Whole grains and vegetables for every meal are great, but here’s a good way to add even more variety to your diet: eat fruit! Fruit is colorful, flavorful and good for you. The Fruit group is made up of berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry), citrus (orange, grapefruit, tangerine), melons (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe), tropical (banana, mango, pineapple), stones (cherry, peach, plum) and others (apple, grape, pear). Eating a healthy amount of fruit per day can reduce the risk of heart disease, help protect against some types of cancer, reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity, lower blood pressure and decrease bone loss. It is also low in fat and sodium while rich in potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C (helping with growth, healing wounds, maintains healthy teeth and gums), folic acid (reduces risk of birth defects and aids in formation of red blood cells), and Vitamin A (an antioxidant).
Fruit is classified as whole or cut fruit or 100% fruit juice that arrives on your plate (or in your glass) fresh, canned, frozen, dried or pureed. A serving of fruit can be one large apple, one cup of natural applesauce, one cup of 100% fruit juice, one cup of grapes, one large orange, or eight big strawberries. Two to four servings per day are recommended, the equivalent of one to three cups. Following these recommendations allow the dietary fiber content of fruit to provide fullness without the high caloric content of many other diet choices.
Half of each plate should contain fruits and vegetables to ensure that all the nutritional value of your meal is to getting into your system. Eating fruit raw will provide the best benefits since processing or canning can cause nutrients, vitamins and water to be lost. A good way to get enough fruit is to keep whole fruit on the table or counter. Pre-cut packages can be kept in the refrigerator with dip or low fat dressing, tossed on top of cereal, mixed in with waffles and pancakes, or stirred up with yogurt. Make sure to clean fruit under running water and dry before preparing and eating, as well as keeping cleaned fruits away from raw meat, seafood and poultry.
Take an apple to work and keep sliced oranges in the refrigerator and you’ll be ready to get your proper amount of fruit per day!
For more information on the Fruit Group, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruit.html, and come back in for our next installment, A Balanced Diet Part V: Meat, Poultry, Beans, Eggs and Nuts.