Of course there’s no Fountain of Youth, but research suggests that nature has provided us with an answer that comes very close — fruit. It almost seems too simple: Eat fruit; fool Mother Nature.
Yet studies show that by eating four to five servings of fruit each day, you can improve your chances of staying healthy and vibrant as you age. That’s because fruit is loaded with phytochemicals, which are natural compounds that may help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of many diseases.
Phytochemicals fight to protect your overall health by providing antioxidant effects, stimulating your immune system, modulating the metabolism of your hormones, and acting as antibacterial and antiviral agents. Get too few of these marvelous compounds and you set yourself up for premature aging, as well as placing yourself at risk for some cancers, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataracts, osteoporosis and urinary tract infections. But if you eat the recommended amount of fruit each day, you improve your odds for a healthier life.
If you think “eat more fruit” means you should just have another slice of strawberry pie, it’s time to explore the variety of offerings Mother Nature has provided in her fruit basket:
Granny Smith, Jonathan, Macintosh, Red Delicious — there are many different varieties of apples. Whether you like them tart or sweet, apples are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. (One medium apple has 5 grams of fiber.)
Apricots are “stone-fruit” and are related to the plum and peach. Buy apricots that are orange-yellow — that indicates ripeness. They spoil quickly so if you don’t eat them right away, freeze them for later. Apricots contain vitamin A, which you need for healthy skin and to protect against infections.
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, fiber, and vitamins C and B6. Store bananas at room temperature, never in the refrigerator. (The cold makes the fruit decay from the inside.)
Blueberries have more antioxidant power than any other fruit or vegetable, giving them remarkable anti-aging potential. Research suggests that blueberries protect against the effects of age-related deterioration of the brain, such as short-term memory loss. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Cantaloupe is high in vitamins C and A and a good source of potassium and folate. Folate is linked to the prevention of birth defects (such as spina bifida), heart attacks, stroke and colorectal cancer.
Cherries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Don’t mistake dates for dried fruit — they’re not, even though you’re likely to find them in the dried fruit section at the supermarket. Sometimes known as “the candy that grows on trees,” dates are a good source of fiber.
Grapefruit is high in fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of vitamin A. Just one-half a grapefruit counts as one serving of the recommended four to five servings of fruit per day.
Grapes are not only high in vitamin C, they contain the phytonutrient “reservatrol,” which is known for its potent antioxidant properties, as well as providing protection against cancer and heart disease.
Kiwifruit may look a little funny — it’s brown and fuzzy on the outside; bright green on the inside with tiny black seeds — but it’s high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber, vitamin E and potassium. You’ll know kiwifruit is ripe when it’s slightly soft to the touch and has a fragrant smell.
This tropical fruit has a flavor that’s often described as tasting like oranges, peaches and pineapples all in one. You’ll know you have a ripe, delicious mango when you can detect a pleasant scent of pine and peach from the stem (no fragrant aroma usually means no flavor). Mangoes are high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C.
Oranges are the largest citrus crop in the world, with navel oranges and Valencia oranges the two most common varieties. One orange contains all the vitamin C your body needs for the day.
Papayas are a tropical fruit that are rated as one of the most nutritious. They’re high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber and folate. As an additional treat, the black seeds found inside a papaya are edible and have a spicy, pepper-like flavor.
Ever wonder why peaches smell so great? The peach is a member of the rose family and has a similar sweet fragrance when ripe. Peaches are a good source of vitamin C.
There are more than 3000 varieties of pears; Bartlett being the most popular. Pears ripen better off the tree, so ripen your pears in a brown paper bag at room temperature. Pears are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
When selecting a fresh pineapple don’t look for shell color — that’s no indication of ripeness. (A green pineapple can be just as ripe and sweet as a pineapple with a golden shell.) Look for a pineapple that has a fresh appearance with deep green leaves, and remember to refrigerate it when you get home to preserve freshness. Pineapple is high in vitamin C.
Prunes are actually dried French plums, and just eight of them make one serving of fruit for the day. Eat them right out of the bag for a healthy snack — they’re high in fiber and a good source of vitamin A.
One of the most distinctive features of tangerines is that when they are peeled, the segments of fruit separate easily, making them an excellent snack food for kids! Tangerines are high in vitamin C and a good source of fiber.
Whether seedless or full of seeds, watermelons are high in vitamins C and A.
Remember that whole, fresh fruit is better than canned fruit or fruit juices, but any fruit is better than no fruit. It’s a sweet treat or an excellent side dish or dessert, comes in its own easy-to-open packaging, and best of all, can provide your body with unsurpassed health benefits.