Although fruit nutrition facts vary with each individual fruit, fruits of similar colors contain similar nutritional benefits. While some fruits are considered to be superfoods due to their large supply of nutrients, all edible fruits provide exceptional nutritional benefits. Nutrition research shows that each fruit contains its own set of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients. To view the fruit nutrition facts for individual fruits, you may visit the fruit nutrition pages by clicking on the links below.
There are some basic characteristics of fruits that make them appealing to most people. All fruits are healthy when eaten in moderation. They are great sources of dietary fiber, and most fruits are low in calories and fat. Those that have a high fat content, such as avocados, are actually good sources of healthy fats. Fruits are great snacks and they can also be used as an ingredient to sweeten foods. They contain a combination of sugars: fructose, glucose, and sucrose. Fructose is the principal sugar of many fruits and is considered to be the sweetest. Sucrose is the main sugar in several other fruits such as oranges, melons, and peaches. Water makes up 80% to 95% of fruits. The water content in fruits keeps their calorie content low and also provides fruit juice. Almost allfruits can be eaten raw, juiced for a beverage, used in frozen desserts, preserved, or dried. Fresh whole fruit is considered to be the most nutritious.
Produce that's grown locally on small scale farms and orchards is usually organic and offers more nutrition and flavor than that which has been mass produced and shipped nationwide. Organic produce is available at farm stands, farmer's markets, some supermarkets, and at local farms and orchards.
Familiar fruits are organized into 5 categories of shared characteristics: pomes, drupes, berries, citrus, and melons. Although they all offer several nutrients, the fruits in each category have at least one nutrient in common.
Pomes - This fruit group includes apples and pears. Pomes have a firm, moist flesh surrounding a central seedy core. Although they aren't an excellent source of vitamins, they are some of the best sources of fiber.
Drupes - This fruit group includes apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. Drupes have a single stone or pit and are sweet, juicy, and comparatively fragile. Drupes supply both beta carotene and vitamin C, along with some potassium and fiber.
Berries - The Berries fruit group includes dates, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, and several other fruits. Berries all have seeds embedded within succulent layers of flesh. Many berries, such as eggplants and tomatoes, are used as vegetables. They're all good sources of antioxidants and fiber.
Citrus - This fruit group includes oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. Citrus fruits are all multi-sectioned, warm-weather fruits that are especially valued for their high vitamin C content and flavonoids. Grapefruits and oranges also contain a good amount of fiber.
Melons - This fruit group is divided into 2 classes of melons: watermelons and muskmelons. There are several different types of watermelons. The muskmelon class includes cantaloupe, honeydew, casaba, and several others. Melons are a good source of vitamin C. Orange-fleshed melons are also a good source of beta carotene, and red watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene.
Tropical Fruits provide unique textures and flavors. Although they're a favorite among many people, they're generally not classified with the common fruit categories. Tropical fruits include mangoes, papayas, passion fruit, pineapples, guavas, bananas, jackfruit, mangosteen, coconuts, and several others.
Ripeness is the key to enjoying fruits. When most fruits reach the final stage of maturity, several important changes take place. The fruits soften, their colors change, their vitamin content increases, acidic content decreases, and their starch changes to sugar. These changes are what give fruits their mild, sweet flavor and aroma. Due to the process of shipping and distribution, fruits are usually harvested while still firm and unripe. Some of the fruits are then allowed to ripen on their own in storage, while others are treated with ethylene gas. Ethylene gas is considered to be a natural substance that fruits give off during normal ripening. For many years, growers and distributors have introduced ethylene gas into storage rooms for the purpose of speeding up the ripening of certain fruits. This has helped them to reduce the storage ripening time by as much as 50%. Most research indicates that ethylene gas is completely safe and doesn't affect the vitamin content of fruits. Studies show that by the time fruits are purchased, traces of ethylene gas are gone.
When selecting fruits, it's important to consider the smell, feel, and weight of the fruit. Ripe fruits smell lightly fruity and fresh. If they smell unpleasantly sweet, then they've probably started to rot. A gentle press with the thumb will cause ripe fruit to give a bit. Mature fruits should be heavy instead of light for their size. If a fruit is picked when it's too green, it will never become sweet.
