Fruits are healthy because of antioxidants and their rich fibrous texture. They make a convenient, easy-to-carry kind of snack and are clearly an healthy alternative for those who have ever-so-often sweet cravings. Apples, pears, oranges, papaya, cantaloupe or musk melon, strawberries and figs have several nutrients and antioxidants that improve heart health, provide lots of energy and help boost immunity. Because most fruits are rich sources of potassium, they are very useful in maintaining blood pressure by regulating the body’s sodium and potassium levels. The seasonal quality of fruit is also a useful way to include variety in your diet—not just for taste and texture, but also for the rich array of nutrients that different fruits can provide.
While all fruit, from bananas to pineapples and custard apples, is healthy, those listed here have extra properties which make them must-include-in-diet items.
At just 80 calories, a medium-sized apple has 5g of fibre and pectin that can effectively lower cholesterol. Half a glass of apple purée a day can be an effective way to reduce constipation. Flavonoids are the antioxidants in apple that lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Add more nutrition to your apples—have them with a slice of low-fat cheese or a handful of nuts or add them to your oat porridge or vegetable juice. Stewed apples help calm the intestinal tract during bouts of indigestion and diarrhoea.
Papayas are very high in soluble fibre and are a rich source of vitamin C and carotenoids. The soluble fibre in papaya binds to cholesterol and gets it out of circulation. Papayas also contain the enzymes arginine, which is beneficial for male fertility, and carpain, which is good for the heart. Papain is the digestive enzyme in papaya that helps with digestion. Papaya can be added to salads, apart from being a good breakfast food. It is best to eat papaya when it is freshly cut, otherwise its rich fibre content can give it a sticky consistency. The raw variety can also be used as a vegetable. One cup of cubed papaya gives you just 55 calories.
Also known as musk melon, cantaloupes are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C helps boost immunity and the potassium regulates blood pressure. Its rich orange colour makes it rich in carotenoids, which improve heart health and can lower inflammation. Musk melon can also protect the skin from sunburn. Half a melon has just 97 calories. Whip up some yogurt with musk melon and dried melon seeds for a refreshing and filling drink.
Strawberries contain vitamin C , potassium, several vitamins from the B-complex group, vitamin K and some omega 3 fatty acids. The antioxidant it contains helps fight rheumatism, gout and flu. Strawberries contain compounds that improve the health of gums. It is important to consume strawberries fresh as they perish easily. Strawberries are truly versatile and can be consumed as smoothies, as a dessert with low-fat cream or yogurt or as fruit sorbets. A cup of strawberries has just 55 calories.
Figs contain the fibre pectin, potassium, and vitamins B1 and B2. Figs are also a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese. The high-fibre content naturally improves digestion and heart health but the fibre in fig is best known to reduce the amount of insulin that is required by diabetic patients and helps heal and soothe sore throats. The calcium is useful for strengthening bones. It is also known to be a good tonic for the liver. This fruit is best had fresh. One large fig, about 2.5 inches in diameter, has 47 calories.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org