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Fruits provide slow-digesting carbs, various types of fiber, and a host of vitamins, including A, C, E, and K plus several B vitamins. Fruits also provide many important minerals, including calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and copper, along with a cornucopia of phytochemicals. Among plant foods, fruits are especially high in phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. For all of the reasons above, it makes sense to use fruits to create healthy desserts that are low in calories and fat and high in flavor.
Plus, fruits won’t contribute to weight gain the way that foods with added sugars can—a typical serving of fruit provides about 60 calories. So if you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, foods in the fruit family can help you achieve your goal.
Benefits of Fruit in Your Diet
Research links fruit consumption to numerous health benefits, such as lowering the risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Eye disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Neurodegenerative diseases
The USDA MyPlate guide, which has taken over from the food pyramid as the preferred guide to making complete nutrition choices, suggests that adults consume 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day as part of a healthy meal plans.
It’s important to note that every fruit is a superfood. Include a variety of fruits—fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, with no added sugar—in your diet plan every week.
Fruits to Keep in Your Diet
Here’s a selection of fruits that have garnered the most documented health benefits in scientific studies and that can serve as (or combine to serve as) healthy desserts.
- Apples. Apples are rich in vitamin C, and they also are high in the soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and protect against heart dis-ease. Apples contain a phytochemical called quercetin, which has been linked to slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, thus improving blood glucose control. Eat the skin to gain the most fiber and phytochemical content. An increasing body of research links apples to health benefits, such as weight control, digestive and immune health, cancer prevention, and cardiovascular health.
- Bananas. Each banana furnishes a generous supply of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, fiber, potassium, biotin, and copper. In addition, bananas contain plant sterols linked with heart health, and special types of fibers that foster the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut. It’s easy to turn bananas into a delicious, healthy dessert; just bake the bananas in their skins, add a drizzle of honey and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Or, toss a banana and some berries into the blender with low-fat yogurt and ice, and you’ve got a delicious, healthy snack.
- Berries. Berries are high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C as well as phytochemicals. Berries are tops in terms of antioxidant content because of their rich cache of phytochemicals. Multiple studies have identified that berries may have a profound impact on health, lowering the risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-related mental decline. Enjoy berries as a snack, in salads and smoothies, or as a healthy dessert.
- Stone fruit. Stone fruit—peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, cherries—are all members of the Prunus genus, which share a similar characteristic: a very large and hard seed, or “stone.” The nutritional profile of stone fruit varies depending on the type and variety of fruit, though they are all generally rich in soluble fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, and phytochemical.
Stone fruits have been linked with preventing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. Those with beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), such as peaches, nectarines, and apricots, are also linked to eye protection. Anthocyanins in cherries have been found to ease arthritis symptoms and muscle pain after exercise, as well as improve parameters of heart health.
- Citrus. Citrus fruits have been recognized for their health benefits for centuries. They are famously rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, but they also provide potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and fiber. Benefits linked with eating citrus fruits include protection against heart disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma, cognitive decline, age-related eye diseases, and diabetes.
Here’s an easy-to-make recipe suggestion: a Mini Strawberry Parfait. It’ll take just five minutes to whip up this low-calorie treat from TOPS.org. Click here for ingredients and directions.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.