NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF FRUIT

SAIMA IBRAHIM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Aug
1 - 7, 2011

The nutritional value of a fruit is partly owing to its supply of vitamins and enzymes. Obviously, different fruits vary in their specific attributes.

Most of the fruits supply fresh vitamins, minerals and enzymes and the nutritional value of a fruit lies mainly in its ability to supply these things abundantly.

VITAMINS IN FRUITS

The commonest vitamin in a fruit is vitamin C and this happens to be a particularly important vitamin because our bodies neither produce nor store it. Vitamin C protects against heart disease and the "free radicals" which play a part in ageing and cancer. The best fruits for vitamin C are the citrus group - oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and tangerines to name a few. Other excellent sources of vitamin C include kiwi fruit, mangoes, and papayas and many of the soft fruits such as blackcurrants and strawberries. Vitamin A is another important vitamin for the immune system and for good vision and bone growth. It also helps regulate some hormones and promotes healthy teeth and hair. In fruit, it generally turns up as beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A. Fruits of a deep yellow or orange color are usually good sources of beta carotene. A related vitamin is lycopene, which is found in red colored fruits such as tomatoes, guava, watermelon, pink grapefruit and chilies.

Lycopene has an important role in protecting us against cancers and heart disease. It is a powerful anti-oxidant. Some fruits also contain useful amounts of vitamin B and vitamins D and E. However, most of these nutrients are better supplied in other foods.

MINERALS COMMONLY FOUND IN FRUIT

Fruit is a rich source of essential minerals. Good quality fresh fruits supply minerals such as potassium and magnesium, iron and calcium.

Potassium is particularly in demand for many of us because of our sodium-rich western diets. Salt (sodium) and potassium are in a balance in the body cells and, (although the body maintains that balance through thick and thin,) a chronic lack of potassium can cause a number of problems from muscle spasm and pain through to cancer and heart disease. Potassium helps the body to cleanse itself of impurities and also helps maintain a powerful energy system.

One of the symptoms of potassium deficiency is chronic fatigue. Good sources of potassium include oranges, bananas, blackberries, and tomatoes. Avocados are incredibly rich in both potassium and Vitamin A.

Phosphorus is not generally too important as it is found elsewhere in most people's diets. Even junk food is rich in phosphorus.

Calcium is a very important mineral because it is needed for healthy bone development and maintenance. It is also not well supplied in many people's diets. This is because although milk and cheese products are calcium rich, the absorption rate is often low from such sources. Blackberries, strawberries, oranges, kiwi fruit and tomatoes are all relatively rich in calcium.

Magnesium is important for bones and for nerves. It also helps us to extract energy from food. It is generally well supplied in most people's diets. Fruit and whole grains are good sources of magnesium.

Iron is another essential mineral, which is commonly found in fruit. Women and girls need around 15 mg per day for optimum health - men and boys rather less. Strawberries, blackberries, kiwi, tomatoes, grapes, and bananas are all good sources. Raisins are particularly rich but the concentrated sugars contained in them may be a problem for some people.

ZIPPY ENZYMES

Fresh uncooked fruit supplies living enzymes which our systems can use to great advantage. For example, many fruits supply superoxide dismutase - otherwise attractively named SOD for short. This enzyme has a role in protecting us against ageing. It is present in virtually all raw foods and it has a protective role against free radicals and other damaging rogue molecules. It acts as an anti-oxidant.

SOD also has a role in protecting the joints and the cardio-vascular system and respiratory system from age-related damage. Some scientists maintain that SOD is largely broken down by the digestive juices. Further, if we are healthy, we produce our own SOD. While this may well be true, SOD in foods can be assimilated to some extent and this process is helped by a natural nutrient found in wheat. One type of SOD has an effect upon the mitochondria in our body cells. These little majiggers are responsible for generating energy for us to use.

Fruit is an excellent source of natural fibre. The main source of fibre present in fruit is not actually fibrous. If you eat apple cores and pear hearts, you will get some actual fibre but most of nutritional fibre is found in the soft pulpy parts of fruit too.

Fibre is basically one form or another of carbohydrate. Soluble fibre consists of matter such as gums and pectins found inside the cells of plants. Fruit is a particularly good source of soluble fibre. Soluble fibre also has a role in reducing cholesterol in the body. One of the benefits of high fibre foods are that they make you feel full and keep you feeling satisfied for a good while. While too many watery fruits alone will not fill you up, a good balance of fruits with other foods can provide a sustaining and nourishing source of energy. Good sources of dietary fibre include blackberries (around 7 grams per serving), apples (4 grams) and avocado (10 grams). Both types of fibre are beneficial. An important nutritional value of a fruit is its ability to supply both types of fibre.