Stock up on Fruit for the Winter

Stock up on Fruit for the Winter

Fruit is nature’s sweetest treat. We enjoy it by itself or add it to an assortment of different foods, from salads to smoothies. While we know we are supposed to eat two to five servings of fruit each day, we may not know why.

Jackie Carlson, RD, LDN, CDCES, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with Medical Associates of Erie, explains the benefits of fruits and which ones are best to eat during the winter months.

Fruits are low in calories and fat and full of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, all of which are essential for optimizing our health, Jackie explains. Fruits also contain soluble dietary fiber which may help ward off cholesterol and fats from clogging the arteries of the body and keep digestion regular and healthy. The anti-oxidants help protect the body from oxidant stress, disease and cancers by boosting immunity levels.

Fruits are also proven to help the body prevent, or at least delay, the natural changes of age by protecting and rejuvenating cells, tissues and organs in the body. To maximize the amount of nutrients in your fruit, consider these three tips when shopping in the produce section:

1. Look for bright colors. Fruits that are bright in color and heavy in your hands are at their ripest and are filled with vitamins and nutrients, says Jackie. Avoid blemishes, spots and mold.
2. Make sure you wash fruits soon after shopping. Washing fruit ensures that what you consume is rid of dust, sand, germs and any chemical residue. Fruits have a short shelf life and need to be consumed quickly after purchasing for the best health benefiting properties.
3. Consider buying fruits when in season. Jackie shares, “Fruits are considered in season when they are at their ripest and healthiest point. Different fruits are in season at different times depending on the harvest dates in your local region. Another reason to pay attention to what’s in season? There is a rise in cost when fruits are out of season in your area and have to be imported from another region of the world.

Jackie recommends these seasonal fruits to get the most nutritional bang for your buck during winter:
1. Grapefruit: Grapefruit is harvested from warmer states in the U.S. and provides health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, some types of cancer and cholesterol. It is fully in season starting in January and stays sweet and juicy into early summer. However, you should check with your local pharmacist, primary care provider or registered dietitian if you are on any medications that are not indicated to be taken with grapefruit, such as certain blood thinners and cholesterol medications, just to name a few.
2. Kiwi: Kiwis grow on vines and are harvested winter through spring in warmer temperate areas. They contain high levels of fiber and Vitamin C and are not expensive to import from warmer regions. Kiwi also has a high amount of Vitamin K, which helps prevent blood clotting, a cause of stroke and heart disease. However, like with grapefruit, you may want to check with your local pharmacist, primary care provider or registered dietitian if you are on a blood thinner that would be affected by foods high in Vitamin K.
3. Lemons, mandarins and oranges: These fruits, which come from warmer states in the U.S., are at their juiciest and sweetest in the winter and spring and are a great source for Vitamin C and copper.
4. Pears: Their season runs from mid-summer well into winter depending on the variety and region.

It is important to remember that just because a fruit you crave isn’t in season, it doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate it into your diet, Jackie says. When fresh produce isn’t an option, consider dried fruits, which are a rich source of nutrients, canned fruits, which stay fresh in their own juices, and frozen fruits, which are flash-frozen at their peak to seal in freshness. Keep in mind that fruits are good for most of us and a portion is typically listed on the label, if there is one. A good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup if the fruit is canned or dried. For fruit that is fresh, a 1 cup portion is considered a serving.

When folks have a medical condition, such as diabetes or an intestinal medical condition, there may be a few precautions on types of fruits or amounts that can be eaten safely. Check with your registered dietitian or certified diabetes care and education specialist for guidance.