Much is said about the importance of maintaining a decent amount of fruit and vegetables in our diets, and even the government is in on the act promoting ‘5 a day’ every day. But what is it about fresh fruit that make it so good for us?

We know that the human physique has been evolving over hundred of thousands of years and perhaps part of our success on this planet is due to our ability to make do with a wide variety of foods.

Typically, we would have survived on diets consisting mainly of berries, fruits, nuts, roots and leaves, but there would have been the odd fish, bird, reptile and occasional handful of insects thrown in (some of these insects would of course have been ingested unwittingly).

Fresh fruit consists mainly of water, carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. More importantly, they also contain very little - if any - fat. In fact most fruits will contain less than one gram of fat per serving, although Avocados are an exception to this containing about 31 grams of fat per fruit.

The carbohydrates found within fresh fruit are available to us in the form of starches and sugars (fructose, sucrose and glucose), and along with the small amounts of fat are – or at least should be - the primary sources of energy in the human diet.

Many fruits are also able to provide valuable folic acid and magnesium. Folic acid is essential for a number of chemical processes in the body, although most notably for the synthesis of haemoglobin and the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. Magnesium is essential for cellular metabolism, protein digestion, and the healthy function of the nervous system.

As well as being an important source for vital vitamins and minerals, fresh fruit is a food source that contains no cholesterol, little or no sodium, and is an excellent resource for dietary fibre. The term fibre - sometimes known as roughage - is commonly used to describe the indigestible portion of plant foods (skin, seeds and pulp) that helps to ‘push’ food through the digestive system. It also forms bulk for the stool.

It is important to eat foods that are high in fibre because they help to promote normal bowel function. In addition to this, fibre is also very useful in the prevention and treatment of constipation. Research from Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recommends that a healthy adult should have an intake of fibre equivalent to 20 - 35 grams per day. However, further research by the USDA – United States Department of Agriculture - showed that the average intake of both men and women is around half this amount.
Diets that are high in cholesterol, and in fat - especially saturated fats - can contribute to increased cholesterol levels within the blood. This in turn can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. However, there is some indication that dietary fibre can also play a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol.

If further proof were needed the taste organs within the human mouth are genetically pre-disposed to prefer sweet tastes over bitter ones. This ability is in fact an ancient one and common with many mammals, it helps to protect us from selecting foods that may include bitter-tasting, harmful toxins. The fact that we naturally enjoy and seek out sweet fruits is just further proof that they are perfectly suited to our bodily needs.

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Nell Jean said...

I came home from the market with navel oranges, tangelos, apples and bananas. Coconut, too. My mother always kept fresh fruit on hand in the winter, fifty years ago. Some things never change.

None of the above grow well here. We grow summer fruits like figs and grapes and berries.

J.J. Cedar Glader said...

I always enjoy fresh fruits of all kinds , but I had no idea avocados were so fatty, probably explains why I love them so much,and explains the texture of an avocado which i have always thought was something like fresh cheese or a hard boiled egg depending on ripeness.
You should look into wild and unclaimed fruits in your area, you'd be suprised how many lots, parks, buildings, churches,wooded areas ,stream banks et.c that are just loaded down with ripe fruits at different points of the year that just fall and rot with nothing to eat them, this last year alone I got tons and tons of muscadines,pawpaws,blackberries,mulberries,pears of all sizes,cherries,plumbs,persimmons,haws,apples,rose hips,passion fruits, the list goes on and on and we waste it in outrageously huge quantities each year.

J.J. Cedar Glader said...

Not to mention wild and unclaimed nuts!

easygardener said...

Good to know we have a genetic disposition to like sweet things. Most fruits look attractive which must add to their appeal.

Carol said...

Great post and the only thing I would add as I chew on a slice of dried mango, is that all these fruits and veggies should be pesticide free and hopefully chemical fert. free too. We have so much power to make change with how we shop. Carol

Deborah Elliott said...

We always keep a bowl of fresh fruit on our dining table. When my boys were small, if they didn't want to eat a particular vegetable, I would let them eat fresh fruit instead. I guess that's why they grew up to be so healthy, handsome, and intelligent. :)

Michelle said...

Thank you for writing this - it is great. I am now craving fruit! Michelle

Helen Reidt said...

As long as we remember...Diabetics should eat NO more than 3 portions of fruit a day. :)