If someone asks me, "What's the best fruit to eat?" I respond with a most dull answer, "They're all good!" It's not what folks really want to hear. They're hoping to find a magic bite that will supply them with lifelong wellness and vitality, and since people have become more savvy to the dangers of supplements, food has come back into focus. Fruits and vegetables regularly pop up in news headlines with a link to preventing this disease or that ailment. Tufts University rated blueberries highest in antioxidant capacity out of 60 fruits and vegetables. The skins and seeds of red grapes with their dark pigments contain resveratrol, a powerful disease-fighting chemical. The Allium family of vegetables including onions and garlic contain odiferous plant compounds that have been found to play a role in supporting heart and stomach health as well as lowering blood sugar and preventing certain cancers. Maybe you've heard of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), which measures the antioxidant power of various foods, with spices and berries earning top scores. Antioxidants in theory are believed to stave off free radical damage. An excess of free radicals may promote certain diseases and quicken the aging process. However, it's important to know that this is only a theory that has been shown in laboratory research; it has yet to be demonstrated in humans.
What we do know is that fruits and vegetables contain not only antioxidants but thousands of types of phytochemicals (translation: plant chemicals). These chemicals occur naturally in plants to help protect them from diseases, insects and harsh climates. When we eat those plants, their phytochemicals appear to protect us from disease or even help fight existing disease. If you choose to eat only blueberries or acai juice or broccoli because they rank high on Top Ten lists, you miss out on thousands of other benefits in other plant foods. Good ole' oranges may not be as trendy as acai berries but they are a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamin C (an antioxidant), folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and at least five different kinds of phytochemicals. Like oranges, each fruit and vegetable has a unique architecture of nutrients that our bodies crave. This is why health experts recommend at least 3-5 servings of mixed produce a day, and more than 5 servings for even greater health benefits.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Fruits and Veggies Matter recipe page for great ideas on how to use an abundance of superfruits and superveggies every day.