Are you feeling like you’re in a fruit rut—apples and blueberries are getting boring? So now that summer is upon us and markets are filled with an array of exotic fruits, it’s a good time to expand your dietary horizons.
Eating a wider variety of fruits is a good idea, according to nutrition expert Steven V. Joyal, MD, vice president of scientific and medical affairs for Life Extension Foundation, a Fort Lauderdale-based research organization.
Reason: Different fruits provide different nutrients, each of which has its own set of beneficial effects on the body. What’s more, taste buds that are treated to a variety of healthful fruits are less likely to get bored (“Not another apple! We want candy!”)—so it’s easier to resist cravings for nonnutritious foods.
Health-food stores, farmers’ markets and larger supermarkets carry a wide selection of fruits. Dr. Joyal recommends trying these especially nutritious, yet underappreciated, items…
CARAMBOLA, also called star fruit, is rich in vitamin A, which promotes eye health…vitamin C, to help support a healthy immune system…and potassium for cardiac function. Buy it green and let it ripen at room temperature until the ridges darken. Some varieties (such as the Arkin carambola) have a very sweet pineapple-orangey flavor…others (such as Golden Star) are more tart. Slice carambola crosswise (no need to peel it first) to make pretty star shapes that are perfect for fruit salad, avocado salad or Asian stir-fry.
CHERIMOYA looks like a hand grenade. Ripen it at room temperature until it is slightly soft, then peel it and discard the skin and seeds. The creamy white flesh inside, which tastes like a mango-pineapple-strawberry mix, can be scooped out or sliced and eaten raw or baked into a pie…or mashed to a custard texture and added to whole-grain waffle batter. The cherimoya contains niacin, which maintains “good” HDL cholesterol…lots of the antioxidant vitamin C…and iron for red blood cell production.
GUAVA provides protein for tissue repair…fiber for digestion…and calcium and phosphorus for bones. The guava may be green or maroon on the outside and white, pink or reddish inside. It is ready to eat when slightly soft and fragrant…expect a grainy texture and pear-kiwi-strawberry hybrid flavor. Eat a guava out of your hand as you would an apple…slice and salt it as you would a tomato…dice it into salads…or boil it to make jam.
POMEGRANATE provides powerful antioxidants, promotes blood vessel relaxation and may ease symptoms of inflammation from arthritis. According to Greek mythology, Persephone had to spend time in hell after she was tricked into eating some pomegranate seeds—but don’t let that stop you from trying this fruit. Round and red on the outside, the pomegranate is filled with hundreds of crimson, gel-covered seeds called arils. Remove the crown and the bottom with a knife, then score the sides of the hard outer peel from top to bottom. Place the fruit in a bowl of cold water and pry it apart. Pluck out the fleshy arils, letting them sink to the bottom of the bowl…discard the peel and internal white membranes…drain the seeds. To eat, suck off the sweet-tart gel and either swallow or spit out the soft inner seeds. For juice, put the gel-covered seeds in a blender and blend well, then strain to remove the remnants of the pulverized inner seeds, if desired.
UGLI FRUIT looks like a lopsided grapefruit with baggy skin and tastes like a sweet-and-sour cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. Packed with vitamin C and fiber, its segments can be eaten alone or added to salads (try it with fresh spinach leaves and shrimp). Juice it to add tang to marinades, sauces and salad dressings…or mix the juice with warm rum and honey for a hot toddy.
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