Ecohorts Blog

Stay Healthy with Fruits

Posted in Horti-health by Anirudh on the March 4th, 2008

The present day stress and pollution leads to the production of electronically unbalanced atoms and molecules called free radicles in our body. These free radicles can cause damage to body cells and lead to diseases. The body does have antioxidants against these rogue “oxidant” compounds. When there are too few antioxidants to counteract free radicals, significant damage can occur, leading to a variety of chronic degenerative diseases, ranging from stroke and fibromyalgia, to sinusitis, arthritis, vision problems, and even Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. A poor diet, cigarette smoking, environmental pollutants, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun also increase the free-radical in our body, creating a situation known as “oxidative stress.” Fruits, generally taken as a source of minerals and vitamin also reduce the risk of chronic diseases beyond basic nutritional functions. Fruits are rich source of antioxidants. Over the last several decades, scientists have discovered that the body’s formation of unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals is unavoidable. Every cell produces tens of thousands of them each day. The more familiar antioxidants include vitamins E and C; the carotenoids (such as beta-carotene); selenium; and flavonoids (anthocyanidins, polyphenols, quercetin). All of these are readily supplied by a varied and well-balanced diet. The recommended daily dosages of dietary antioxidants are: 100-400 IU of vitamin E, 17, 000- 50, 000 mg of carotenoids and 250-1,000 mg of vitamin C.

Antioxidants may help to:

  • Prevent heart disease: Antioxidants such as vitamin E stop the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoprotein; LDL). This is beneficial because once bad cholesterol is oxidized it can become trapped in the artery walls, damaging the lining of the artery and leading to the accumulation of fatty deposits called plaque. Eventually, plaque can build up so much that it narrows the space within the artery. Blood clots may form on the plaque and completely block the flow of blood. In a coronary artery, this will cause a heart attack. In an artery within the brain, the result is a stroke.
  • Control high blood pressure: Antioxidants clear out free-radical molecules and help the blood vessels to stay flexible and able to dilate, which helps in keeping the blood pressure in control.
  • Protect against diabetes-related damage: One of the reasons that diabetes is so important to monitor closely is that it can affect so many organ systems: eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, heart. Diabetes alters the metabolism and results in the production of free radicals, which in turn are responsible for these kinds of damages. The antioxidants can strengthen the defense system against the free radicals.
  • Block the development of certain cancers. Stomach, prostate, colon, breast, bladder, esophageal, and pancreatic–these are just a few of the types of cancer that may be prevented by antioxidants.
  • Slow the effects of aging: Antioxidants may reduce the excessive formation of free radicals that probably play a part in the wrinkling of skin, loss of muscle elasticity, reduced immunity and memory failures. Aging can be prevented but its effects may be reduced with antioxidants.

A number of important antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables:

