Those who enjoy fruit anytime of the year will particularly love the benefits of eating fruit as a part of their summer diets. Not only is fresh, summertime fruit a delicious addition to any meal, but fruit offers a multitude of nutritional and physical benefits.
Nutritional Benefits of Eating Fruit
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends fruits and vegetables as valuable sources of a variety of nutrients. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) emphasize the importance of adopting a plant-based diet. The guidelines suggest consumers fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables and limit solid fats and added sugars. Fruits offer a wide variety of nutrients, including the following:
- Calcium - Calcium is essential for healthy teeth, bones, and muscle function. Fruits that are a good source of calcium include blackberries, black currents, dates, grapefruit, mulberries, orange, pomegranate, and prickly pears.
- Fiber - Fruits that are high in fiber can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and certain cancers and aid in the digestive process. Fiber-rich fruits include apples, boysenberries, dates, grapefruit, guava, mango, oranges, papaya, pear, persimmons, raisins, and raspberries.
- Iron - Iron is essential for healthy blood and normal cell function. Iron-rich fruits include blackberries, black currant, cherries, grapes, kiwis, lemons, mulberries, passion fruits, pomegranate, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelons.
- Magnesium - Magnesium is essential for healthy bones and enzymes. Magnesium-rich fruits include avocado, banana, blackberries, dates, guava, kiwi, mulberries, passion fruits, pomegranate, prickly pear, raspberries, and watermelon.
- Potassium - Potassium can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include avocado, bananas, black currants, breadfruit, cherries, dates, grapefruit, guava, kiwi, papaya, passion fruit, pomegranate, prickly pear, and watermelon.
- Sodium - While most people get too much sodium in their diets, sodium in the right amounts is an essential nutrient for maintaining blood function and ensuring proper function of muscles and nerves. Almost all fruits contain some amount of sodium, but passion fruits are rich in sodium.
- Vitamin A - Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps the body fight infections. Vitamin A can be found in fruits such as apricots, prunes, and tangerines.
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C is essential for healthy teeth and gums and aids in the healing of cuts and wounds. Vitamin C can be found in fruits such as mangoes, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, persimmons, and strawberries.
- Zinc - Zinc is an essential nutrient needed to maintain protein and carbohydrate metabolism and the body's immune system. Zinc is found in fruits such as avocados, blackberries, dates, pomegranates, and raspberries.
The Center for Disease Control lists a number of fruits that provide a variety of physical benefits. These include the following:
- Apples - Loaded with fiber, apples can help with constipation and weight loss.
- Bananas - A great source of potassium, bananas aid in lowering and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
- Blueberries - Not only can blueberries help protect against certain cancers, but they are also believed to increase brain power and function.
- Cranberries - While many people are aware that cranberry juice can help rid the body of painful urinary tract infections, they may not be aware that cranberries can lower cholesterol levels and protect against certain cancers and the risk of stroke.
- Pineapples - Rich in vitamin C, pineapples also serve as an anti-inflammatory, perfect for those who suffer from painful joint problems.
- Raspberries - Raspberries are a great source of folic acid, which is an essential nutrient for pregnant women. In addition, raspberries may protect against certain cancers.
- Strawberries - Loaded with a host of nutrients, strawberries help the body guard against certain carcinogens and protect against some cancers.
Incorporating More Fruit into Your Diet
How can you incorporate fruits into your summer diet? While fresh fruit is always a first choice, it isn't always available. Don't worry! Good nutrition can be found in all forms of fruit, including canned, dried, fresh, frozen, and juices. In fact, most fruits are processed within a few hours of harvesting, so the majority of their nutritional values are preserved whether they are canned or frozen. If you want to enjoy the fresh taste of summer fruits, however, the following fruits are typically in season during the months of June, July, and August.
- Asian Pear
- Black Currants
- Casaba Melon
- Champagne Grapes
- Honeydew Melons
- Key Limes
- Passion Fruit
- Persian Melon
- Sugar Apple
To find fresh fruit in your area, visit your local farmer's market or check out the produce in your grocery store. In addition, consider growing your own fruit, which will continue to give you delicious produce year after year. Fruit should be a necessary part of your family's diet, so give your loved ones the gift of fruit today and every day!