Forget exotic, pricey produce: These supermarket staples can help lower your cancer risk, drive down your cholesterol, reduce body fat, and more.
According to a health coach in Folsom California Fancy super fruits like guava, mangosteen, acai, and goji tout sky-high levels of antioxidants and vitamins. A wealth of research has shown that the ordinary apples, grapes, and other fruits that make our shopping lists week after week boast some pretty impressive health benefits of their own.
Eating even slightly more fruits (as well as vegetables) may lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
And yes, eating fruits whole for snacking is a good idea, but so, too, is incorporating them into meals in less expected ways. “As a dietitian and mom of three, I’ve seen how truly impactful it can be to help kids learn to enjoy all sort of fruits — the widely available ones, too — by getting creative in the kitchen and experimenting with different preparations, such as baked, sautéed, fresh, roasted, poached, in muffins, or as toast toppings,” adds Malkani.
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Grapefruit May Help Prevent Diabetes and Other Chronic Diseases
Adding grapefruit to your diet may decrease your risk of insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. When overweight adults ate one half-grapefruit, drank grapefruit juice, took a grapefruit pill, or took a placebo, once a day before a meal for 12 weeks, those who consumed grapefruit in any form had lower insulin levels (higher levels are a sign of type 2 diabetes). What’s more, the fresh grapefruit eaters lost an average of 3.5 pounds more over the course of the study than the placebo group.
Grapefruits contain a compound called naringenin that’s also found in other citrus fruits, and it may provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and help protect against developing cardiovascular
A prior study in the journal Stroke found that eating citrus foods like grapefruit may lower a person’s risk for having an ischemic stroke, which happens when a vessel supplying blood to the brain gets a blockage.
You can have one as your a.m. meal, but also consider using grapefruit as a compliment to a seafood dish, or even add some wedges to your morning smoothie.
Blueberries Can Help Support Healthy Weight Loss
Blueberries can help keep you healthy in more ways than one. A compound called pterostilbene worked with vitamin D in cells to boost the immune system and fight off infections.
This fruit may also keep your mind sharp — past research has linked blueberries to improving memory and learning, thanks in part to the anti-inflammatory effects of anthocyanin — the antioxidants that give the fruit its bright purple hue. When older adults with early stages of cognitive decline took blueberry supplements, they experienced neurocognitive benefits.
Eating 1 cup of blueberries each day lowered the odds of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 15 percent.
“In addition to the health benefits of blueberries, they shouldn’t be overlooked because they taste great and are very versatile in the kitchen,” says Levinson. “Whether you throw some on top of cereal or yogurt for breakfast, add them to a salad for lunch, turn them into sauces and dressings, use them to make mocktails and cocktails, or use them to make dessert, there are endless ways to enjoy blueberries!”
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Apples Can Play a Role in Zapping High Cholesterol
When overweight, postmenopausal women ate around a cup of dried apples each day for a year, they experienced an almost 6 percent drop in “bad” LDL cholesterol. What’s more, the women’s “good” HDL cholesterol increased by about 10 percent, and they also lost an average of 2.4 percent of their body fat.
The heart-healthy benefit may stem from the apples’ pectin (a type of fiber) and polyphenols (a group of antioxidants).
Apples may also protect against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), possibly due to their high level of flavonoid antioxidants.
“Apples are a good source of many nutrients — notably fiber, which supports heart health and may help with weight loss,” says Malkani.
Obviously, apples make for a great snack, but you can also bake with apples, or even make your own DIY applesauce.
Tangerines Can Help Support Metabolic Health
A flavonoid in this citrus fruit may help protect the body against the group of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, which includes high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure, according to previous animal research.
Try some tangerine zest in your tea or sprinkled on a salad for a citrusy twist.
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Strawberries Should Be Part of an Anti-Cancer Diet
Slicing strawberries into your morning cereal or yogurt may cut your risk of esophageal cancer. When 36 people with precancerous esophageal lesions ate 2 ounces of freeze-dried strawberries daily for six months, 80 percent saw a decrease in the severity of the lesions.
Strawberries — as well as other berries — might also help protect you against skin cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
Strawberries also take care of your ticker. A regular strawberry consumption can counteract the inflammatory and blood clotting effects of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal, potentially decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dried Plums Are Good Food for Your Bones
“People may think prunes are food for the elderly or only worth eating for digestive health, but they are wrong,” says Levinson. “There are lots of great reasons to eat prunes or dried plums.”
“Prunes provide a natural sweetness, and add moisture and richness to desserts and baked goods, allowing you to reduce the amount of butter, sugar, and oil you would otherwise use,” says Levinson. “They also pair well with a variety of other flavors and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.”
Meanwhile prunes’ potassium (635 mg per ½ cup of pitted prunes) provides almost 14 percent of the DV, making them a good source.
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Cranberries Can Help Preserve Your Healthy Smile
Antioxidants called proanthocyanidins in cranberries can help halt the activity of bacteria that cause dental cavities, supporting regular dental hygiene habits, according to a past review. To reap this potential perk, opt for the whole fruit, not the jellied variety, which contains a whopping 23 g of sugar per ¼ cup, too much sticky, sugary food can actually cause cavities.
Grapes Are Inflammation Squelchers, Helping Ward Off Disease
Eating polyphenol-rich grapes can reduce inflammation that contributes to a variety of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure, suggests too that long-term, chronic inflammation is associated with conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
The fruits may fight inflammation in several ways, including acting as an antioxidant, reducing cell oxidative stress, and blocking pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines.
Antioxidants are compounds found in plants including grapes that help your body fight free radicals, which are molecules your body accumulates when exposed to harmful substances such as tobacco smoke and radiation. If you have too many of these free radicals, it can cause oxidative stress, which is connected to various diseases like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Even for helping protect against everyday ailments like the common cold, red grapes may help. Similar to blueberries, red grapes contain the compound resveratrol. This compound is an immune system supporter, but it has also been linked in large doses to heart health and prevention of certain types of cancers.
“They can be used to make sauces, dressings and marinades, they are delicious roasted and added to grain salads or baked with chicken or fish, or enjoyed in salads, side dishes, and desserts,” she says.
Bananas May Help Curb Your Appetite, Aiding Weight Loss
“Bananas offer antioxidants, fiber, and many essential nutrients, such as vitamin B6, but what makes them especially interesting is that their nutrient content changes depending on their level of ripeness,” says Malkani. “Underripe bananas contain a lot of resistant starch, which helps reduce appetite and may help stabilize blood sugar levels after meals by slowing the rate of stomach emptying,” Malkani adds, and Johns Hopkins concurs.
One medium banana has over 3 g of fiber, which is about 11 percent of your DV, making it a good source. Also, bananas are renowned for their potassium — a medium banana has 422 mg of potassium, the USDA notes, which is about 9 percent of your DV. You’ll also get over 10 mg of vitamin C, which is more than 11 percent of your DV, making bananas a good source.
Pears Support a Healthy Digestive System
You’ll see pears stocked in the produce aisle at your grocery store, but before you pass them by, it’s time to pick a few up. It might be an especially good idea if your digestion is out of whack. That’s because pears come full of fiber.
Also, fiber helps your digestive system function properly, and pears are one of the top fruit sources of this nutrient. Add pears to your next salad, yogurt bowl, or even simply bake a pear with cinnamon on top.
Just know that all fruit (and vegetables) are a good choice when it comes to your gut — and your health. “Americans don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables as it is, so any and all consumption of fruit — no matter what kind it is — is beneficial,” says Levinson.