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Food Group Superfoods: Fruit (Part 4)

Amy Campbell

May 11, 2009

Last week, we looked at blueberries and plums, fruits from the blue/blue-red end of the spectrum that have much to offer in terms of health benefits. I actually ended up buying a small container of plums this weekend at Costco — haven’t eaten one yet, but I’m hoping they’re sweet and juicy! This week, we’ll look at two more fruits: cherries and kiwi.

Cherries
What they offer: I have to admit, I don’t eat a lot of cherries, although I like their flavor. Maybe it’s because it takes effort to chew the fruit and spit out the seed. (It also may be because I don’t care much for cherry pie.)

According to the Choose Cherries Web site, cherries are “America’s super fruit” (I wonder how grape and blueberry growers feel about that…). There are many varieties of sweet cherries (the Bing cherry being the most popular), although tart cherries are usually used for pie-making. Maraschino cherries are cherries preserved in brine, then soaked in a sugar syrup and food coloring (usually red or green). The top grower of sweet cherries is Germany, followed by the United States.

Cherries contain a multitude of nutrients, including vitamins A and C, the B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and fiber. Other nutrients include beta-sitosterol (a plant sterol that can lower cholesterol), quercetin (a flavonoid that may help fight heart disease), and amygdalin, ellagic acid, and perillyl alcohol, each of which have cancer-fighting properties. The anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants) in cherries may also fight heart disease, along with possibly helping diabetes by improving insulin resistance.

For those of you who have arthritis or gout, Bing and black cherries contain a substance called cyanidin that can help block the pain caused by uric acid crystals. Having trouble sleeping? Dealing with jet lag? Cherries contain melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our sleep patterns. Try eating cherries one hour before a flight and then one hour before going to bed.

Nutrition info: One cup of cherries (with the pits) contains about 75 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 0.2 grams of fat. Cherries also have a low glycemic index of 22.

What to look for/how to use: Select cherries that are firm and glossy without bruises or cuts. They should have their stems on them. Also, select one cherry at a time, looking for signs of spoilage, as one spoiled cherry can spoil the whole bunch. Besides being a great snack, cherries can be added to salads and cereals, and mixed into muffin, bread, or pancake batter. To remove the pit, slice the cherry in half and take out the pit.

Cherries can be frozen for up to 10 months. Dried cherries and cherry juice are popular too, but are higher in calories and carbs than fresh cherries. For more cherry info, including recipes, check out www.choosecherries.com.

Kiwi
What it offers: Kiwi, or kiwifruit, is the small, oval-shaped, fuzzy brown fruit that you’ve probably seen in the grocery store, wondering what the heck it is and how someone would eat it. But cut open the fruit and you’ll see a glistening, jewel-toned green fruit speckled with a circle of little black seeds.

The kiwi originated in China, where it was called the Chinese gooseberry (the name was changed to kiwi in honor of the New Zealand kiwi bird). This fruit is actually a newcomer to the United States, brought over by missionaries in the early 1900’s. China, New Zealand, and Italy are the top growers of kiwi.

Did you know that a kiwi has more vitamin C than an orange? It also contains vitamin E, beta-carotene, potassium, fiber, and lutein and zeaxanthin, phytonutrients important for eye health. Kiwis contain antioxidants, too, that may protect against heart disease, cancer, and macular degeneration. Some research shows that eating kiwis can help lessen the symptoms of asthma, as well.

A note of caution: Some people may be allergic to kiwi due to a chemical in the fruit called actinidin. Symptoms of kiwi allergy include itching of the mouth, lips, and palate, along with wheezing and more life-threatening symptoms.

Nutrition info: One medium kiwi has 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber, 0.4 grams of fat, and a moderate glycemic index of 52.

What to look for/how to use: Choose a kiwi that is firm but yields to slight pressure. While it sounds unappealing, you can actually eat the kiwi skin. Just wash it and gently brush off the hair. Otherwise, peel the kiwi and slice it into fruit salad or on cereal. Or stir some kiwi into muffin batter. Or slice the top off and eat it with a spoon for a quick, easy snack.

More superfoods next week!



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