Diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This comes as no surprise, considering the fact that fruits and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, yet considerably low in calories. While all fruits and veggies offer benefits, certain varieties are exceptionally nutritious, making them well worth emphasizing within a balanced diet.
These ruby red fruits are high in three types of potent antioxidants known as polyphenols, according to the Pomegranate Council, including tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. Antioxidants are beneficial because they provide protection against free radicals -- harmful substances that damage your body's cells and may increase your risk for diseases, such as cancer. Pomegranates are also loaded with the antioxidant vitamin C, the electrolyte potassium and healthy digestion-promoting fiber, yet relatively low in calories.
Broccoli and Kale
Broccoli and kale are cruciferous vegetables with nutritional perks as bold as their green color. One cup of fresh broccoli contains 2.4 grams of fiber. Cooked broccoli contains over 5 fiber grams per cup. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, broccoli also contains polyphenols. A 2005 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” discusses the important role of polyphenols in preventing degenerative diseases and cancers. Kale also has long been touted ‘superfood.’ It provides more vitamin C than an orange per serving, along with rich amounts of fiber and vitamin A.
Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries
Blueberries are considered a superfood for the brain. Their high antioxidant content facilitate cognitive functioning and could potentially help to ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2010 study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." Blackberries are beneficial because they are high in fiber and the same polyphenol found in green tea, which may help reduce your risk for heart disease and forms of cancer. Raspberries are a top fiber source among berries, supplying 8 grams per cup, as well as ample vitamin C and manganese.
Tomatoes are prime sources of the antioxidant lycopene. While research findings are mixed, lycopene may help stave off certain forms of cancer, including cancer of the prostate, stomach and lung. A 2007 study published in the “International Journal of Cancer" demonstrated that tomato sauce intake was predictive of a lowered risk for prostate cancer progressing to advance stages. Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C and fiber.
Avocados contain rich amounts of fiber, the antioxidant vitamin E and healthy unsaturated fats. Fats help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins E, D and K. Avocados also inhibit the production of inflammatory chemicals in your body, according to a 2012 study published in “Food and Function.” For this reason, avocados may be particularly helpful if you have an inflammatory condition, such as arthritis, tendinitis or heart disease.
These tiny cabbage-like vegetables are a great source of folic acid, a B-vitamin that protects against neural tube defects in babies. Brussel sprouts are also loaded with fiber and notable amounts of other nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C. A half-cup serving of brussels sprouts provides a mere 25 calories.
Good old-fashioned apples are packed with beneficial nutrients. A 2004 review of their benefits published in “Nutrition Journal” highlight their role in reducing risk of some cancers, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. They contain a variety of potent antioxidants such as quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid. Because processing can reduce antioxidant levels, choose the fresh, whole fruit over juice, which contains concentrated amounts of sugar and little, if any, fiber.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruits and Vegetables
- Pomegranate Council: Pomegranates & Health
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Polyphenols: Antioxidants and Beyond
- Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry: Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory In Older Adults
- International Journal of Cancer: Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer Incidence and Progression in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study
- Food and Function: Hass Avocado Modulates Postprandial Vascular Reactivity and Postprandial Inflammatory Responses to a Hamburger Meal in Healthy Volunteers
- Nutrition Journal: Apple Phytochemicals and their Health Benefits
- American Cancer Society: Lycopene