Four Forgotten Fruits For Fitness & Health

For your health, don’t forget these four fruits

persimmon tree

Photo: Greg Haye

Guest post by Greg Hayes

When trying to convince families to make the switch to healthy eating, an oft-cited roadblock is the taste of healthy food.  People are wired to enjoy the flavor imparted by fat and salt, and packaged food manufacturers employ those components to great effect.  The problem runs even deeper, as baby carrot growers are proving.  In the face of the marketing blitz that backs most packaged food campaigns, its hard enough to convince adults that things like carrots, apples, and bananas are foods they should enjoy – much less kids.  But there are many non-traditional fruits that pack quite a range of flavors to compete with packaged foods.  Toss in the fact that most fruits are at least 80% water (by weight), and these will also help meet your daily water requirements, while also satisfying your nutritional needs.  For an added bonus, picking these fruits yourself will help build family bonds, too.

Boysenberries

Have you ever watched kids eat sour foods?  Boys at least, get into competitions over who can eat the food with the greatest combination of sweet/sour.  Packaged candy makers have it figured out, but long before they got in the game, mother nature beat them to the punch with raspberries and blackberries.  So, when growers in California started experimenting with crosses of different berries, they hit up on the combination of raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries.  This unique fruit will make your lips pucker while sweetening the palette.  Nutritionally speaking, a 1-cup serving provides 66-calories and a whopping 7-grams of fiber.  They’re also a rich source of vitamin A and K, as well as providing healthy portions of folate and manganese.

Cranberries

Typically a fruit found in the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada, cranberries are an oft-forgotten “super food” that ripens in late summer to early fall; usually around August or September.  Historical references indicate they were first used by Native American Indians as a food source, and their use was likely taught to starving U.S. settlers, eventually becoming a favored addition to the Thanksgiving Day table.  Rich in antioxidants, one cup of raw cranberries has about 50-calories and 5-grams of fiber, while also meeting nearly a quarter of your daily vitamin C requirements (take that oranges).  According to Wikipedia, because of their sharp, borderline sour taste, only about 5% of the total number of cranberries harvested are sold to be eaten directly by consumers.  But, recent years have seen an increase in the use of dried cranberries, either alone, or used in nut mixes, as the consumer palette has gained greater appreciation for the sweet/sour combination.

Persimmon

Another fruit that ripens in the fall, persimmons have the potential to trick the uninitiated.  The skin of the fully ripened fruit takes on a wrinkled, splotchy appearance, which yields a sweet, nutty flavor.  Sweeter than the other fruits, a single 2.5-inch Japanese persimmon found in stores has nearly 120-calories, 6-grams of fiber, and over half of your daily requirement of vitamin A.  However, before they fully ripen, persimmon fruit are rich in tannins, which provide a very strong “pucker factor” if you’re unfortunate enough to take a bite before the tannins condense into powerful antioxidants.  If you ever get a chance, seek out the American persimmon, which is slightly sweeter, as well as being richer in calcium than the Japanese variety.  Sadly, these aren’t available in stores, so you’ll have to go picking with the kids if you want to sample this “fruit of the gods.”

Figs

Figs are not native to the U.S., but they have been imported with great success.  Although most of us have probably eaten fig newtons, very few people have actually enjoyed a fresh fig.  Not truly a fruit, figs are the product of a flower folding in upon itself, which explains why this treat contains so many crunchy seeds.  One large fig has 2-grams of fiber, 47-calories, and, owing to the seeds, 92-milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids.  Unlike most fruits, the fiber found in figs is generally insoluble, which adds bulk and helps attract moisture, aiding digestion.  If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on fresh figs, be prepared to eat them quickly, as they don’t last long.  This explains why most figs found commercially are dried, rather than fresh.

It’s been said that you can estimate the nutritional value of a food by considering its shelf life.  The shorter the shelf life, the greater the nutritional value.  If these four novel foods are any indicator that must be true.  One of the reasons they aren’t usually found in stores is they all are delicate and have short shelf lives, which means you’re more likely to find them sold in the form of jams and jellies, or if you’re lucky, at your local farmer’s market.  But if you’re so inclined, with a little effort, you can enjoy some of nature’s delicacies, and reap the nutritional benefits as well.

Greg Hayes is the author of a fitness blog focused on fitting fitness into busy lives.  If you enjoyed this article, check out some of his other work at Live Fit Blog.

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7 Responses to “Four Forgotten Fruits For Fitness & Health”

  1. Well that says a lot. I’ve never even heard of Persimmon. I shy away from pretty much everything on there but cranberries. I like that in my vodka ;) (I’m sorry, I had to)

  2. Todd says:

    Apparently, American persimmon’s are only found in a few select states. I’ve never had one either. As for the cranberries in your vodka–frankly, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t true. haha

  3. Greg says:

    @Julie — Totally understandable; the vodka that is… :-) . But that’s a whole different range of flavors! If you enjoy the combination of sweet & sour these can hit the spot nicely. Not to mention building memories with the family if you pick them yourself. Some of my best memorea from childhood are picking berries. Hard work, but fun.

    @Todd — You can occasionally find Japanese persimmons in stores. Curiously enough they’re actually grown in California. Go figure. Those are somewhat larger than the American variety though.

  4. Tim says:

    I’ve had the ones from Kalifornia when I lived there. Don’t recolect the American version though. Sounds good.

    Now, figs, those I absolutely love. A co-worker has a fig tree, and love it when he brings in a bucket of fresh figs. YUM!

  5. Anna says:

    Are you guys all crazy? There’s Boysenberries on the list, and nobody’s mentioned them yet. Y’all are nuts!!! I absolutely love these little berries-one of my all time favorites.

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  7. Greg says:

    @Anna — My boys love boysenberries! Tart and sweet together? Delicious!

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