Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fruit: One of the many things to love about summer.

Ahhhhhhhhh. Summertime in Maine. The singing birds, the sunshine, the cool ocean breeze, and the fruit and veggies. There's nothing better than chomping into a juicy strawberry picked straight from the vine, or sucking down slices of watermelon on a hot July day. While many people don't see them as being as crucial to your health as veggies are, they do play a very important role in your overall well-being. And unlike veggies, fruit is usually a little more convenient-- throw a banana, apple, plum, or peach (or all of them!) into your lunch box to snack on throughout the day. Here are a few summertime fruits (plus a few more) to help keep you fit, hydrated, and happy this summer:

-Nutrition facts: 1 large apple has about 130 calories and is a great source of dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and is a good source of vitamin A and potassium.
-The scoop on apples: Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber attracts water, helping you feel fuller for a longer period of time after consuming it. Since insoluble fiber doesn't attract water, it is able to pass through your stomach quicker, which will help move along food and waste through your gut. Insoluble fiber basically acts as a laxative. It's a win-win! But be sure to choose organic apples or to thoroughly wash your apples before eating them, as apples top the Dirty Dozen list.
-How they help: Apples have been linked to help lower the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.

Bananas (probably my all-time personal favorite fruit. I eat 1-2 bananas every day.)
-Nutrition facts: 1 medium banana has about 110 calories and is a great source of potassium (about 13% of your daily value) and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of vitamin C and has about 1 gram of protein.
-The scoop on bananas: Bananas have a soft, easily digestible flesh made of simple sugars fructose and sucrose. Because of this, they are used by athletes for instant energy because the sugars quickly enter their blood stream, resulting in an instantly revitalized feeling.
-How they help: Bananas are an absolutely amazing fruit. For starters, they contain the amino acid tryptophan, which can be converted to serotonin, a "feel-good" chemical in your brain. Bananas are a perfect remedy for morning sickness as they have been proven to help soothe a queasy stomach by raising blood sugar levels. They're also known to help relieve stress, quit smoking, lower blood pressure, improve nerve function, and even reduce mosquito bite itchiness (if you rub the inside of a peel on a bite). What's not to love here???

Blueberries (my personal favorite berry)
-Nutrition facts: There are 84 calories in a cup 1 cup of blueberries. Blueberries are an excellent source of soluble dietary fiber, minerals, and are extremely high in free radical-fighting anti-oxidants.
-The scoop on blueberries: Blueberries are the highest anti-oxidant containing fruits among fresh fruit. If eaten in high quantities, they will help build your immune system so you won't be as susceptible to colds, fever, or flu.
-How they help: Blueberries have been suggested through studies to help reduce belly fat, improve urinary tract health, maintain good vision, help prevent Alzheimer's, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and increase the health of your digestive tract. Big time super food!

Kiwi Fruit
-Nutrition facts: One medium kiwi has approximately 84 calories, half a gram of fat, 11 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein, and 117% of your daily vitamin C! Their seeds also have a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
-The scoop on kiwis: Research has shown that kiwi fruit acts as a blood thinner similar to aspirin, preventing blood clotting formations in the blood vessels.
-How they help: Kiwis have been shown to help prevent heart attack and stroke, increasing bone mass (due to the good level of vitamin K), limiting neuronal damage in the brain, and may help prevent ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in kids.

-Nutrition facts: One medium peach has approximately 59 calories, 0 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, 10% of your daily vitamin A, and 17% of your daily vitamin C.
-The scoop on peaches: Peaches are known to soothe an upset stomach due to its alkaline content. They also have a high level of the chemical boron, which is known to encourage healthy levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women.
-How they help: Aside from the healthy amounts of boron they contain, peaches also build strong bones and fight against osteoporosis, help with cognitive function, fight free-radicals, and keep eyes healthy.

-Nutrition facts: One regular sized plum has about 30 calories, 0 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, zero grams of protein, and 10 percent of your daily vitamin C.
-The scoop on plums: Given the above nutrition info on plums, they don't look all that special. However, scientists have somewhat-recently claimed that plums are a new superfood, containing more antioxidants than the powerful blueberry! Time for me to go stock up on some plums!
-How they help: Plums have been known to help with constipation, fight lung and oral cavity cancers, control heart rate and blood pressure, and reducing the chance of Alzheimer's.

-Nutrition facts: One cup of raspberries contains approximately 64 calories, one gram of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of dietary fiber (about 32% of your recommended intake!), one gram of protein, and 54% of your daily vitamin C.
-The scoop on raspberries: Raspberries are are loaded with dietary fiber and anti-oxidants. A diet high in anti-oxidants can help limit how often you get sick and fight against free radical-causing diseases.
-How they help: Raspberries have high levels of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals, anti-oxidant compounds that fight cancer, aging, inflammation, and neuro-degenerative diseases. They also have high levels of B-complex vitamins and vitamin K--vitamins that can help metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

-Nutrition facts: One cup of strawberries contains about 46 calories, 0 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, and 141% of your daily vitamin C.
-The scoop on strawberries: Be sure to choose organic strawberries at the grocery store, as strawberries, like apples, do a good job at retaining nasty pesticides.
-How they help: Strawberries help fight against cancer, aging, and neurological disease, while producing red blood cells and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Who knew?

-Nutrition facts: One wedge of watermelon contains approximately 86 calories, 0 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of protein, 33% of your vitamin A, and 39% of your vitamin C.
-The scoop on watermelon: Watermelon is very good at cleaning out your bladder and kidneys. It also has more lycopene than tomatoes (good news for us guy as lycopene helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer), and is loaded with anti-oxidants.
-How it can help: Watermelon has been shown to help prevent heart disease, asthma, arthritis, and help prevent many types of cancer.

So there you have it: a few fruits to get you by this summer. It's not always possible, but eat local, organic fruits when you can. And if you can only get fruits from somewhere else in the country or the world, be sure to wash them thoroughly before chowing down. Enjoy!

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