With the growing season starting, it's a good time to appreciate the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. While I generally emphasize the benefits of vegetables because they have been shown to provide greater overall benefits, this month we're going to take a look at some specific fruits that will really boost your health.
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Canada and the U.S.
Statistics Canada reported that in 2013, according to data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 40.8% of Canadians aged 12 and older (about 11.5 million people) reported consuming fruit and vegetables 5 or more times per day. This was a decrease from 45.6% in 2009, but is the same as in 2011. Women (47.4%, 6.8 million) were more likely than men (34.0%, 4.7 million) to consume 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. There was not much variation by age group, but those aged 45-54 were slightly less likely to consume 5 or more servings per day than any other age group. Males aged 12-19 had the highest rate of consumption of any age group, and for women, the highest rate of consumption was in those aged 55-64, followed closely by those aged 35-44.
In contrast, only 17% of Americans consumed the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (amount not specified). The average American consumes only 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Why Are Fruits and Vegetables Important?
There is now a solid body of scientific evidence to back up what our mothers told us! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can:
- lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
- reduce blood pressure
- protect against cancer
- improve the digestive system (due to the fibre)
- keep your eyes in good shape, and specifically help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
The benefits of fruit and vegetables rise with increased consumption. Researchers say that people who eat 7 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day have the lowest risk of mortality from all causes, cancer and cardiovascular disease compared to those who eat less than one serving per day.
The importance of antioxidants
You've probably heard that antioxidants fight free radicals, but what does that really mean?
Antioxidants fight free radicals by neutralizing the free radicals, which they do by donating electrons that stabilize them.
What's a free radical? Atoms are the building blocks of our cells, which include a nucleus, neutrons, protons and electrons. Electrons are the "glue" that holds atoms together. Atoms try to fill their outer layers by gaining or losing electrons and may join with other atoms to this. Bonds between atoms are usually strong and create a stable molecule. Weak bonds can result in splits that form free radicals. They attack other molecules and rob electrons making them free radicals too. This creates a domino effect resulting in mutated or unhealthy cells. Free radicals also result from exposure to radiation, toxins and sunlight.
The thing that's special about antioxidants is that they are able to lose electrons in the process of stabilizing free radicals, without becoming free radicals themselves.
There are thousands of types of free radicals, so no single antioxidant can neutralize all of them. Therefore, a diet rich in a variety of antioxidants is essential. A sufficient quantity and variety of highly colored fruits and vegetables is key.
Here are some of the most effective antioxidant fruits and plants
- Mangosteen provides a wide variety of reported benefits, ranging from antibacterial and anticancer effects to inflammation relief and antioxidant protection. Mangosteen fruit contains several dozen types of compounds called xanthones, known as key participants in a number of body processes. Besides xanthones, mangosteens contain other key nutrients including polysaccharides and catechins. Both of these are well-known for their potential in preventing disease and improving overall health.
- Mangosteen provides protection from cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, bacterial/fungal infection, the effects of aging, and free radical damage. A Thai study showed that a mangosteen fruit extract was very effective in restricting the activity of hospital strains of the bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This strain of Strep is very dangerous and is a primary cause of hospital-acquired infections and dealths.
- Wolfberry or goji berry is a nutrient powerhouse, providing 18 amino acids and several trace minerals. Research suggests that it may increase energy, reduce risk of diabetes and stimulate the immune system. It may also prevent cellular damage, including DNA damage, which is often the principal contributor to cancer. Wolfberry contains polysaccharides, which are needed for various body processes, including cellular communication and DNA repair. Wolfberry also contains amino acids, beta carotene, minerals and vitamins. It may provide protection from cancer, damaged DNA, diabetes, and immune dysfunction. A study suggests that wolfberry extracts may be able to inhibit the proliferation of, and induce apoptosis (cell destruction) of certain types of liver cancer cells.
- Blueberries are consistently ranked very high in antioxidant activity. Anthocyanins are the chemicals responsible for blueberry's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and are linked to numerous health benefits, including improvement in mental function (better memory, reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease), and reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. European research suggests that the bilberry, a variety of blueberry, can minimize the effects of cataracts and macular degeneration. In addition to anthocyanins, blueberries contain vitamins and minerals. A study published in 2006 demonstrated that supplementation with blueberries improved performance on memory tasks in mice, and has a protective effect on DNA damage, likely due to the activity of the berry's polyphenols.
- Apples - An apple a day just may keep the doctor away. Apples contain pectins which have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers and stimulate immune function. Apples are also a great source of flavonoids, antioxidants that can lower the risk of numerous diseases. In addition, the fibre content of apples is known to improve and optimize digestion. The Harvard University's Women's Health Study of almost 40,000 women analyzed apple consumption and heart health. After controlling for other fruits as well as vegetables, fibre and other nutrients, the study found that women who ate at least one apple a day were 22% less likely to develop heart disease than women who didn't eat apples.
