The Most Delicious Health Foods
Whether you prefer a peach, with its soft, velvety skin warmed by the sun, a few chilled plums eaten messily over the sink (my favorite way to eat a plum), or a bowl of freshly washed vibrant red cherries, you just cannot go wrong eating these nutritional power houses.
Sarah M. of Delaware asked about the nutritional properties of nectarines in an email she sent me last week. It got me thinking that with the current release of my second book in the Phytonutrient Gardening series (get it here), I should answer Sarah’s question in the Phytonutrient Friday post. Then I got to thinking that it might be better to provide some of the best researched health benefits for several of the most popular stone fruits.
The Healthiest, Most Delicious Stone Fruits
Rich in beta-carotene, which helps to protect your eyesight, and vitamin C, Apricots are also an amazing source of catechins (the same phytonutrients that make green tea so good for you). Catechins help to reduce inflammation, which in turn helps to regulate blood pressure. Did you know one cup of sliced apricots is 25% of your daily vitamin C requirement? Apricots have rich, orange looks, sweet-tart tastes, and a velvety smooth consistency that makes other fruits jealous – not to mention their high nutrient content of vitamin A and fiber. But one of the biggest attractions to apricots are their ability to prevent heart-disease by using beta-carotene to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. So, whether you like the looks, the tastes, or the nutrients the best, apricots are sure to make you fall in love.
It is no secret that dark red cherries taste great and are good for you. But did you know that they offered added benefits to athletes? Dark red cherries have anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful fur muscle recovery after exercise, which can be helpful for anyone struggling with muscle pain. These sweet-tart fruits also contain vitamins A, C & E, fiber, and are low in fat. Instead of using your summer cherry stash for pie, try adding them to your green smoothies with some cacao powder for delicious dessert. But even if you are eating light colored cherries you are still getting tons of phytonutrients and antioxidants, so indulge yourself!
Like apricots, nectarines are also a rich source of beta-carotene, which gives them their bright orange-red color. They’re also filled with fiber, which helps with digestion, and are an amazing source of potassium, aiding in overall bodily function. Nectarines are another fat free stone fruit with great taste. They look similar to peaches in color, but their skin is smooth instead of fuzzy. One of the top nutrients in nectarines is vitamin A. Vitamin A is a strong supporter of the main structures in our bodies (skin, bones, eyes, etc.), which makes it a strong stone fruit to add to your green smoothies–your body will be glowing with happiness when you do!
Referred to as “the fruit of calmness” in Hungary, the natural sedative present in peaches can actually help relieve anxiety and, like cherries, can help you get a more restful night’s sleep. Along with helping you keep your cool, peaches are also filled with fiber, which keeps you feeling full, and they are low in calories, making them an ideal between-meal snack. The peach is one of America’s largest crops and there is no better time to get some than summertime! These no fat, fuzzy fruits are filled with 10 different vitamins, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants that fight free radicals. Free radicals enter our bodies through polluted air and foods, and other chemicals that wreak havoc on our bodies, which is a perfect reason to add peaches to your summertime staple. Look for peaches with soft and fuzzy skin for a delicious addition to your meals. And if like smoothies peaches are wonderful! If you use 2 small peaches, you’ll get more potassium than you get from a banana!
Plums and prunes, their dried alter-egos, which technically are now known in the fruit industry as dried plums – I guess they think the word prunes has a negative connotation! These have both been the subject of much research as of late due to the fact that they contain high levels of phytonutrients that act as very strong antioxidants. Antioxidants that have been shown to prevent oxygen damage to fats, and the plum’s particular brand of phenol effectively neutralizes a dangerous toxin known as the “superoxide anion radical.” No small feat here. For that virtue alone, we should all be eating more plums, but if you need more convincing, they’re also filled with fiber, and vitamin C. So eat your plums! They can rid your body of nasty free radicals by adding antioxidant-rich compounds to your diet! Plums are also a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are good for your blood. They come in a wide variety of colors (red, purple, deep blue, green yellow – all of which are just packed with phytonutrients), have smooth skin and a sweet flesh, and when dried are commonly referred to as prunes. Plums will fight for your body and keep your taste buds happy too!
These are a hybrid fruit, the result of carefully controlled cross-pollination between plums and apricots. Different varieties of plums, crossed with different varieties of apricots have yielded a wide array of plumcot varieties, with more arriving every year. Each variety has a relatively short window of availability, about three weeks on average, and each variety has its own unique appearance and flavor attributes. Plumcots are also known as Pluots®. California plant breeder Floyd Zaiger is widely credited with the development of this flavorful fruit he called a pluot (pronounced plew-ott). Mr. Zaiger saw so much potential in this fruit, he decided many years ago to register that name as a trademark. For many years, virtually all pluot trees in commercial production were Zaiger varieties, and most still are. However, other breeders have begun to make their own crosses of plum and apricot varieties and they cannot legally call their trees pluots. Because of this, many in the fruit marketing industry decided to change the name of the fruit to plumcot which we believe is a much more direct description of what this fruit actually is. This name change is voluntary for the most part and will take a few years to become widespread. Just know that whether you find our fruit marked as plumcots or pluots in your local store, it’s the same great-tasting fruit. Emerging research suggests that many varieties of plumcots can be considered “superfoods” thanks to their high level of antioxidants. AgriLife Research at Texas A&M University found that many varieties of plumcots and plums matched or exceeded the much-touted blueberry in antioxidants and phytonutrients associated with disease prevention. Plumcots are also fat free, saturated fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free and a good source of vitamin C.
So basically what I am saying in this post should come as no surprise to anyone, “Eat more fruit!”
Like I said no surprise, but isn’t nice to know that you can eat some of these really wonderful sweet treats and still be heating healthy? I love it!