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Fresh fruit: a papaya a day?

More? Did someone say to eat more of something?

Sometimes people spend so much time grousing about having to cut back on their favorite foods that they don't hear the good news.

Well, here it is: luscious strawberries, dribble-downyour-chin watermelons, sweetfuzz peaches. You're supposed to eat more of them.

It's not just that fruits have little or no fat, cholesterol, or sodium. Something in them (and vegetables) seems to reduce the risk of cancer. Some scientists have bet on the vitamin A or C or the fiber, but it could be something else.

It's true that fruits take second place to vegetables, which offer a wider variety of vitamins and minerals. That's one reason the government's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" recommend that we eat more vegetables (at least three servings a day) than fruits ( at least two servings).

But, unlike many vegetables, fruits don't have to be cooked, so they retain their vitamins (unless they're canned)... and their convenience.

And then there's the popularity factor. Young or old, who can turn down half a cantaloupe stuffed with blueberries and strawberries? Fortunately, we don't have to.


To keep things simple, nutritionists lump all fruits together as though they were equal. Yet some are, as they say; more equal than others.

To illustrate the differences, we've come up with scores that rate each fruit on its vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. But take note: The scores depend on the serving size. If you eat more (or less), you'll get more (or less) of each nutrient.

Our servings are largely based on the FDA's new proposed standards, rounded toth the nearest cup or large fraction. For most fresh fruit, the serving is five ounces--about the weight of one orange. But watermelon, for example, is closer to 12 ounces, because people typically eat that much. For dried fruit, it's about an ounce and a half--roughly a quarter cup of raisins.

The stand-outs supply about a day's worth (or more) of one or both of the two nutrients you most expect to get from fruit: vitamin A (actually it's betacarotene that your body turns into vitamin A) and vitamin C. (Fruits have fiber and other nutrients, but none has an entire day's worth in a single serving .)


There are good sources of potassium, which may help prevent high blood pressure and which is vital for people who are taking the kind of diuretics that increase potassium losses.

Of the two, cantaloupes may be your best bet, because they're less likely to be imported.

What's more, cantaloupes and papayas supply all those vitamins for just 50 calories.

Eleven other fruits scored above 100. Five of them--watermelons, tangerines, mangos, persimmons, and apricots-- are rich in both A and C. Mangoes are almost all imported. You run a greater chance of pesticide contamination with imported fruit. (Don't worry about bananas, though. Their thick skins are natural barriers to pesticides.)

The six other 100-point scorers-strawberries, oranges, kiwis, raspberries, blackberries, and red or pink grapefruit-- owe their high marks largely to vitamin C, and, to a lesser extent, fiber and potassium.

As for the nutrients you don't expect to get from fruit: Watermelon and tangerines are both sources of thiamin, a B-vitamin that most people get enough of. Oranges and tangerines have folic acid, a B-vitamin that many folks--including pregnant women-- may need more of.


Once the scores drop below with both C and -A. More precisely, it's tougher to find A. The only good sources are dried apricots and (to a lesser extent) nectarines, peaches, star fruit, prunes, plums, and cherries.

Vitamin C, on the other hand, is plentiful. It's largely responsible for the respectable scores of white grapefruit, honeydew, pineapples, blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, and these old stand-bys: apples, pears, and bananas.

Most of the standbys, including oranges, are also good sources of fiber, especially if you eat them with the skin or pulp. Fruits whose "peels" are inedible, like melons and pineapples, are not so fiber-rich.

Bananas have gotten much well-deserved credit as a potassium-rich fruit. Apricots, cantaloupes, and pomegranates are also good sources.


It's tough to be less than laudatory towards fruits, especially since we don't know which of their constituents may help prevent cancer. Nevertheless, some clearly aren't stars.

Grapes, for example, have a respectable (though not impressive) ten percent of the USRDA for vitamin C. But dry 'em into raisins and they end up with less.

Canning, which involves heating to high temperatures, also destroys vitamin C. Vitamin A is more stable.

There is no excuse for dates' low score. And, to make matters worse, like all dried fruit, they get stuck between your teeth, which increases your risk of tooth decay (unless you brush and floss soon after eating them).

In the final analysis, though, any fruit is better than no fruit.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:nutritional aspects of fruit
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Getting fresh with fruit.
Next Article:Body building for the nineties.

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