- Green tea - From the same plant that provides "standard" or black tea, green tea is simply the green, unfermented version. It is high in antioxidants (especially EGCG), which have been shown in numerous studies to protect the body from various cancers, heart disease, obesity and oral health. In particular, a 2007 Italian study investigated the possible effects of green tea on symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The researchers found that the polyphenol EGCG in green tea improved endothelial function and insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure and protected against ischemia (damage in heart tissue due to low oxygen flow).
- Red grape, Concord grape, grape skin and grape seed - All forms of the grape are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Grape seeds have been examined for their potential in improving vision and fighting cancer. Because of their use in wine, grapes are central to the "French paradox" which suggests that French people experience far lower rates of heart disease than other countries; this is believed by some to be due to their consumption of red wine. A recent Greek study demonstrated that grapes provide an array of protective powers, mainly through their antioxidant properties. The study showed that extracts from grapes can inhibit the formation of cancer cells by limiting the activity of certain types of free radicals.
- Seabuckthorn is largely unknown to Westerners; it comes from Tibet and China where it has been used for centuries for numerous health conditions. It is reported to increase physical energy and endurance, protect the respiratory and immune systems, enhance kin health and provide heart-healthy benefits. An Indian study found that the polyphenols/flavonoids present in seabuckthorn demonstrated the ability to scavenge free radicals and protect cell DNA. This has been replicated in other studies.
- Raspberry - Research on red raspberries shows that the raspberry has the potential to reduce the risk of a number of chronic disease, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease among others. Again, this is due to the antioxidant properties of the raspberry, particularly ellagic acid. Raspberries also contain limonene, vitamin C and manganese. A Scottish study demonstrated that raspberry consumption is associated with an anti-cancer effect. The researchers attribute the anti-proliferative effect of raspberry to its ellagitannin content.
Zambroza - A key ingredient of Nature's Sunshine's Zambroza is mangosteen. Zambroza is a blend of the most healthful fruits and nutritional supplements from all over the world. Zambroza is replete with xanthones, bioflavonoids and powerful antioxidants. In the body, bioflavonoids enhance vitamin C absorption and help maintain collagen and capillary walls. They also aid in the body’s immune–defense system. In fact, all the fruits (including the different components of the grape) plus green tea discussed here are contained in Zambroza. You can obtain it at http://www.ramilas.com/store/#!/Zambroza/p/7802979/category=5963011.
For additional information, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter. Also on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, additional information about products, order products, and see information about our Clinic.
- Wise J. The health benefits of vegetables and fruit rise with consumption, finds study. BMJ 2014;348:g2434 (Published April 1, 2014).
- Fruit and vegetable consumption, 2013. Health Fact Sheets, Catalogue no. 82-625-X, Ottawa: Statistics Canada, June 12, 2014.
- Nature's 11 best: Nature's dream team of 11 fruits and phytonutrients for disease prevention and optimal health. Sound Concepts, 2007.
- Vegetables and fruits: get plenty every day. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Nutrition Source. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vegetables-full-story/ Accessed May 4, 2015.
- Oyebode O, Gordon-Dseagu V, Walker A, Mindell JS. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. J Epidemiol Comm Health 2014;68:856-862.
- Voravuthikunchai SP, Kitpipit L. Activity of medicinal plant extracts against hospital isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Clin Mocrobiol Infect 2005;11(6):510-512.
- Chao JC-J, Chiang S-W, Wang C-C et al. Hot water-extracted Lycium barbarum and Rehmannia glutinosa inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis of hepatocellular carcinoma cells. World J Gastroenterol 2006;12(8):4478-4484.
- Barros D, Amaral OB, Izquierdo I et al. Behavioral and genoprotective effect of Vaccinium berries intake in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2006;84(2):229-234.
- Sesso HD, Gaziano JM, Liu S, Buring JE. Flavonoid intake and risk of cardiovascular disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1400-1408.
- Potenza MA, Marasciulo FL, Tarquinio M et al. EGCG, a green tea polyphenol, improves endothelial function and insulin sensitivity, reduces blood pressure, and protects against myocardial I/R injury in SHR. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2007;292:E1378-E1387.
- Shukla SK, Chaudhary P, Kumor IP, et al. Protection from radiation-induced mitochondrial and genomic DNA damage by an extract of Hippophae rhamnoides. Environ Mol Mutagen 2006;47:647-656.
- Ross HA, McDougall GJ, Stewart D. Antiproliferative activity is predominantly associated with ellagitannins in raspberry extracts. Phytochemistry 2007;68:218-228.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramila's Healing Arts Clinic