You've heard of Superfoods, but…Superfruits? Not every fruit qualifies. Those deemed "super" by nutrition scientists are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients that can help you live longer, look better and even prevent disease.
Best of all, most are widely available, even at your local grocery store, promises Keri Glassman, R.D., founder of NutritiousLifeMeals.com and author of "Slim Calm Sexy Diet". One caveat: Superfruits are best consumed whole, not processed. So if possible, try to buy and eat these fruits fresh. Experts estimate that you should be eating five to nine portions of fruit or vegetables a day, and most of them should be Superfruits.
Açaí actually deserves some of the hype it gets, thanks to weapons grade antioxidant levels that clobber other Superfruit rivals like blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. However, because this tiny berry hails from Brazil, it's not easy to find fresh. "I recommend powdered açaí berry, which can be added into a smoothie," says Glassman. "Not only is this an easy way to get super fruits into your diet, but it also helps mask the tart, sometimes bitter taste."
Surprise! America's favorite fruit is a secret Superfruit, thanks in part to its red or green color. Apples are a great fiber source, but the skin contains quercetin, an antioxidant that packs antihistamine and anti-inflammatory power, and therefore may help protect you from heart disease and possibly allergic reactions. A study from St. George's Hospital Medical School in London found that people who eat five or more apples a week have better lung function than those who don't. So slip an apple into your lunch bag today. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zone41/2950322418/" target="_hplink">zone41</a></em>
Yup, these are a Superfruit (remember, fruits have seeds, vegetables don't). Packed with monounsaturated fat and fatty acids, avocados can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while raising the amount of good cholesterol in your body. The healthy fats in avocados also promote the absorption of other carotenoids -- especially beta-carotene and lycopene -- which are essential for heart health.
Ever grab a snack but then feel hungry again 20 minutes later? Next time, reach for a banana. This Superfruit is loaded with potassium, which can lower your blood pressure, and is one of the best sources of Resistant Starch, a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevehopson/350002649/" target="_hplink">Steve Hopson</a></em>
These tart and tasty gems rank in the top 10 for antioxidant power, according to the USDA, and they are specifically rich in polyphenols, the same family of antioxidants found in green tea, which may help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancers, and osteoporosis. Blackberries are also number one for fiber: One cup delivers one-third of your daily target of 25 to 35 grams a day. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/4788935914/" target="_hplink">Mr. T in DC</a></em>
Your go-to Superfruit for brain function and memory. Several studies link high flavonoid levels in blueberries with a better memory, and regular consumption may help keep your brain functioning well as you age, new research suggests. One study found that women with the highest intake of berries appeared to have a delay in cognitive aging by a whopping 2.5 years. Blueberries are also rich in manganese, which plays an important role in your metabolism, which can help keep you slim and energized. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetrial/1348363897/" target="_hplink">the trial</a></em>
Consider cantaloupe your secret weapon for smooth, younger-looking skin. It gets its Superfruit status thanks to Vitamin A and its derivatives, which boosts cell reproduction, making it a natural exfoliator, according to Glassman. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/news21/6110300575/" target="_hplink">News21 - National</a></em>
Cherries are one of Glassman's unsung heroes of the Superfruit world. They owe their deep red color to an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which can reduce inflammation and lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. In a recent study, University of Michigan researchers found that giving cherries to lab rats reduced two common markers of blood vessel inflammation by up to 50 percent. The cherry eaters also gained less weight and experienced big drops in cholesterol. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bgreenlee/932101821/" target="_hplink">bgreenlee</a></em>
All citrus, from limes to tangerines, are chock-full of vitamin C, fiber and small amounts of other nutrients and disease-fighting chemicals. It's the C that makes citrus a Superfruit, says Glassman, because this vitamin counters the effects of sun damage, regulates oils glands and can even prevent age spots. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mapper-montag/1290008805/" target="_hplink">mapper-montag</a></em>
These tart little berries are Superfruits, but especially for women. They may prevent urinary-tract infections, and might help fight a far scarier disease: ovarian cancer. According to a new Rutgers University study, cranberries can boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs used to fight ovarian cancer (at least in laboratory culture dishes) and may slow the growth of some cancer cells. Another study found that people who drink a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice each day raise their HDL, or good cholesterol, by 10 percent. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedelicious/4135095468/" target="_hplink">TheDeliciousLife</a></em>
