By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage
We hear all the time that we should eat more fruits and vegetables, and there’s no better time to start than in the summer. Now’s the time to try new options because many fruits are ripe, low in cost, easy to find and most delicious.
How do you choose good fruits? How should you store fruit? What are the benefits? Can people with diabetes eat fruit?
Yes, diabetics can eat fruit as all fruits contain carbohydrates. The key is to include fruit as part of a meal in the right serving sizes. One serving of fruit equals one medium, whole, fresh fruit, 1 cup berries or melon or a half cup canned fruit.
Fruits are high in many vitamins and minerals, plus fiber. Fruits are not naturally high in calories. The recommendation is to eat 2 to 3 fruit servings per day.
Let’s look at the top summertime fruits for Missouri:
Blueberries are high in fiber and vitamin C. They have nutrients called antioxidants, which help repair damage to cells. This helps in cancer prevention.
Blueberries can protect the heart and blood vessels, plus help brain functions. They are wonderful to eat as a snack or mixed with yogurt or other fruits or tossed with salad greens. Wash before eating and they will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.
Blackberries have all the health benefits that come with being high in antioxidants. The rich, dark color is a clue. Blackberries are high in folate, which helps in brain development and function. Taking in adequate folate during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects. Refrigerate blackberries for up to six days and wash just before eating.
Who doesn’t love strawberries? They are delicious, and one cup has more than 150 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Strawberries also are high in manganese, folate and potassium.
The same nutrients that give deep color in blueberries give red to strawberries. In turn, they help in defending against cancer-causing agents, inflammation and lower the risk for heart disease.
When picking strawberries, they should be shiny, bright red and have the green cap intact. Store them in the refrigerator and do not wash until ready to eat.
How about those lovely raspberries? They get their color from the same nutrients that give color to other berries. Raspberries are high in vitamin C, manganese and fiber. These nutrients help lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Choose plump, firm berries. Refrigerate and use within two days. Raspberries are particularly tasty when tossed with salad greens or mixed with other fruits.
Summer would not be complete without juicy, red watermelon. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene. These nutrients are strong anti-cancer fighters. Watermelon is 92 percent water, so not only is refreshing, but also helps with hydration in hot weather.
Picking a good one means looking for a melon that is heavy for its size. “Thunk” them with your knuckle and listen for the melon with the deepest tone. Refrigerate cut watermelon in an airtight container for up to five days.
Cantaloupe is one of summer’s delights. Talk about a powerhouse of nutrition: One cup has 120 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 108 percent for vitamin C and is loaded with beta carotene, which has anti-cancer properties. It is 90 percent water and is another wonderful fruit to help with hydration during the summer heat.
Choose melons that have light-orange or cream color under the mesh. Look for an indentation on the stem end. Check for a fragrant cantaloupe smell at the blossom end. If the melon is not fully ripe, leave at room temperature for two days. Refrigerate after cutting for up to five days.
Peaches and nectarines are good sources of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin A, potassium and niacin. Peaches are loaded with beta-carotene. Nectarines are high in carotenoids, which are nutrients that help the eyes.
Look for peaches and nectarines that smell fragrant and are neither green, nor overly soft. The fruit can be ripened by placing in a paper bag at room temperature. One peach or one nectarine is a serving.
Summertime provides a treasure of fruits that are delicious and nutritious. Try a new fruit and you may just fall in love.
Mercy clinical nutrition dietitians at Mercy Hospital Carthage on the McCune-Brooks Campus, 3125 Dr. Russell Smith Way, can be reached at 417-359-1359.