Fruit is so delicious and sweet, sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s so healthy. But research confirms eating fruit comes with a number of benefits. In fact, according to a new seven-year study out of China, men and women who noshed on fruit daily (as opposed to never) lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease by roughly 25 to 40 percent. A daily dose of the fresh, sweet stuff also reduced the odds of stroke, high blood pressure and overall mortality.
Need more reasons to start an apple a day habit? Here, registered dietitian Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, CPT, offers up the skinny on apples and six other benefit-packed fruits.
Serving size: 1 small
Benefits: It may only be 80 to 100 calories a pop, but a pear packs six grams of filling fiber, making this fruit an ideal snack between meals. “Pears are also a great source of antioxidants, phytosterols, and vitamin C, which help to keep your immune system strong and fight against cancers and heart disease,” says Moskovitz.
How to eat them: Pair your pear with 1 ounce of part-skim mozzarella cheese, or slice it up into a salad for a unique add-on.
Serving size: 1.5 cups whole strawberries
Benefits: Strawberries are low in calories and sugar, while also adding 120 mg-per-cup of vitamin C. “This translates to over 210 percent of your daily need,” Moskovitz says. “Vitamin C is important for skin and eye health, cardiovascular health, and immunity.”
How to eat them: Add fresh sliced strawberries to peanut butter-topped toast as a replacement for jelly, stir diced strawberries into cereal or yogurt, or dip whole berries into light whipped cream for dessert.
Serving size: 1 cup
Benefits: With more than 4 grams of fiber and only 80 calories per cup, blueberries have a stellar nutrition profile, and some studies link them to improved cardiovascular and memory function. “Blueberries contain flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which is a remarkable antioxidant that has been shown to protect against degenerative diseases, such as heart disease and cancer,” says Moskovitz.
How to eat them: Add frozen berries to hot oatmeal, top frozen yogurt with a sprinkling of berries, or toss them into a mixed green salad for bursts of sweet flavor.
Serving size: 1 small
Benefits: One small apple weight in around 80 calories and offers up 3 grams of fiber and ample vitamin C. “But the real life-saving effects come from apples’ strong antioxidant activity, particularly from quercetin and catechin, which prevents cancers, diabetes, and heart disease,” says Moskovitz.
How to eat them: For an on-the-go, energy-boosting breakfast, pair an apple with part-skim string cheese. Or slice up a red apple, spread on a thin layer of all-natural peanut butter, and then top with a drizzle of honey or a sprinkle of cinnamon for a dessert-like treat.
Serving size: ¼ medium
Benefits: Avocados have been hailed as a superfood because they are a great source of healthy, monounsaturated fat. “This fat has been linked to lowering cholesterol and warding off heart disease,” says Moskovitz. “And avocados are also a great source of fiber, vitamin K, which aids in blood-clotting, heart-healthy vitamin E, and potassium.”
How to eat them: Mash an avocado with fresh tomatoes for a simple guacamole dip—enjoy it with fresh, cut-up veggies. Use it in place of mayonnaise in tuna salad. Or slice one in half, and fill the center with low-fat crab or chicken salad.
Serving size: 1 cup cherry tomatoes; 1 cup chopped, fresh tomatoes
Benefits: Guess what? Tomato is a fruit, although it’s often mistaken for a vegetable. “Tomatoes are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A that’s important for eye health, and potassium,” Moskovitz says. “It’s most notable quality, however, is that it’s the leading source of lycopene, which studies show attacks cancer-causing free radicals, reduces inflammation and improves cholesterol levels.”
How to eat them: Think: savory. Dice whole, fresh tomatoes along with cucumbers, red onion and parsley, and add a touch of olive oil and vinegar to make an Israeli salad. Add chopped tomatoes to scrambled egg with feta cheese, spinach, and mushrooms for a Mediterranean breakfast omelet.
Serving size: 1 large fruit
Benefits: Why does everyone forget about kiwi? At just 50 calories per serving, one kiwi is a healthy and versatile, if not underrated, snack. “Not only is kiwi a significant source of powerful antioxidants, like vitamin C, and heart-healthy potassium, but studies also show it can help promote better, more restful sleep—so important since over time sleep deprivation can lead to serious health conditions, such as obesity and heart disease,” says Moskovitz.
How to eat them: Enjoy sliced kiwi with berries and grapes in a fruit salad. Add chopped kiwi to a veggie-filled salad for a sweet bite. Or toss kiwi into a green breakfast smoothie.
Which fruits are your faves? How do you sneak more into your day? Share in the comments below!