The name and vibrant color of this fruit's skin tell you that it's something special, even though the taste is actually quite mild. Four years ago, researchers from Malaysia's Universiti Putra analyzed the seeds and found there to be a bounty of essential fatty acids, which we need but can't be made by our body. In fact, 50 percent of the seeds were made up of an essential fatty acid, oleic acid, which helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. While this Superfruit is grown mainly in Asia, you might be able to find one at your local Chinatown or farmer's market. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnloo/3957332524/" target="_hplink">John Loo</a></em>
What makes grapes a Superfruit? A powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, which promotes a healthy heart. Researchers have also found that compounds found in grape seed extract seem to help slow Alzheimer's disease (at least in mice) and can clobber head and neck cancer cells grown in the laboratory. Oh, and forget bleaching your teeth. "The malic acid in grapes naturally breaks down stains and discolorations on teeth," says Elisa Mello, D.D.S., assistant clinical professor at New York University. Snack on grapes that are just ripe, because the acid declines as the fruit ripens. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamieanne/6936929479/" target="_hplink">jamieanne</a></em>
Remember The Grapefruit Diet? Grapefruit is a Superfruit, but more for your heart than your weight. A grapefruit a day -- particularly the ruby variety -- can help keep heart disease at bay by lowering cholesterol, according to several studies. The redder your fruit the better; they contain higher levels of antioxidants. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/5456511612/" target="_hplink">dullhunk</a></em>
If you've got digestive gripes, then kiwi is your Superfuit. In one study, 41 people who had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) consumed two kiwis a day for six weeks and reported a reduction of symptoms compared to those who didn't. One theory: Kiwi, especially the skin, is high in fiber and pre-biotic complex carbohydrates. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/szene/4256866710/" target="_hplink">andreasdantz</a></em>
If you manage to eat just one medium orange, then you'll already have your reached recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which keeps your immune system humming. This familiar sweet fruit is also a great source of fiber, potassium, calcium, folate and other B vitamins, so take one with your everywhere you go. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcmom/136657966/" target="_hplink">bcmom</a></em>
Summer colds are the worst, so have some papaya! This tropical fruit is bursting with vitamin C -- just one cup gives you more than you need each day. On top of this, papaya is also a good source of vitamins A and E, two powerful antioxidants that may help protect against heart disease and colon cancer.
Not only does pineapple add juicy sweetness to your meals but it also contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down food to reduce bloating.
Plums are yum -- and they may help keep anxiety at bay. Plums contain an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which, according to French researchers, is linked to decrease in anxiety-related behaviors in mice. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mendrakis/5998847849/" target="_hplink">John Donges</a></em>
Pomegranates deserve their Superfruit status. The juice from this gorgeous fruit beat red wine to win first place in a list of beverages ranked by antioxidant levels in a University of California, Los Angeles study. However, if you are set on fresh pomegranate over juice, wait for winter; the fruit is at its best between September and February. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hisgett/3977642274/" target="_hplink">ahisgett</a></em>
Pumpkin & Pumpkin Seeds
Yes, pumpkin is actually a fruit! This squash is overflowing with beta-carotene, which combined with potassium may help to prevent high blood pressure. If making homemade pumpkin pie is too much trouble, try tossing the seeds into salads, soups, etc.
Fiber is not something that these berries are lacking; just half a cup would give you 4 grams. You'd also get 25 percent of your recommended intake for vitamin C and manganese too! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jocelynarcentales/7653525240/" target="_hplink">jocelynarcentales</a></em>
Strawberries are bursting with vitamin C; just a cup full and you've already reached your recommended daily intake. They are also an excellent source of folic acid, which can help protect your heart. Easiest of all, they whiten your teeth naturally! Crush a strawberry to a pulp, then mix with baking soda until blended. Spread the mixture onto your teeth and leave on for 5 minutes. Reapply once a week. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thegardenbuzz/5040029263/" target="_hplink">thegardenbuzz</a></em>
The tomato pretty much tops our list of Superfruits (even though some people still think it's a vegetable). Tomatoes pack a sought-after antioxidant called lycopene, which is rarely found in other Superfruits, and they're high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, and super-low in calories. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jels/5539511887/" target="_hplink">jess-sanson</a></em>
Watermelon is packed with lycopene; in fact just one cup of the stuff has more than twice as much compared to fresh tomato. At just 40 calories per cup, it's also a source of vitamins A and C. You needn't limit yourself to eating watermelon alone; grill and then toss with feta and fresh mint. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3652538388/" target="_hplink">stevendepolo</a></em>
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