Deemed by Harvard University as two of its largest and longest-running cohort studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study have examined the dietary and health habits of more than 100,000 people for years. A new research report published in the journal Circulation examined these findings and other long-term studies on eating behaviors in the U.S. and overseas. The findings are astounding: in part, there was a direct correlation between eating more fruits and vegetables and lower mortality rates. In other words, those who ate adequate amounts of produce lived longer.
If this isn’t enough to shout praise for fruits and vegetables from the rooftop, we’ve also discussed in a previous post that produce eaters have increased levels of satisfaction and happiness. If getting your daily recommended amount of fruit still troubles you, we’re here to help. Concluding our series on the food groups, we examine the bountiful world of fruit and tactics for enjoying its deliciousness.
There certainly isn’t a lack of variety when it comes to fruit. Many colors correspond to certain fruits. For proof, check out this infographic from the American Heart Association and its suggestions for eating from the five main color groups. Varying your intake can help ensure you’re getting vital nutrients from each category and stave off fruit boredom. Filling up on fruit also means you’re getting vitamins and minerals you may not even expect. One of them is calcium, essential for healthy teeth and bones. More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Getting extra calcium from fruit – an orange provides 6% of the daily value and 4 figs offer 4% – is a great way to bolster bone health and reduce risk of bone deterioration. Or, try calcium fortified orange juice which is especially rich in calcium!
Vitamin A, another nutrient many people lack, is best known for maintaining eye health. The vitamin A rock stars in the vegetable world are sweet potatoes and carrots, but mangoes, grapefruit, and cantaloupes are also good sources. Potassium, a mineral that most people don’t get nearly enough of, helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Incorporate bananas, dates, oranges, and prunes into your meals and snacks for a healthy dose of this nutrient.
While varying your fruit, take into consideration how fruit is prepped. Fresh fruit is just as healthy as its canned and frozen options, which may be less expensive if your favorite varieties aren’t in season. When eating canned fruits, opt for those packed in water or juice, over syrup. And don’t forget 100-percent fruit juice, another nutritious option. Note, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that half of your recommended daily amount of fruit should come from whole fruits so opt to eat, opposed to sip, fruits at least half of the time.
How Much is Enough?
Regarding recommended amounts, most men and women need 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups (or servings) of fruits daily. One cup is equivalent to a small apple, 32 seedless grapes, eight large strawberries, a half-cup of dried fruit, or a cup of 100 percent fruit juice. (Check out the “cup of fruit table” on the MyPlate website for other options.)
There are several delicious ways to incorporate fruit into your day. Puree apples, peaches, pears, and berries and place atop pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Fired up the barbie? Grilling fruit such as pineapple and peaches makes them super sweet and gives them a great depth of flavor. Quickly blend some low-fat milk, banana, and strawberries into a breakfast or snack smoothie. For dessert, try a new spin on a banana split. Slice a banana lengthwise and place it in a dish. Dollop some low-fat or nonfat yogurt atop the bananas. Drizzle with honey and top with berries and a handful of nuts. Check out these other tips on enjoying more fruits from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
—Fred Durso, Jr., is a Nutrition On Demand intern currently pursuing a master’s degree in food and nutrition and the necessary requirements to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Prior to heading back to school, he spent more than a decade as a journalist/communications specialist.