Fruit snacks are like nature’s candy, because they are so delicious, and healthy to boot. Fruit is a great snack to eat all day long, because of its abundant health benefits. The sweetness of fruit will help curb your sweet tooth cravings for added-sugar laden, refined and processed unhealthy sweets such as cakes and cookies. Summer is an especially great time of the year to be a fruit lover, because most fruits are in season and readily available during this time of year.
Fruit is a great food group to love, because of the health benefits associated with it. Fruit snacks are low in calories and are nutrient-rich. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Nutrients such as fiber help to maintain a healthy weight, and antioxidants and phytochemicals help fight or prevent disease such as cancer. Vitamins and minerals ensure proper maintenance of bodily functions, while also being involved in energy metabolism, therefore, helping to get energy from food through digestion. Fruit is also a good source of hydration since it is usually high in water content. Eating fruit throughout the day will help quench your thirst and reach water intake recommendations.
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Vitamins in fruit
Vitamins most commonly found in fruit include vitamins C, A, and folate. Vitamins C and A function as antioxidants to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vitamin C also functions to aid in wound healing, as well as maintaining healthy gums and teeth. This is because vitamin C plays an integral role in collagen synthesis. Fruits high in vitamin C contain 12mg or more and include oranges, strawberries and kiwifruit. Vitamin C also helps improve iron absorption.
Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy, and also helps protect against infection. Fruits high in vitamin A contain 1000 IU or more and include cantaloupe, grapefruit and watermelon. Adequate folate intakes protect women of child-bearing age against the risk of having a child with neural tube defects. Folate also helps lower homocysteine levels, which play a role in cardiovascular disease risk. Recommended dietary intakes of folate range from 400 – 600 micrograms per day depending on gender and whether females are of child-bearing age. Fruits that are good sources of folate include papaya and blackberries.
Minerals in fruit
Potassium is the main mineral that is most commonly found in fruit. Apricots, bananas and cherries are considered good sources of potassium, because they contain more than 350 mg per serving. Potassium is important in the body since adequate levels of this mineral ensure proper functioning of the heart and nervous system, as well as maintaining healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also an electrolyte, which functions to conduct electrical charges in the body.
Phytochemicals in fruit: “Phytochemical” is a broad term and includes antioxidants, polyphenols, carotenoids, lycopene, lutein, anthocyanidins, and flavonoids. Phytochemicals have a variety of health benefits such as maintaining eye health, heart health, blood vessel health, protecting the immune system and lowering cancer risk.
How should you incorporate fruit as a healthy snack into your day?
Fruit is an easy grab-and-go item that usually does not require cooking or extensive preparation. Keep reading for ideas on healthy fruit snacks to indulge in any time of day.
Fruit = Dessert
Get in the habit of having fruit with every main meal. Enjoy a baked apple, sliced banana or half cup of grapes as dessert.
Easy Breezy Fruit Salad
This works well with melons, apples, oranges, and strawberries. Make sure fruit is included on your weekly shopping list. If you buy it in its whole form, get in the habit of cutting it up soon after returning home from the grocery store. Cut fruit can be stored in the refrigerator in plastic containers. This makes it easy to portion out on a daily basis into smaller Ziploc bags or plastic containers, so that you can take it with you. It is best to place portioned out fruit salad in an insulated bag, so it stays cool until eaten.
If cutting up fruit seems like too much preparation for you, then focus on grab-and-go varieties such as cherries, grapes, blueberries, peaches, grapefruit, apples, bananas and oranges. The only preparation some of these need is a quick pre-rinse before eating. Cherries, grapes and blueberries can be pre-rinsed and also placed in a to-go container. Apples, bananas, peaches, grapefruits and oranges can literally be thrown in a bag for later.
Oatmeal and Banana
Whoever said oatmeal is just for breakfast? Add sliced banana, raisins, berries or diced apple to oatmeal for a pick-me-up afternoon snack.
Layer Greek yogurt, berries and low fat granola in a parfait glass for a healthy dose of calcium, vitamin D, protein and dietary fiber. You can substitute cottage cheese for the yogurt on another day.
Apple and Nut Butter
Slice an apple and spread a thin layer of almond butter or all-natural peanut butter on the slices.
Fruit Smoothie or a Fruit Slushy
Smoothies are really easy and require minimal time to prepare. You can concoct your own creation and blend whatever fruits you have on hand. I usually make smoothies with a variation of the following: ice, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, splash of orange juice, strawberries, and banana. Slushies are even easier as all you have to do is blend the fruit with ice and poor into a cup for a refreshing drink. Another way to make slushies is to blend frozen fruit that you have in the freezer and voila, a slushie is born.
Frozen Fruit Pops
Simply blend up some fruit and freeze in ice cube molds with toothpicks sticking out. These are healthy and refreshing snacks on a hot day. The kids will especially love them!
Indulging in healthy fruit snacks throughout the day is a good habit to get into since you will be providing your body with some much needed nutrients and health benefits, while also satisfying your sweet tooth.