CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I keep hearing about the super-fruits we should be eating for our health. I know they say pomegranates, blueberries and strawberries are supposed to be some of them, but it seems like they keep inventing new fruits. Where do these fruits come from, which are the best, and should I still buy bananas, apples, oranges and grapes? -- Jillian
Gone are the days when our options for fruits were limited to bananas, apples, oranges and grapes. Today, juicy print ads and Internet pop-ups have placed these exotic "super fruits" on your mind and in your shopping cart.
"Super fruit" is not a scientific word, but rather a marketing term for fruits that are high in antioxidants and nutritional value. There are many now. In fact, it seems as if a new "super fruit" debuts each month. Antioxidants are valuable because they protect cells and repair damage from free radicals. But what does existing research tell us?
Epidemiological studies have shown a diet high in antioxidants can ward off conditions such as heart disease, cancer and slow the signs of aging. Harvard University researchers have performed long-term studies in the U.S. and Europe, and found that individuals who ate more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day had about 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, compared with individuals who ate fewer than three servings per day.
These are wonderful reasons to include these fruits in your diet. However, keep in mind that some manufacturers make lofty health claims that research can neither support nor refute.
So where do they come from? They come from the Mediterranean countries as well as India, Israel, China, Japan, Russia, Europe, Chile, Brazil, South Pacific islands, Canada and, of course, the United States. And they come from all over the world because people who embraced the recommendation to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day needed alternatives when they realized that "an apple a day" was no longer sufficient. Quite simply, they were bored and yearned for new flavors, textures and colors.
This is the reason grocery store owners are continually making more room on their shelves for new fruits and fruit juices. I am one of those curious shoppers who jump at the chance to try a new fruit -- one can eat only so many apples and bananas.
Remember, in addition to mouthwatering antioxidants, we're also getting fiber -- something everyone needs in their daily diet.
Here are a few of the lucky ones that have been dubbed "super" or "it" fruits and their claims:
Pomegranate: One of the highest concentrations of antioxidant (ellagitannins and anthocyanins), which fights inflammation.
Goji berry: Ten times more potent than a blueberry and promotes a healthy libido and improves mood, thus known as the "happy berry."