Fruit is an integral part of good nutrition as it provides nutrients necessary for good health. Although fruit contains naturally occurring sugar, its nutritious, low-fat, high-fiber package makes it much healthier than sweets with added fats and sugars, such as chocolate candies. Although a medium-sized orange contains about 7 g more sugar than a snack-sized bar of dark chocolate, the orange provides significantly more fiber, protein and other nutrients.
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Fruit naturally provides a number of important nutrients while being low in fat, sodium and calories. Some common nutrients in fruit include fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate. Fruits are also rich sources of antioxidants and other protective plant compounds called phytonutrients. Although fruits contain some natural sugar, the fiber content in fruit slows your digestion and thereby prevents a spike in blood sugar that occurs with other sugary foods such as candy. Fruits have varied nutritional profiles, so to get a full spectrum of nutrients, it's important to eat a variety of fruits.
Health Benefits of Fruit
The many nutrients in fruit make it a healthy snack. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may have a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, including stroke, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers. The fiber in fruit is important for normal bowel functioning and can help you feel fuller with fewer calories, whereas the vitamin C in fruit is necessary for the maintenance of all body tissues. Another naturally occurring fruit nutrient, potassium, may help you maintain a healthy blood pressure, says the USDA.
Chocolate and Health
Unlike fruit, chocolate is high in calories, saturated fat and added sugars. According to MayoClinic.com, added sugars in foods contribute to tooth decay, poor nutrition, weight gain and high cholesterol. Chocolate does provide some nutrients, including magnesium, phosphorus and phenols (a type of antioxidant). However, due to its high fat and sugar content, chocolate should only be enjoyed in moderation. Darker, less-processed chocolates are healthier than milk chocolates as darker varieties of chocolate contain more healthy plant substances and less unhealthy fats and sugars than the lighter-colored chocolate used in most commercial candy bars.
While nutrition needs vary somewhat from person-to-person based on your size and level of physical activity, most adults require about 2 cups of fruit per day for good health, according to the USDA. Fruit is healthiest when it is pure and whole; canned fruit and dried fruit may be less healthy as they sometimes contain added sugar. Dried fruit is also a denser source of calories than whole fruit and should thus be consumed in smaller portions. One-hundred percent fruit juice can be counted toward your daily fruit requirements, although it is not as healthy or filling as whole fruit since its fiber content is removed.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Search
- United States Department of Agriculture: Why is it Important to Eat Fruit?
- BBC Health; Fruit and Vegetables; July 2008
- American Diabetes Association: Fruits
- Yale-New Haven Hospital: Chocolate -- Food of the Gods
- MayoClinic.com; Added Sugar: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners; April 2011
- United States Department of Agriculture: How Much Fruit is Needed Daily?
- MayoClinic.com; Fruit Juice: Is it Good or Bad for Kids?; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.; June 2009