Super Foods!

Fruits and vegetables are super foods!  They are packed with disease fighting properties as well as being low in calories and fat. Here are a few examples of the great things these foods do for us.

Low folic acid levels have been linked to feeling depressed.  Deficiencies were found in a large portion of individuals recovering from depression.  Sources of folic acid are spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce and oranges.
Fresh pineapple may support healthy joints.  An enzyme found in pineapple called bromelain has been used in those seeking natural alternatives to maintain healthy joints or recover from injury.
In a study of 800 seniors, a high intake of niacin resulted in an 80% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  Sources of niacin include mushrooms, red potatoes and salmon.

Antioxidants found in onions, apples and berries may be more powerful than vitamin C at preserving brain cells.

To boots your immune system, focus on fruits and vegetables high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and Zinc.  Examples include red bell peppers, butternut squash, spinach, cantaloupe, soybeans and papaya.

One red bell pepper has three times the amount of vitamin C of an orange.  They also contain the phytochemical capsaicin, which has been approved by the FDA for use as a topical analgesic.

Acerolas are round or oval cherry like fruits that range from 2-4 inches in diameter.  When they are ripe, the skin turns bright red. The soft, juicy flesh is yellow and has a slightly tart flavor.  Acerolas contain the most concentrated source of natural vitamin C of any known fruit, 100 times the vitamin C content of oranges.  Unripe acerolas have twice the vitamin C content of ripe acerolas.

Cranberries and blueberries help to prevent urinary tract infections.

Prunes are a good source of vitamin A and fiber and contain a substance called isatin, which is a natural laxative.

Berries and melons are lower in calories than most other fruits.  One half cup contains about 25-30 calories while most other fruits are double that.

Radishes are high in vitamin C and contain bioflavonoids and indoles that may help to prevent cancer.

Tomatoes are red due to the color of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help to prevent cancer.  The lycopene in cooked or processed tomatoes is more easily absorbed than in fresh tomatoes.  Watermelon, grapefruit and guava also contain lycopene.

Carrots are orange in color due to the high amount of carotenoids, antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and heart disease.  Lutein in carrots has been looked at for its role in protecting the eye from free radical damage and maintaining vision.  Also, cooking carrots makes them more digestible and appears to increase the amount of vitamin A available for use by the body.

Typically, fruits are a good source of soluble fiber and vegetables are a good source of insoluble fiber.  However, raspberries are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Avocados and olives are fruits but are classified as fats because of their high calorie and fat content.  The fat is monounsaturated, which increases your good cholesterol and decreases your bad cholesterol.  As always, you want to watch your portion size.

You have heard that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  This is due to their high vitamin C content.  However, most of the vitamin C is lost when the apples is cooked or make into juice.  So, as with all fruit, it is better to eat the fruit than drink the juice.

Sour cherries are higher in vitamin C and vitamin A than sweet cherries.  Both varieties contain terpenes, which are phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer.

Although bananas are known for being high in potassium, sweet potatoes, avocados, chicory and winter squash are substantially higher in potassium.

Asparagus is a good source of folate, vitamin C and glutathione, which is an antioxidant that promotes health.  Asparagus is also a natural diuretic.

So the bottom line is to make sure you are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.  A good rule of thumb is to eat the colors of the rainbow every day!

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD