After exploring heart-healthy foods in the vegetable family, we now turn our attention to fruits.
I’m sure you know the old proverb, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” It turns out that popular wisdom has it right: apples should be a frequent addition to your diet. Maybe not every day, but at least 2 to 3 times a week. It has been found that an apple a day lowers the chance of heart attack by 32% in men at risk.
How do they help? For one thing, apples are loaded with antioxidants. Apples contain a wide assortment of phytochemicals such as quercetin (very helpful for heart health), catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid – all powerful antioxidants. Apples also contain flavonoids, part of the polypherol family, are both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. By the way, all of these beneficial phytonutrients are found primarily in the skin so make sure to wash your apple well and eat it with the skin on. Next to cranberries, apples contain the most antioxidants of the common fruits.
Yes, avocado is a fruit. Surprised? Don’t be. Besides, in addition to being delicious and a local food staple, avocados contain a type of fat that is beneficial to our cholesterol levels. Yes, avocados contain fats, but they are of the good-for-you variety called monounsaturated fats. They also contain a type of omega-9 fat called oleic acid that can be also found in Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil and other nuts. Monounsaturated fats are known to lower cholesterol.
Blueberries are one of our most powerful disease-fighting foods. They get their dark blue color from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanins and they are packed with heart-healthy fiber and vitamin C. They rate as one of the highest of all fresh fruits in the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) test. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to your body especially in your arteries where oxidized cholesterol deposits as plaque and can lead to atherosclerosis. They also contain a compound called pterostilbene that shows an ability to regulate fatty acids in the bloodstream and help prevent plaque deposits in our arteries.
Originating from the Mediterranean basin, figs are a very good source of fiber. Four to six fresh figs contain 5 g of soluble fiber. And they taste great to boot. What more would you want? That’s the whole purpose of this book: live a healthy life while enjoying foods that taste great as they are keeping you healthy. Figs are perfect as they are, quartered and drizzled with local honey and lemon juice.
Grapefruit provides health benefits for people with high triglycerides. In a study conducted in Israel, a group of patients with high triglyceride levels were split into three groups: one group was given the standard heart healthy diet, the second was given the same heart healthy diet plus white grapefruits, and the third was also given the heart healthy diet but ate Jaffa red grapefruits instead. The group who ate the diet complemented with red grapefruits lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 20 percent. Impressive!
Grapes contain a compound called resveratrol which the plant creates to protect itself from dangerous microorganisms, but it is also beneficial to us humans. It is a powerful antioxidant! High intake of resveratrol in red wine and grape skin is known to reduce cardiovascular diseases. The skins of dark grapes are the best source of resveratrol.
Another beneficial compound is OPC (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). Proanthocyanidins are part of the flavonoids family and are powerful antioxidants, many times more effective than vitamins C and E. Several studies have shown that OPCs can help reduce the negative effect of high cholesterol in our body.
Lemons and Limes
Of course, you already know that citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, a known antioxidant. But what you may not know is that their skin contains two powerful phytochemicals known as limonoids: limonene and limonin. While limonene is respected as an anti-cancer phytochemical, it seems that limonin helps lower cholesterol. So there you have it, antioxidant protection and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Did you know that a cube of sugar soaked with lemon juice is an infallible remedy for hiccup? The effect is immediate and is very safe.
Olives are good for your digestive health, because they are one of the naturally fermented foods full of active cultures I mentioned earlier. Olives provide us with the same health benefits as olive oil, plus fiber.
Like lemons and limes, oranges contain a large amount of the phytochemical called limonoids. Another flavonoid contained in the orange’s skin is hesperidin. It is a proven anti-inflammatory as well as being vasoprotective (protects your blood vessels). To top it off, it has anti-allergic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Combined with their natural vitamin C content, hesperidin helps lower our LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase our HDL (good) cholesterol.
Prunes are loaded with fiber and are helpful to our intestinal transit. They are also loaded with health-supporting phytonutrients called phenolics. The phenolics in prunes are neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid, two powerful antioxidants very effective against those nasty free radicals that damage our cells and make us age faster. In the ORAC test I mentioned before, they rank twice as high as blueberries and raisins.
All fresh fruits are beneficial to your overall well-being and specifically to your heart health. They provide you with fresh soluble fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Please continue reading in Part 5: Health Benefits of Nuts