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The power of fruit

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week, Rachel Ernzen weighs in on fruit.

Antioxidants naturally found in fruits are gaining popularity as "power foods" and can be found added to a variety of products, such as single-serving beverages, over-the-counter supplements and meal-replacement bars. The safest form, however, comes from eating the fruit itself.


Phytonutrients (or phytochemicals) are bioactive compounds found in fruits and vegetables that offer protection against many chronic diseases. They can be divided into two major subgroups, carotenoids and phenolics. By including a variety of fruits in your diet, you are consuming a variety of phytonutrients.

Color me healthy


•Orange fruits like cantaloupes or apricots are good sources of beta carotene, an important phytochemical for immune function, vision, skin and bone health.

•Green fruits like green apples, honeydew melon and kiwi contain lutein, valued for its role in promoting eye health.

•"White" fruits like bananas have allicin. Allicin may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce risk for heart disease.

•Red fruits like cherries, red grapes or raspberries contain anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. These have been shown to help relieve pain, including muscle and joint soreness from exercise, gout and arthritis.

•Feeling blue? Fruits like blueberries are rea "brain food." Eating as little as one or two servings per week of berries has been shown to slow memory decline. according to an analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study.

Figuring intake goals

Only one in five Americans is reaching fruit intake goals outlined by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For men and women 19 or older, the recommended intake is 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit daily. You can meet this daily goal by topping your morning breakfast cereal with a half cup of fresh berries (or quarter cup dried) and choosing a banana as your afternoon snack.

Colorful kids


Children benefit from eating fruit too. Girls and boys ages 9-18 have fruit intake goals similar to adults. Children 8 and younger have smaller fruit intake goals. Learn more at


Looking for ideas to encourage fruit acceptance? Consider any of the following:

•Try fruit kebabs at meal or snack time. Banana bites, grapes or berries make for fun finger foods.

•Decorate plates or serving dishes with orange, apple or peach slices.

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•Involve children in shopping, choosing or preparing fruits.


•For more ideas explore

Pinching pennies

Keep food costs down by buying fresh fruits in season when they are less expensive and at peak flavor. Stock up on dried, frozen or canned fruits when on sale, choosing packaged fruits without added sugar or canned fruits in water or 100 percent juice.

Fresh, frozen or canned fruits have comparable nutrient content; these forms of fruit are all preferred over juice. Unlike whole or cut fruit, juice does not provide fiber.

Safety first

Fresh fruits should be rinsed before preparing or eating them. Rub fruit briskly with your hands under clean, running water, then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Keep fruits separate from raw meat, poultry or seafood while shopping, preparing or storing.