Fruit as Nature’s Candy

August 26th, 2009 - By Erika Rose

When it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth, put an ordinary apple next to a heavenly piece of cake and there’s no contest on which one has more sex appeal.

But if you replace the apple with a medley of the sweetest varieties of berries, melons and more, perhaps throwing in a sliver of pound cake or angel food cake, well, now the contest gets a bit more even.

The point is, don’t underestimate fruit as a satisfying, and healthier, alternative to the empty calories of cakes, cookies and candy.

Lauren Zuro, a registered and certified dietitian at St. Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago, says that sadly, fruit is in short supply in our diets. “It’s a trend that I’ve been seeing with children and adults alike . . .” she says. “We are far, far from that intake level that we should be at . . . It’s because of all the empty-calorie foods, fast food, ready-prepared food that don’t provide anything but high amounts of sugar and sodium.”

If that weren’t reason enough to start thinking of fruit differently, here’s another.

Zuro points out that all fruit, regardless of what type, is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, is low in calories and contains natural sugars that the body can more readily process effectively than processed sugars.

What’s more, it can still satisfy a sweet tooth, especially if you get creative. Zuro says people often don’t think beyond apples, oranges and bananas as their fruit choices. Go for the mango, pineapple, kiwifruit, she says, the varieties you might not have noticed before.

Above all, Zuro says thinking about fruit first when it comes to dessert is one way of rebuilding our nutrition from the ground up. “We eat all the wrong calories in this society. We are always hungry and we are always eating, but we are never fully satisfied,” Zuro says. “We may be overweight and obese but we truly are malnourished . . . We’ve literally taken away the nutrient content of our food because of how we prepare it.”

Tips for getting in more fruit

Eat fruits first. If you do, Zuro says, chances are you won’t be hungry anymore and will be less inclined to reach for an unhealthy treat.

Try new things. If you look more closely at the produce department, Zuro says you could eat a different piece of fruit each day for a month. Have you tried guava, kiwifruit, papaya, persimmon, star fruit, pomegranate, currants or rhubarb?

Mix it up. Get out of the apples and oranges rut and mix up a salad. A variety of many flavors tends to be more satisfying.

Remove some of the bad and replace with the good. Ditch the ice cream over the piece of pound cake and smother it in berries instead. Replace a high salt, high fat snack with a piece of fruit.

Eat the colors of the rainbow. Nutritionists maintain that the variety of colors in foods represent a variety of nutrients.

Gold Medal Fruits

The Nutrition Action Healthletter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent nonprofit consumer health group, publishes a guide that lists the best of the best foods for nutritional value.

Rated according to their amounts of carotenoids, vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber, iron and calcium, “gold medals” were given to the following fruits, listed in order of their scores: guava, watermelon, grapefruit (pink or red), kiwifruit, papaya, cantaloupe, dried apricots, orange, strawberries, apricots, dried peaches, blackberries, grapefruit (white), raspberries, tangerine, persimmon, mango, honeydew and star fruit.

1 bag frozen peaches
2 fresh plums, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in a zip-top bag and toss to combine. Microwave for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your microwave, until softened and juicy. Serve warm over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Source: foodnetwork.com

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