Fruit is nature’s sweetest treat. We add it to an assortment of different foods, from salads to smoothies. While we know we are supposed to eat two to five servings a day of fruit, we may not know why.
Dr. Robert A.J. Fernandez, DO, MPH, an osteopathic family physician and faculty member at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, FL, explains the benefits of fruits and which ones are best to eat during the winter months.
“Fruits are low in calories and fat and full of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, all of which are essential for optimizing our health,” Dr. Fernandez explains. “Fruits also contain soluble dietary fiber which helps to ward off cholesterol and fats from the body and keep digestion regular and healthy. And the anti-oxidants help protect the body from oxidant stress, disease and cancers by boosting immunity levels.”
Fruits are also proven to help the body prevent, or at least delay, the natural changes of age by protecting and rejuvenating cells, tissues and organs in the body. To maximize the amount of nutrients in your fruit, consider these two tips when shopping in the produce section:
1. Look for bright colors. “Fruits that are bright in color and heavy in your hands are at their ripest and are filled with vitamins and nutrients,” says Dr. Fernandez. Avoid blemishes, spots, molds and signs of insecticide spray.
2. Make sure you wash fruits soon after shopping. “Washing fruit ensures that what you consume is rid of dust, sand and any chemical residue,” says Dr. Fernandez. “Fruits have a short shelf life and need to be consumed quickly after purchasing for the best health benefiting properties.”
Another thing to consider when shopping is when fruits are in season.
“Fruits are considered in season when they are at their ripest and healthiest point,” says Dr. Fernandez. “Different fruits are in season at different times depending on the harvest dates in your local region.” And another reason to pay attention to what’s in season? “There is a rise in cost when fruits are out of season in your area and have to be imported from another region of the world,” Dr. Fernandez adds.
Now that the winter season is here, Dr. Fernandez recommends these seasonal fruits to get the most nutritional bang for your buck:
1. Grapefruit. Grapefruit is harvested from warmer states in the U.S. and provides health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, and cholesterol. It is fully in season starting in January and stays sweet and juicy into early summer.
2. Kiwi. Kiwis grow on vines and are harvested winter through spring in warmer temperate areas. They contain high levels of fiber and Vitamin C and are not expensive to import from warmer regions.
3. Lemons, Mandarins, and Oranges. These fruits, which come from warmer states in the U.S., are at their juiciest and sweetest in the winter and spring and are a great source for Vitamin C and Copper.
4. Pears. Their season runs from mid-summer well into winter depending on the variety and region. Pears have plenty of fiber and are good for the skin. Vitamin K is also in pears, which helps prevent blood clotting, a cause of stroke and heart disease.
“It is important to remember that just because a fruit you crave isn’t in season, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate it into your diet,” Dr. Fernandez says. “When fresh produce isn’t an option, consider dried fruits, which are a rich source of nutrients, canned fruits, which stay fresh in their own juices, and frozen fruits, which are flash-frozen at their peak to seal in freshness.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients. For more information visit www.osteopathic.org or www.lecom.edu
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