Immature fruits should be allowed to ripen at room temperature. Afterwards, they should be eaten or refrigerated as soon as possible. Fruits should always be used as soon as possible after ripening. Due to their high sugar and water content, they're more perishable than other fresh produce. When storing fruits in the refrigerator, store them away from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas when ripening, which causes vegetables near them to decay quickly. If the fruits are organic, then all they need is a cold water rinse to remove dirt that may have accumulated during picking and transport. For non-organic fruit, biodegradable produce wash is available at health food stores. Soft cloth towels should be used to dry fruit and other produce, or they can be left to air dry.
Fruits are an excellent source of nutrition and should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Like vegetables, fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and water. In the fruit group, several fruits are considered to be superfoods. What determines a fruit (or any other plant food) to be a superfood is it's nutrient density. The superfoods in the fruit group includes berries, citrus, coconuts, mangoes, papaya, and melons. All of these superfoods contain a large supply of various nutrients.
One of the most profound health benefits of fruits is that they're an excellent source of both types of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble). Dietary fiber is made up of a variety of compounds that are beneficial to the digestive system and also provide health benefits to other functions in the body. Fiber compounds are found only in plant foods and are not broken down when they pass through the small intestines. Although fiber is generally known as passing through the digestive system undigested, some types of fiber undergo digestion (by bacterial enzymes) while traveling through the large intestine or colon.
Soluble fiber is that which is soluble in water. Insoluble fiber (also known as roughage) doesn't assimilate into water. Most plant foods contain both types of fiber in varying amounts, but some plant foods provide a rich source of one or the other. Studies show that soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol levels thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber is also beneficial in the management of diabetes. It helps to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels balanced. When consumed with adequate amounts of fluid, insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation. It adds bulk to stools and stimulates peristalsis (the involuntary contractions that move food through the intestinal tract). Research studies indicate that insoluble fiber plays a role in the prevention of colon cancer. Since high-fiber foods are filling and tend to be low in fat, both types of fiber can help to promote weightloss.
Along with fiber, fruits also provide an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruits supply several minerals including potassium (especially in bananas, pears, and oranges), iron (mostly in berries and dried fruits), and small amounts of calcium and magnesium. The main contribution that fruits make to the diet is vitamins, especially vitamin C and beta carotene. Tropical fruits, citrus fruits, berries, and melons are all good sources of vitamin C. Yellow and orange fruits such as apricots, cantaloupes, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, and papayas are the best sources of beta carotene.
Vitamin C plays many roles in the body. It's essential for the proper functioning of the immune system, it's important for wound healing and helps to prevent bruising, it provides structure to capillary and cell walls, it's crucial in the production of collagen (the connective tissue that stabilizes bone, muscle, and other tissues in the body), it helps to form hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells), and it enhances the absorption of iron.
Beta carotene is the precursor of vitamin A. Carotenoids are the yellow and orange pigments in fruits and vegetables. There are more than 600 carotenoids. About 50 of those carotenoids are converted to vitamin A in the intestine. Once carotenoids are converted into vitamin A, they perform all of the functions of vitamin A. Carotenoids help to protect against heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Vitamin A is essential for several functions in the body. It promotes good vision (especially night vision). Deficiency of vitamin A can cause night blindness or total blindness. Vitamin A also helps to maintain epithelial tissues (those that make up the skin surface and the linings of systems like the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts). Epithelial tissues contain a high amount of immune cells and are the body's first line of defense against disease. Therefore, vitamin A plays a major role in maintaining immunity. Vitamin A also plays a major role in bone growth.
Other fruit nutritional benefits include enzymes, water, few calories, and some have protein.
Fruit health benefits go beyond the nutritional content of fruits. Fruits also satisfy the craving for sweets. Facts from nutrition research indicate that consuming fruits several times a day, reduces the cravings for sweet junk foods which are filled with unhealthy fats, processed sugars, toxic additives, and little to no nutritional benefits. Fruits provide natural sugar and a great balance of fiber and other nutrients. Although fruits are generally healthy, they should be consumed in moderation. Some fruits are high in sugar and may cause the blood sugar to rise when consumed in excessive amounts. Individuals who are diabetic or hyperglycemic should eat fruits that are lower in sugar and high in fiber. Fruits should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
Note: Although fruits have several nutrients in common, each fruit is a great source of one or more nutrients that other fruits may not have. To learn more about the fruit nutrition facts and health benefits of individual fruits, you may visit the fruit nutrition pages by clicking on the links above.