  • Vitamin C is plentiful in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, strawberries, aonla, guava, red peppers, kiwi, papaya, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.
  • Carotenoids are found in orange fruits, papaya and vegetables and in red and dark green vegetables. Apricots, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are good sources of beta-carotene. Lycopene is found in tomatoes. Lutein is found in dark green leafy vegetables and red peppers. Alpha-carotene is found in pumpkin, carrots, yellow peppers, and winter squash.
  • Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and dark leafy greens all contain vitamin E. But it’s impossible to get therapeutic amounts of the vitamin from diet alone.
  • Flavonoids are found in a wide array of fruits and vegetables. In particular, beets contain anthocyanidins, green tea contains polyphenols, and apples and onions contain quercetin. Other good flavonoid sources include citrus fruits, berries, and red wine.
  • Apple is fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, and an excellent source of fiber. It is also a rich source of plant-based antioxidants. Apple and apple juice are two of the best sources of mineral boron, which may promote bone health. It contains natural fruit sugars, mostly in the form of fructose. It has high fiber content; hence, sugars are slowly released into the blood stream, helping maintain steady blood sugar levels. Low fat diets rich in fiber-containing fruits, vegetables and grain products may reduce the risk of some types of cancer. It is an excellent source of fiber. Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Antioxidants found in apple extracts could potentially lower “bad” cholesterol by stimulating the production of its receptors in the liver, which help remove cholesterol from the blood.
  • Amla is one of the richest sources of vitamin C and polyphenols. It is diuretic, laxative and antibiotic. Vitamin C is a very good antioxidant.
  • Bael is a rich source of riboflavin (Vitamin B12) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). The pulp contains a large amount of mucilage and gum as a result of which it has important curative properties as appetizer and is helpful in stomach problems.
  • Banana fruit contain 20-25 % of total carbohydrate and contain smaller quantities of proteins and fats. It is rich in phosphorus, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains appreciable amounts of zinc, iron, copper, cobalt, iodine and vitamins (A, C, D, E and B complex). One gram of banana pulp provides 1.7 calories.
    Grapefruit is full of antioxidants. Red Grapefruit has more lycopene (antioxidant) for added value. Grapefruit reduces insulin levels, which is so important in our carbohydrate driven society. That allows our body to work more efficiently.
  • Grapes and grape products contain high levels of antioxidants that protect bad cholesterol against oxidation, and protect the lining of the blood vessel walls. Red grape juice contains compounds that inhibit blood clots. Because of this property grape juice has been recommended for people at risk for heart disease. The pharmacological properties of grape juice come from resveratrol and other flavonoids such as quercetin and catechin. The health-promoting substances in grape juice originate mostly from the skins of grapes, especially red grapes. These compounds also help fight cancer and possess anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, numerous studies indicate that grapes, grape-derived foods or components of grapes may protect against heart disease by:
    • Increasing the resistance of bad cholesterol to oxidation,
    • Decreasing platelet aggregation and arterial lesions and
    • Promoting arterial relaxation and other favorable metabolic effects. Found in red wine, peanuts, blueberries and cranberries, resveratrol is easily absorbed by the human body. The antioxidant properties of resveratrol also offer certain health benefits in the prevention of heart disease and the reduction of lung tissue inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Not only is its concentration in wine extremely variable, but recommending increased consumption of red wine to boost resveratrol intake could certainly do more harm than good. In spite of any beneficial aspects, red wine and other alcoholic beverages pose health risks that include liver damage and physical addiction, hence, we should be cautious while highlighting the good properties of alcoholic beverages like wine, cider and beer.
  • Jamun is useful for the cure of diarrhoea and diabetes. It is helpful in stomachache and has cooling and digestive properties. Jamun seeds contain high phenolics and are prescribed in diabetes, diarrhoea, dysentery, ringworms and blood pressure.
  • Kiwifruit contains good amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin E. It cleanses the body of impurities helps lower high cholesterol and reduces narrowing of the arteries. Kiwifruit is one of the best sources of Sodium/Potassium in the ideal ratio, magnesium and folic acid. Zinc is also present in kiwifruit, which is important for young boys and men, as it is an ingredient needed to make the hormone testosterone
  • Lemon can be used to preserve food, add flavor, used as an antidote for poison, soften the skin, prevent scurvy and even used to beautify the body (women used them on their lips to make them more colorful). Lemons are a great source of Vitamin B6, iron, and potassium. Rich in antioxidants and pectin, lemons may protect us from free radicals, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, and act as an antibacterial in the body. They offer dietary fiber, vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, manganese, magnesium, zinc and other nutrients.
  • Mango is rich in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and Vitamin C. They also contain bioflavonoids that aid our immune system. It also supplies potassium and fibre and are low in calories. The insoluble fibre, abundant in mangoes, helps in elimination of waste and prevents constipation.
  • Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent scurvy and also aids in the body’s overall natural healing process. Potassium is also present in oranges that play a key role in many important health functions and it provides energy for the body, which is necessary for the body’s growth and maintenance. Oranges are also a good source of folate. This nutrient helps to prevent birth defects and guards against anemia. Eating a medium-size orange provides 28 percent of the recommended daily value for dietary fiber. Oranges are an excellent source, providing more fiber than any of the top 20 consumed fruits or vegetables. Clearly important is the role of soluble fiber in maintaining already healthy cholesterol levels and promoting cardiovascular health.
  • Papaya is a rich source of antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C, which prevents cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The fruit being rich in vitamin A is excellent for skin and eyes. Papaya contains 32 calories per 100 g fruit hence it is good for controlling obesity. The enzyme ‘papain’ present in papaya is helpful in the digestion protein rich fruits.
  • Pomegranate has therapeutic properties due to the presence of betulic acid and urrolic acid and alkaloids viz pseudo-elletierine, pelltierine, isopelleterine and methyl pelletierne. It has use against dysentery, diarrhoea, stomachache, dyspepsia and bronchitis.

The human body produces antioxidants viz. glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10 yet, apart from this consumption of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables can help human beings to stay away from chronic diseases. Apart from this eating healthy food will also help people to conserve antioxidants. Fried and barbequed food, fast food, pollution, radiation are the enemies of antioxidants. In the present time, when the people are busy with hectic schedules, skip meals, eat on the run, eat fast food and drink a lot of coffee and soft drinks, inclusion of fruits in their diet can help them to stay healthy.

Dr. Anirudh Thakur
(Ph.D. Pomology)
Assistant Scientist
Punjab Agriculture University
Ludhiana, INDIA