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June 15, 2007

 

 

 

 

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Nutrition and Health: Taking full advantage of fresh summer fruits

By Caitlin Markley
Nutrition Columnist

     Fiesta Day has come and gone. Our boats are emerging from winter hibernation; and school has ended for another year. The official beginning of Summer is still next week and the signs of Summer are budding all around.
     When it comes to fresh fruit, this is very literal. Summer brings about a variety of delicious, fresh fruits at the lowest price you will get all year. This makes it easy to get in the recommended three to five servings of fruits per day.
     Many people, however, don’t know why so many servings of fruit per day are recommended, or if some fruits contain more health benefits than others. All fruits are good fruits. There are a multitude of vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body in every fruit, but each fruit or fruit group also has its own defining health promoting characteristic.
     Here are some of the more common summer fruit groups and what sets them apart from the rest:

Berries
     Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries all are very high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is mainly used to strengthen the immune system. If you find yourself getting sick quite often, you might want to up your berry intake.
     Each berry individually has great health benefits. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and help prevent urinary tract infections. They are also listed as a “super food” in the book “Nutrition for Life” by Lisa Hark, PhD, RD, and Darwin Deen, MD, for their ability to improve circulation and increase the body’s infection fighting capabilities.
     Strawberries and raspberries contain a type of phenolic acid that may reduce the risk of cancer by preventing damage to cells caused by various air pollutants.

Melons
     These are the best fruits to eat when you have had a long day in the sun. Along with a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, K, C, and B1 and the mineral niacin, melons contain a large amount of water. Eating these fruits along with drinking lots of water will help to fight dehydration during the hot, summer months.
     In addition to its ability to fight dehydration, cantaloupe’s abundance of carotene, which helps your body make vitamin A, is known to help fight cancer.

Pineapple and Oranges
     These fruits don’t really fit together in a category other than they are two of my favorite fruits, but they are too important to your health to overlook.
     Oranges are also on the list of “super foods” in Hark and Deen’s “Nutrition for Life.” This is because it is one of the best known sources of vitamin C. The amount of vitamin C is so high in oranges that it may prevent free-radical damage to the cells and tissues. Free-radical damage to your body is the very beginning of cancer development so oranges may help your body prevent cancer from the start.
     We have discussed a lot of cancer-fighting fruits, but pineapple actually contains an enzyme that has been used to help cardiovascular disease. This enzyme can also aid in digestion and reduce inflammation. So, next time you feel heart burn coming on, or if you have a history of heart or digestive problems, you might want to load up on pineapple this summer.
     Like I said earlier, all fruits are good fruits. These are just some of the more common summer fruits and why you should take advantage of their availability this season.
     Don’t limit yourself to only eating these fruits by themselves. Learn to incorporate them into all of your summer meals.
     For your next summer barbecue, make strawberry or melon margaritas, serve fresh fruit kabobs as an appetizer, toss some fruit onto your dinner salad alongside sweet and sour chicken, and for dessert serve strawberry shortcake or fruit pizza.
     When reaching for a delicious summer snack, instead of grabbing a fudgesicle, make a fruit smoothie or freeze the smoothie and make smoothie popsicles.
     There are a lot of different ways to incorporate these fresh fruits into your summer diet, and not only will you see the difference in your waist line, but you will feel better too.
     For questions, comments, or article ideas email me at caitlin@praxischurch.com.

Fruit Pizza
     Makes 12 servings
     Preparation time: 15 minutes
     Cook time: 10 minutes
     
     1 frozen pie crust
     Whipped Berry Philadelphia cream cheese
     ½ cup sliced strawberries
     ½ cup sliced bananas
     ¼ cup sliced kiwi
     ½ cup blueberries
     ½ cup raspberries
     
     Spread pie crust out onto a pizza pan and cook according to package directions. Allow to cool. Spread berry cream cheese on top of crust. Lay sliced fruit on cream cheese then sprinkle berries to fill in empty spaces.
     

Sweet and Sour Grilled Chicken (serves 4)
     www.southernfood.about.com
     
     1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple
     1 cup ketchup
     1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
     2 tbsp lemon juice
     1 tbsp grated lemon peel
     1 chicken (about 3 ½ lbs), cut up
     1 tbsp cornstarch
     
     Drain pineapple well, reserving the juice. In a resealable food storage bag, combine juice with ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Add chicken to the bag, seal, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Arrange chicken on hot grill over medium coals about four inches from coals.
     
     Grill 20 minutes on each side, or until done. Combine marinade with pineapple and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook, stirring until mixture boils and thickens. Baste chicken with sauce about five minutes before done.
     
     


  







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