The top 10 healthy fruits: Blueberries, apples, cherries, bananas and 6 more fruits. Few things compare to the sweetness of fresh-picked strawberries or the luscious first bite of watermelon that leaves juice dripping down your chin.
Fruits are not only delicious but healthful too. Rich in vitamins A and C, plus folate and other essential nutrients, they may help prevent heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer and guard against vision loss.
They're so good for you that Health Canada recommends that most women get seven or eight servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
If it's the vitamins that promote good health, you may wonder if you can just pop supplements. Nope. Sun-drenched peaches and vine-ripened grapes contain more than just vitamins; they're a complex combination of fibre, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals – as well as the vitamins – that work in combination to provide protective benefits. You can't get all that from a pill.
All fruits offer health benefits, but the following 25 stand out as nutrient-dense powerhouses with the most disease-fighting potential. (Note: Only the best sources of each vitamin, mineral and antioxidant are listed in the "nutritional value" section.)
• Nutritional value (1 medium): 75 calories, 3 g fibre
• Disease-fighting factor: Apples contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help lower the chance of developing diabetes and asthma. Apples are also a natural mouth freshener and clean your teeth with each crunchy bite.
• Did you know? An apple's flavour and aroma comes from fragrance cells in apple skin, so for maximum flavour, don't peel your apple. Plus, the vitamins lie just beneath the skin.
• Nutritional value ( ½ avocado): 114 calories, 4.5 g fibre, source of vitamin E and folate
• Disease-fighting factor: Avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol levels when eaten instead of harmful saturated fats. For a heart-healthy boost, replace butter with avocado on your favourite sandwich.
• Did you know? Babies love avocados. Their soft, creamy texture makes them easy to eat, and their high fat content helps with normal infant growth and development.
• Nutritional value (1 medium): 105 calories, 3 g fibre, source of vitamin B6, potassium and folate
• Disease-fighting factor: With 422 milligrams of potassium per banana, these sweet delights have more potassium than most fruit and may help lower blood pressure levels.
• Did you know? People with rubber latex allergies may also be allergic to bananas since the two come from similar trees and share a common protein.
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 mL): 31 calories, 4 g fibre, rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Blackberries get their deep purple colour from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, which may help reduce the risk of stroke and cancer. Studies show that blackberry extract may help stop the growth of lung cancer cells.
• Did you know? The ancient Greeks called blackberries "gout-berries" and used them to treat gout-related symptoms.
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 mL): 41 calories, 1.5 g fibre, rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 60 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Blueberries may help lower the risk of developing age-related diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
• Did you know? Blueberries freeze very well. Here's how: Rinse, then let berries dry in a single layer on towels. Freeze in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Seal in freezer-safe containers for up to one year. Use them straight from the freezer in your morning cereal, blend them into a smoothie or mix into pancake or muffin batter. (You can also buy frozen blueberries year-round.)
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 mL): 46 calories, 1.5 g fibre, rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Sour cherries contain more of the potent antioxidant anthocyanin than any other fruit. Anthocyanin may help reduce inflammation and ease the pain of arthritis and gout.
• Did you know? Sour cherries, commonly used in pie and jam, have more vitamin C than sweet cherries do, but much of it is lost when they are heated.
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 mL): 25 calories, 2.5 g fibre, rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Cranberries are antibacterial and studies show that they can help treat and prevent urinary tract infections. Recent research has also linked cranberries to the prevention of kidney stones and ulcers.
• Did you know? Unsweetened cranberry juice makes an excellent mouthwash – studies show it can help kill bacteria and fight cavities.
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/125 mL): 90 calories, 2.5 g fibre, source of vitamin A,
rich in antioxidants
• Disease-fighting factor: Goji berries are a nutrient powerhouse, containing six vitamins, 21 minerals and a slew of antioxidants. They have been linked to the prevention of diabetes and cancer, but more research is needed to understand their effects.
• Did you know? Dried goji berries, which look like dried cranberries, can be found in most health food and bulk stores.
• Nutritional value (1/2 cup/ 125 mL): 53 calories, less than 1 g fibre, source of manganese
• Disease-fighting factor: Grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that may help prevent heart disease by reducing blood pressure levels and lowering the risk of blood clots. Resveratrol may also help stop the spread of breast, stomach and colon cancer cells.
• Did you know? You can freeze red and green grapes and use them as colourful ice cubes in your favourite drinks. They add a special touch to sparkling water or Champagne.
• Nutritional value (1 large): 56 calories, 3 g fibre, source of vitamins C and E, and of magnesium and potassium
• Disease-fighting factor: With more vitamin C than oranges, kiwis can help in the development and maintenance of bones, cartilage, teeth and gums. They can also help lower blood triglyceride levels (high triglycerides increase the risk of heart disease).
• Did you know? Most people remove the fuzzy skin, but kiwis can actually be eaten whole – skin and all.
GlossaryPhytochemicals: Most of the more than 1,000 known phytochemicals have antioxidant properties that help protect our cells against disease-causing damage. Phytochemicals are often identified by their colour (for example, the purple-hued anthocyanins in blackberries and the red lycopene in tomatoes). Each colourful phytochemical provides a different health benefit to the body, so for the best protection against a variety of diseases, choose an array of colourful fruits each day.
Free radicals: Harmful molecules that occur naturally in the body or that come from pesticides, pollution, smoking and radiation. They damage the body's cells, which can lead to cancer and heart disease.
Antioxidants: Powerful substances that can protect the body against the harmful effects of free radicals. Some of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals found in fruit can act as antioxidants.