“An apple a day”. That’s the adage we all used to hear in school or from our parents. However, it seems that very few of us have taken its wisdom to heart.
According to one survey by the Center for Disease Control, only about 12.2% of Americans eat the daily recommended allotment of fruit. This shortfall can have deleterious effects on our health, as demonstrated by the fact Americans overall have seen increased incidences of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Eating a well-rounded rich in nutritious fruits is a simple way that we can all start living healthier lives. The health benefits of fruit are varied, and include perks like the following:
1. Fruits Are Full of Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Around half of Americans suffer from at least one preventable vitamin or mineral deficiency. And it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that that figure is correlated with the number of Americans who aren’t getting enough fruits in their diets.
For example, virtually all fruits have a respectable amount of potassium. Potassium is an important micronutrient that helps maintain healthy blood pressure by relaxing blood vessel walls. It’s also a nutrient that many Americans struggle to get enough of.
That’s just one example. Most fruits are also high in nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and a host of healthy phytochemicals.
2. Their Varied Colors and Textures Add Variety to Your Diet
They say that man cannot live by bread alone, but that hasn’t stopped some of us from trying. But how many meat and potato meals can you stomach before they start to lose their luster?
Fruits come in a host of flavors and textures, from the sweet and summery to the tart and biting, with plenty of variety in between. Ther variety of textures can also allow you to get creative in the kitchen, creating interesting new culinary experiences.
3. They’re the Easiest Way to Get Your Daily Fiber
If the number of Americans who are vitamin or mineral deficient seemed striking, you probably won’t like this figure much better: only 5% of Americans eat enough fiber daily. It’s such a substantial problem that nutritionists have come up with a term for it — the “fiber gap”.
There are a few reasons why this is the case. One is just that Americans tend to eat less varied diets than residents of other industrialized nations. But another is the trend of cutting carbs to encourage faster weight loss.
What this strategy doesn’t take into account is that carb-rich foods like fruits and vegetables are also the best sources of fiber.
So what’s the issue?
Well for one, diets rich in fiber are associated with better gastrointestinal health and lower incidences of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and even some cancers. When you’re fiber deficient, the inverse tends to be the case.
And to add insult to injury, a lack of fiber is also associated with increased rates of obesity. So you could make the case that these carb-cutting strategies don’t even work because whatever progress you’d make by cutting carbs is outweighed by the negative impact of fiber deficiency.
One reason for this is because fiber slows the absorption of glucose, which helps normalize blood sugar levels while lowering cholesterol. Fiber also makes us feel physically fuller, so we feel less hungry and end up eating less overall.
Fruits rich in fiber include raspberries, pears, apples, and squash.
4. They’re Low in Fat and Low in Calories
Continuing along that same track, while fruits are higher in carbs they tend to be very low in calories and fat. This means that you can eat more of them without worrying about them setting you back in terms of calories.
And because of that increased fiber we mentioned, what fruits you do eat will keep you feeling fuller for longer. This makes them a far better option compared to processed snack bars or the like, as you’ll wind up doing less snacking overall.
5. They May Reduce Your Risk Developing Cancers and Other Diseases
Because of their expansive nutrient profiles, fruits have been linked to reduced rates of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, high blood pressure, stroke, and a whole slate of other ailments.
The active ingredients here are those phytochemicals that we mentioned. Phytochemicals are extremely potent antioxidants. They’re found in the greatest abundance in the skins of vegetables, where the plant produces them to protect against insects and other pests.
But they can protect your body just as well, helping to stave off pathogens and chronic health concerns.
6. They Promote Good Overall Health
Good health isn’t just about preventing disease. Your body needs those nutrients not just to protect itself, but to main and build new cells.
Folate, or folic acid, is a good example. Your body uses it to help create new red blood cells, helping to prevent anemia. Anthocyanins found in fruit are another good example, helping to improve vascular health and prevent hypertension.
7. They’re Low in Sodium and Cholesterol
That fruits are low in sodium and cholesterol seems pretty natural. But because of the way that they interact with our bodies, the effects are more significant than you’d think. In practice, they may as well have negative amounts of both.
We mentioned that potassium helps to relax blood vessel walls, decreasing blood pressure. This function also helps to mitigate the effects of a high-fiber diet, essentially canceling out the negative effect of eating too much salt. Fruits are also made up mostly of water, which helps to flush excess sodium from our bodies.
Cholesterol, meanwhile, isn’t found in fruits at all. But what is found in fruits is fiber. And in particular, they’re good sources of soluble fibers like pectin that actively lower cholesterol.
8. They Make for Convenient, Nutritious Eating
A barrier that prevents many Americans from getting enough fruit is cost. Fresh fruit is expensive, spoils quickly, and is rarely even available to Americans living in food deserts. Fortunately, you don’t need the fresh stuff.
An oft-repeated myth is that frozen and canned fruits just don’t stack up to fresh fruits, to the point that you’re better off not even bothering. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as both are just as nutritious as fruit straight from the vine.
The only caveat is that you want canned or frozen fruits that have been minimally processed. For canned fruits, this means you want fruits canned in their own juices instead of sugary artificial syrups. For frozen, this usually just means checking to make sure that no sugar is added.
9. Eating an Abundance of Fruit May Boost Your Brainpower
We’ve talked a lot about how good fruit is for your heart and your gut, but it can also be great for your brain.
Those anthocyanins that we mentioned earlier are thought to be why fruit has picked up a reputation for helping to keep our memories sharp. They’re thought to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, two things which can impair brain function and memory.
10. They’ll Have You Looking and Feeling Younger
They say that time makes fools of us all. But while no one has yet come up with a way to turn back the clock, that doesn’t mean that we have to accept aging without a fight, either. The rich nutrient profiles that we find in fruits are a potent means of staving off the effects of premature aging.
Vitamin C for example, which many fruits pack in abundance, is a super antioxidant linked with clearer, younger-looking skin. Blueberries, kiwi fruits, and oranges, of course, are among the best choices for eating your way to a glowing complexion.
A diet rich in fruits can also keep you feeling younger for longer. This is because while most discussions of chronic aches and pains reference your posture and seating arrangements, your nutrient intake plays a role as well.
Colorful fruits and berries are rich in flavonoids – compounds that, among other benefits, have been observed to reduce joint inflammation. Apples, pineapples, and tomatoes (yes, they are fruits) are some of the best choices that you can make in this regard. In addition to keeping you looking fresh, they can also help keep you spry and stave off the aches and pains that come with age.
The Health Benefits of Fruit Are Abundant as They Are Potent
Delicious, nutritious, and simple to integrate into your daily diet, fruits are one of the best means available to start improving your well-being immediately. The health benefits of fruit are both ample and well-documented, and with canned and frozen fruits being almost as good as their fresh counterparts, cost need not be a factor.
And there’s no shortage of fruits out there for you to try, so you’ll never be starved for variety. Seeking out seasonal selections or trying new preparation methods is a great way to keep mealtime exciting all year round.
For some ideas on how to get started, check out the recipe section on Week 99er for some great new ways to get your “apple a day”.
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