Are you falling short?
Even though we know fruits are good for us—and even though they’re generally a lot tastier than veggies—most Americans still miss the recommended three to five servings a day. That means they're missing out on a range of vitamins, minerals, and other plant-based nutrients, as well as filling and disease-fighting fiber. Sound like you? Try these fresh-picked tips.
Snack on citrus.
Most of us nibble between breakfast and lunch. Make yours an orange! One serving of citrus a day cuts the risk of mouth cancer by 67 percent, according to an Italian analysis of 16 studies. If you like variety, experiment with a different citrus every day of the week, from blood oranges to sweet-tart Mineolas, juicy clementines to luscious naval oranges, tart white or yellow grapefruit to sweet red grapefruit.
Dish it up for dessert.
When scientists for the U.S. cereal giant General Mills measured the antioxidant levels in fruit, the winning choices read like a perfect shopping list: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, red plums, black plums, red grapes, red apples, green grapes, nectarines, bananas, kiwi, and pineapple.
Why not eat a bunch of them at once? Having a brimming fruit salad after dinner most nights of the week equals at least two good produce servings and a huge variety of good-for-you plant chemicals. Cut fruit will keep for six to nine days with minimal loss of vitamin C, carotenoids, or other phytonutrients, say researchers who tested a variety of fruit types.
Pour the real stuff.
Many packaged fruit drinks are laden with sweeteners and flavored artificially. But enoying a glass of real orange juice (from a carton or from concentrate) or pure Concord grape juice every day is a healthy pleasure with a big payoff, experts say. One Vanderbilt University study found that people who enjoyed three glasses of fruit or vegetable juice a week had a 76 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease than those who had less than one glass. Or try pomegranate juice: Lab studies suggest it can cut the risk of brain degeneration and fight cancers of the breast, prostate, and skin. Bonus points: Choose OJ fortified with bone-building calcium and vitamin D.
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Shop like the Europeans do.
That is, stop at a fruit market every few days, buy small amounts of what looks the very best, and eat it within a day or two. This is so much more pleasant than buying large bags of the same old stuff at the chain grocer every two weeks. Even if the fruit costs more at the small market, you’ll probably save money by eating everything you buy. Sadly, when you buy infrequently, you tend to throw out more than you realize due to spoilage.
Keep a few cans on hand.
It’s nearly as nutritious as fresh, and you’ll avoid “uh-oh, I’ve suddenly got 10 overripe bananas” syndrome. We love mandarin oranges packed in juice, low-sugar peach slices, pineapple bits, and unsweetened cherries.
Have half a cup over oatmeal or high-fiber cereal at breakfast; spoon some onto yogurt and top with a dusting of good fat-rich crushed walnuts at lunch; or heat with your favorite warm spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg), thicken with a little cornstarch and serve with chicken or ham.
Single-serving, pull-top canned fruit is great too. Toss a can into your tote bag with a spoon for a healthy snack on the go.
Make bananas pop.
Speaking of overripe bananas: Peel and wrap each one in a plastic wrap, then freeze for a delicious, sweet snack that tastes better than an ice pop.
Go wild in the gadget aisle.
Playing with it means you're more likely to want to eat it. With one push, an apple slicer divides your favorite Granny Smith or McIntosh into delectable slices and separates the pesky core. A mango slicer easily turns bulky mangos into sweet, ready-to-enjoy sections, and a sharp box grater can grate apples into muffin batter or onto oatmeal.
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Freeze it at its peak.
It’s a perfect summertime Sunday project: Visit a farmer’s market or pick-your-own fruit farm, get a large quantity of your favorite berries or tree fruit, take it home, clean it all, and pack it up for the freezer. Then you’ll have year-round local produce, perfect for blender drinks, pies, sauces, salads, and toppings for that healthy dessert treat.
Don’t feel like doing all the work yourself? Most stores sell frozen fruit. Prices are best in season, though, so don’t wait until winter to stock up.
Pair fruit with breakfast foods.
Cereal and berries. Toast and an apple. English muffin and a banana. Yogurt with cantaloupe. You get the picture. Fruit is the perfect breakfast food, and a sweet way to start the day. Make it a mandatory part of your morning.