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Healthful fruit

September 26, 2000

Healthful fruit

by KEVIN CLAPP / staff writer

see also: What about apples, plums and grapes?

Find your thrill on Blueberry Hill. Go bananas. Go to strawberry fields.

Hey, you can even put the lime in the coconut and drink them both up if you want, as long as you get fruity at least five times a day.

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Fruits and vegetables form the cornerstone of every diet, regardless of your age and activity level. While any fruit is good for you, there are some super fruits packed fuller with the necessary vitamins and minerals you need.

Still, nutritionists say no fruit is bad for you. The fresher the better, of course, but even canned or dried fruits are better than candy and salty snacks.

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"Each fruit has a package of different compounds in it, and some of them we know are very good for you, and some of them we don't know of, but 10 years from now we may find they are very good for you," says Trish Britten, nutritionist for U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "We don't say one fruit's better because each one has this unique package."

Citrus fruit - including oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit - are the best source for vitamin C.

Dark yellow fruits, such as apricots, mangos and cantaloupe, are rich in carotenoids, some of which are converted by the body into vitamin A.

Most people know to look for bananas for a healthful dose of potassium. But as is the case with vegetables, variety is key to receive as many nutrients as possible and to avoid tiring of any one fruit option.

Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says it's frustrating that people are not eating enough fruit.

Consuming more fruit can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease or strokes, and it is also a good way to curb weight gain, she says. Fruit tends to have a low calorie density, so eating a lot of it can fill the stomach without necessarily packing on the pounds.

"It's harder to overdose on fruit than it is chocolate or potato chips," says Washington County Health Department registered dietitian Tammy Thornton. "You can down a bag of potato chips, but eating three apples is another story."

Liebman also says that while fresh fruit is best, there's no shame in turning to dried or canned varieties to get a fruit fix. They lose some nutrients, including vitamin C and folate, in the canning and drying processes, but it could be worse.

"These are not bad foods to eat," she says. "People are better off having a portion of canned peaches than a bag of M&M's."

Britten agrees, if for no other reason than it can be expensive to eat fresh fruit year-round.

"You might lose a little bit, but look what's left," Britten says of processed fruit. "If somebody really likes canned fruits, great. Let them eat canned fruits. It's a lot better than something else they might eat."

Liebman slices fruit for her children while she is cooking dinner at night. "That way you get in an extra serving when they're most hungry, and they love it," she says.

The bottom line is that when you get the munchies, chips and salsa may sound great, but an apple or orange tastes just as good - and is more nutritious.

Many people think of snacks as something you get from a vending machine, Thornton says.

"They just don't think about fruit as something that can fill them up," she says.

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