fresh fruit. Note that while conventional fruits are likely to contain traces of absorbed agrochemicals, organic fruits are agrochemical-free.