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Sweet treats from the produce aisle

Snacking on the sweet indulgence of fruit is more than a low-fat, low-calorie treat; the nutrients from a variety of fruits promote healthy bodies from head to toe.

Snacking on the sweet indulgence of fruit is more than a low-fat, low-calorie treat; the nutrients from a variety of fruits promote healthy bodies from head to toe.

Boosting the immune system and keeping teeth bright is the work of vitamin C, which is largely found in citrus fruits, such as oranges.

Another helpful antioxidant is vitamin A because it smoothes skin. Rich with vitamin A are juicy, orange-pigmented fruits, such as cantaloupe and apricots. Researchers believe vitamin A is partly responsible for slowing down cataracts, a degenerative eye condition.

Fruits contain a multitude of other nourishing nutrients that provide a valuable asset to the body. Among the other nutrients are Vitamin E, calcium, iron, fiber, B-vitamins, potassium and others.

Potassium, found in bananas and avocados, improves the body's ability to ward off bone loss. For people who reject the crunch of an apple or other juice dripping fruits, they will lack a well-rounded diet, but results won't necessarily lead to a deficiency.


Cutting out all fruit means someone would be missing out on important vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients that cannot be found elsewhere, said Barbara Arntson a registered and licensed dietician and co-owner of the Snap Fitness in northern Grand Forks.

Many of the nutrients found in fruits are also in vegetables, which provides an alternative. But, as Arntson notes, people who shy away from fruits probably have the same approach to vegetables.

To fill in for the absence of fruits, some people may reach for colorful vitamin tablets to give their children and take adult vitamins themselves. Pregnant or nursing mothers need additional vitamins and calories, so Arntson recommends a multi-vitamin. Otherwise, she does not advise taking a vitamin.

Balanced diet

Balancing within the fruit category is important, too.

"Instead of eating a banana every day, eat an apple or an orange," Arntson said. "One's going to have more (specific nutrients) than another and vice versa, so variety is important."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests eating two cups of fruit a day for an average 2,000-calorie diet according to the MyPyramid food chart. One cup equals a cup of fruit or 100 percent fruit juice, or a half-cup of dried fruit.

Exceeding the recommended value certainly isn't as consequential as some of the other food categories that can be high in fat or cholesterol, but Arntson warns that too much fruit does have a negative impact.


"Fruits have calories and too many (calories) can lead to weight gain. Fruits also have natural sugar in them and too much can lead to tooth decay."

The positive effect fruits will have on the body relate directly to the nutrients and fiber content.

"Fiber helps with weight management because it makes us feel full; it also helps to regulate the digestive system and soluble fiber lowers cholesterol," Arntson said.

FiberThe fiber in fruit typically is contained within the skin. Arntson suggests eating whole fruit versus fruit juices in this scenario because juices do not contain fiber and sometimes have twice the amount of calories.

Getting a variety of fruits during the peak harvest season is easier due to availability and pricing for consumers. Solutions for cooler months and cost-efficient budgets include dried selections such as raisins and non-sugared cranberries. Another economical idea is shopping for frozen or canned fruit; but frozen berries tend to be the most expensive.

Arntson suggests checking labels to see how canned fruit is packaged. Fruit in corn syrup will likely be cheapest, but the fruit will need to be drained and rinsed with water to avoid the unhealthy addition of the syrup. Slightly more expensive canned fruit is packaged in its own juice or water and is healthier.

QualityWhen purchasing fresh fruit, the best way to check for ripeness is by using the senses. Pick the fruit that not only looks and feels consistent, but also rely on smell to determine which piece to take home.

"If you can smell it, then you probably know it's ripe," Arntson said.


After the fruit arrives home, Arntson suggests putting pieces into a bowl in a visible area. The trick is to snack on fruit versus chips and cookies that may be placed in a cupboard.

"We see something and we want it; plus, fruit tastes better at room temperature," Arntson said.

If fruit is not quite ripe, place it in a brown paper bag on a countertop and it will ripen faster. On the other hand, refrigerate fruit to preserve it longer.

Serving optionsIf munching on fruit alone is unrealistic, there are a number of ways to "sneak" fruit into a diet. Sprinkling fruit on top of cereal, swirling raisins into oatmeal, adding fruit to Jell-O and mixing berries in yogurt not only adds nutrition, but flavor.

Arntson proposes adding fruit to pancake batter and placing grapes in the freezer for a refreshing treat.

"We probably have fruit smoothies (made of frozen bananas, instant coffee, milk, ice and vanilla) three times a week," Arntson said.

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