Saturday, August 12, 2006

Five Keeps You Alive

I spoke recently with nutrition expert Susan M. Kleiner about how good fruit is for you. The good Dr. Kleiner was kind enough to share her favorite fruit choices, based on everything from antioxidant content to taste, accessibility and portability. Dr. Kleiner generally recommends that her nutrition clients eat three pieces of fruit a day, including some type of berry (for the anthocyanins and vitamin C) and an orange-flesh fruit such as a peach, nectarine, cantaloupe, papaya or mango (for beta-carotene). Add frozen fruit to smoothies when fresh isn't available. You may be comforted to know that frozen is almost as good as fresh as long as it is completely ripe when frozen -- which is generally the case.
See if any of Dr. Kleiner's top five fruits makes your list...
1. Dried plums (also known as prunes). Rich in fiber, especially pectin, a soluble fiber that may help decrease cholesterol. Packed with phenols that neutralize free radicals in the body and a good source of potassium and iron, too. "And because they're so portable, dried plums are on top of my list," says Dr. Kleiner.
2. Blueberries. These are full of super nutrients, including anthocyanins, pterostilbene and ellagic acid. They protect you from an assortment of health problems, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision loss and cognitive decline. And don't neglect strawberries, blackberries or raspberries, says Dr. Kleiner, which are also rich in fiber and other health-protective nutrients.
3. Mangoes. Mangoes are exotic, sweet and rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and beta-carotene, plus potassium and fiber. These and the mango's other nutrients promote cardiovascular health and protect against colon cancer. Choose other beta-carotene-rich fruits, too, such as cantaloupes, peaches, nectarines and papaya.
4. Apples. Apples are antioxidant-rich and full of phytonutrients that may reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma and type 2 diabetes. Make sure you also eat the peel, which is rich in soluble and insoluble fiber (pectin) -- great for gut health -- plus quercetin and proanthocyanidins.
5. Bananas. Bananas are high in potassium, which may protect against high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcers and bone loss. They are surprisingly full of antioxidants, and fit the on-the-go lifestyle.
So should you eat brain-protective blueberries every day if dementia is in your family history? Dr. Kleiner thinks that's a miscalculation. Better: Enjoy the wonderful fresh fruits of the season, which will give you a variety of delicious nutrients that help your body in assorted ways. You'll feel better and enjoy your food more.

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