Well known to all but seldom followed, are some of the important health practices, key among which, is the consumption of fruits on a daily basis! Yes! Since childhood we are all advised to eat fruits daily. Yet, we gorge on everything else but fruits. In most homes, fruits are placed right in front of us, on the dining table. Yet, we seldom reach out and pick one up! Why? Are you not convinced that fruits are good for you? Do you know that, making this one change in your diet can save you from many health problems? Do you need some more convincing on the benefits of fruits? Then read on…
To reach the goal of staying healthy and reducing your chances towards developing serious life threatening illnesses you should consume plenty of fruit in your diet. In fact, all recent guidelines on diet recommend that 50% of our plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. We are aware that fruits are a rich natural source for Vitamins and minerals. Besides this, fruits have an abundance of naturally occurring plant-nutrients, called phytochemicals which have varied beneficial effects on the human body. The harmful effects on the body due to the regular stress of modern life can be dealt with by adding fruit’s necessary nutrients to our daily diet. Many scientific studies have proven that people who have chosen to include more fruit in their diet are statistically less likely to develop serious health problems, such as, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, etc.
Health benefits of eating fruits
If you make it a habit to consume 5 portions of fruit every day, then your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases (such as heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, or a stroke) due to ‘hardening of the arteries’ is lower.
Fruit and vegetables also:
- Contain lots of fibre which helps to keep your bowels healthy. Problems such as constipation and diverticular disease are less likely to develop
- Contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, which are needed to keep you healthy
- Are naturally low in fat
- Are filling but are low in calories. So, they are ideal to keep your weight in control
Having a low intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause about 19% of cancers of the digestive system, 31% of heart disease and 11% of stroke. They are rich in vitamins and minerals which keep the body healthy. They also contain chemicals called antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. These are thought to protect against damaging chemicals that get into the body.
How much & how many fruits to consume per day
Health promotion campaigns often refer to ‘Five a Day’. As per a study conducted by the World Health Organization it was found that a minimum of 400 g of fruits /day is required.
As regards, how many fruits to consume, the general consensus of the Medical authorities is that the more the number of colours of nature on your plate, better is the nutrition. Pick up a variety from all the colourful fruits which nature has blessed us with.
Red / Purple/ Blue:
The different red, purple, and blue foods are high in essential nutrients. Strawberries are good sources of folic acid. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, red or pink grapefruit, blueberries, and red bell peppers all are loaded with vitamin C. Red bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is necessary for eye and skin health. Cherries, prunes, and eggplant / brinjal have plenty of fiber, which helps you stay full. And cranberries, which contain a compound that prevents bacteria from sticking to the urinary bladder walls, protect against urinary tract infections.
Yellow & Orange:
Other nutrients found in orange and yellow fruits include vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and bromelain. Oranges might be the most common fruit we eat for vitamin C, but it’s also present in orange bell peppers, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, peaches, mangoes, and papaya. Bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple, can help indigestion and reduce swelling and infection. It may also fight atherosclerosis, though the research is still inconclusive.
Leafy greens should be a regular part of your diet as they are high in vitamin A, iron and calcium. You can get this from the vegetables rather than fruits.
Try to include in your diet minimum 5 portions of fruits daily, choosing from all the colours you can see in the fruit section of your super-market. Remember, different colours of fruits mean different combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
One portion of fruits refers to either…
- One large fruit such as an apple, pear, banana, orange, or a large slice of melon
- Or two smaller fruits such as plums, kiwis, etc.
- Or one cup of small fruits such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, etc.
- Or two large tablespoons of fruit salad, stewed or canned fruit
- Or one tablespoon of dried fruit
- Or one glass of fresh fruit juice (150 ml)
Tips on how to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet
First and foremost, try to enjoy home-cooked meals more often and avoid eating frequently outside. Begin by cutting dining out to two or three nights a week. Then start adding fruits to your regular diet. Try some different types which you have not tried before. The variety of tastes and textures may be surprising. Juiced, frozen, canned, and dried varieties all count. Perhaps try one new fruit or vegetable each week. Try adding chopped bananas, apples, or dried fruits to breakfast cereals. Instead of a fruit yoghurt, have a piece of fruit with a dollop of natural low-fat yoghurt.
Avoid Fruit cake/fruit yoghurts: these contain little fruit and also have added sugar, fat and other ingredients. Also avoid fruit-flavoured soft drinks: these usually contain minimal fruit and are high in sugar.