At this time of year, the highways are flanked by fields growing a large variety of produce. You may even be delivering a load of it, yourself.
Since North America offers many choices of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer and the Canada Food Guide recommends between seven and 10 servings each day, why not support your local economy while supporting your own good health by filling up on them?
Fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phyto-nutrients, and fiber.
Being low in calories and fat, their simple sugars combined with substantial fiber content offer a satisfying alternative to popular, processed sugar snacks like chocolate bars and candy. Yet, unlike those quick treats, fruits are all positive, sweet flavour with no negative side effects.
As this season begins, pick healthier snacks by remembering these fruit ABCs:
A is for apples and apricots: Apples, always a popular choice, are easy to carry and easy to find, with fresh varieties always available. At only 50 calories, a medium apple has no saturated fat or cholesterol, but lots of fiber to transport cholesterol out of your body while absorbing toxins from your bowel lining. Apples fight free radicals with Vitamin C, polyphenols and flavonoids, including: quercetin, epicatechin, and procyanidin B2. Apples boost your metabolism with B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin and pyridoxine (Vitamin B-6). Their minerals (potassium, phosphorus and calcium) help regulate body fluids, heart rate and blood pressure. An apple (or two) a day does help keep the doctor away.
Apricots are also low in calories and high in fiber, Vitamin C and phyto-chemicals. Additionally, their Vitamin A and carotene antioxidant properties protect your eyes, mucous membranes, lungs and skin. Their minerals (potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and manganese) also regulate cell and body fluids. One particular carotenoid, zeaxanthin, is very good for your eyes. Your retina selectively absorbs it, strengthening the retina’s ability to filter light, protecting the eye from age-related macular disease.
B is for blue fruits, such as blueberries and blue-black grapes: Blue fruits are high in anthocyanins, flavonoid poly-phenolic compounds. Eating fruits rich in blue pigments offers many health benefits because of their remarkably potent anti-oxidant properties. By efficiently removing free radicals from the body, blue fruits protect against cancers, aging and infections. The benefits of these pigments tend to concentrate just underneath the skin.
Blueberries are very low in calories (57 cal/100 g) and contain beneficial fiber, minerals, vitamins and pigment anti-oxidants (chlorogenic acid, tannins, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol, carotene, lutien and zeaxanthin). In addition, their chlorogenic acid helps lower blood sugar levels and control blood glucose levels for those with Type-II diabetes. Blueberries also contain a small amount of Vitamins C, A, E and some of the B-complex group (niacin, pyridoxine, folate and pantothenic acid).
However, they are high in Vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid which help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Their minerals include: potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc.
Grape’s phytochemical compound polyphenol anti-oxidant, resveratrol, protects against colon and prostate cancers, coronary heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease as well as viral and fungal infections. Resveratrol also maintains healthy blood vessels, reducing your risk of stroke. Another polyphenolic anti-oxidant, anthocyanin, has anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer abilities. Grapes are rich in copper, iron and manganese and potassium and are a good source of Vitamins C, A, K, carotenes, and B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, riboflavin and thiamin.
C is for cantaloupe: Full of flavour but not calories or fat, cantaloupe has many health-promoting nutrients. One cup has 112% of your daily Vitamin A requirement which maintains healthy mucus membranes, skin, eyes, lungs and oral cavities. Its antioxidant flavonoids (beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin) protect against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. As another source of zeaxanthin, it maintains good retina function. Cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium, manganese, B-complex Vitamins and Vitamin C.
S is for Strawberries: Strawberries are also low in calories (32 cal/100g) and fats but high in nutrition. Their phenolic flavonoid phyto-chemicals (anthocyanins and ellagic acid) fight against cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological diseases. Their anti-oxidants, including Vitamins C, A, E, and a small quantity of flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene) protect against inflammation and oxygen-derived free radicals. Rich in B-complex Vitamins (vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid), strawberries help your body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They also contain a good amount of minerals (potassium, manganese, fluorine, copper, iron and iodine) some of which have been previously mentioned. Additionally, copper and iron are necessary for producing red blood cells.
This summer, take advantage of the many fresh fruits available and consider building on these basic, fruit ABCs.