An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?
We’ve grown up hearing the clichéd expression, but do you know how much fruit you should actually be eating a day? The recommended intake depends on a number of factors, but adults should generally consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit daily, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A cup of fruit can be an apple, a banana, a cup of blueberries, three medium-sized plums, or seven slices or chunks of mango, for example.
Here’s your guide to the health benefits of fruit, plus tips on how to incorporate more into your diet.
What is the healthiest fruit?
Although all fruits are healthy, registered dietitian nutritionist Daniel Crumble Smith recommends one nutrient-dense fruit in particular: wild blueberries.
Blueberries contain a lot of fiber, which keeps you fuller for longer. They also rank among the fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant content. Antioxidants prevent or slow cell damage.
“Cognitively, there are a lot of memory benefits, and some studies have shown cardiovascular benefits or cancer-fighting compounds,” says Crumble Smith. “Generally, [they] reducing inflammation.”
Still, Crumble Smith says eating wild blueberries isn’t essential to getting the fruit’s healthy nutrients. Eating any type of fruit will produce healthy results, although some fruits have nutrients that serve different purposes.
For example, apples contain pectin, a fiber that acts as a prebiotic that can support colon function and digestion.
Vitamin C-rich fruits should also be on your radar, including citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, and lemons, to name a few) and strawberries.
“Vitamin C helps produce collagen, and in our generation, people are concerned about reducing wrinkles and healthy hair, skin, and nails,” says Crumble Smith. “Vitamin C is actually really crucial for that.”
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Is sugar in fruit good?
Some fears of fruit come from their sugar content. Does high sugar mean fruit is bad for you? Absolutely not, says Crumble Smith.
“Fruit has so many vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and other nutrients that our bodies need,” she says.
In fact, fruit can combat the afternoon slump when most people reach for another cup of coffee. Since natural sugar is a healthy source of energy, pairing fruit with protein will give you a similar boost you would get from caffeine.
Crumble Smith recommends caution in people with diabetes, insulin resistance, or blood sugar problems. If so, watch your portion size or try pairing your afternoon raspberries with a protein such as yogurt or cheese.
Fruit smoothies are an easy and affordable way to get your daily dose of fruit. Crumble Smith recommends making them at home instead of grabbing one from a smoothie bar or a prepackaged drink at the store. If you prefer bottled juice, be sure to read the label carefully for nutrition facts and ingredients.
“Just because something says 100% fruit … it’s often not the best choice,” says Crumble Smith. “Because in this case, all fruit concentrates are very high in sugar and have no protein to help stabilize blood sugar levels.”
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Are the fats in avocados good for you?
Contrary to popular belief, yes, avocados are a fruit, and yes, their fat content is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.
“People are sometimes afraid of fat, but healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil, oily fish have so many anti-inflammatory benefits,” Crumble Smith says.
Avocados are rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They also contain high amounts of fiber, which can keep you feeling satisfied for longer and help regulate blood sugar, according to Crumble Smith.
“Fruits and vegetables can often be great sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K,” Crumble Smith says. “With fat-soluble vitamins, we need a fat source for our body to actually absorb them. So eating avocado with a salad improves your body’s absorption of these nutrients.
How to include fruit in your diet
Besides upping your smoothie and fruit salad intake, an easy way to get yourself to eat more fruit is to experiment at the grocery store. Crumble Smith says she tells her customers every week when they go to the store to put a fruit they’ve never tried in their basket.
“It’s a great way to expose yourself to what you’ve never tried and potentially find something you love,” Crumble Smith says. “And it’s not overwhelming, you don’t come home with all these different things that you’re afraid will break.”
But if you’re hesitant to try something new, there’s nothing wrong with eating the same fruit every day. Still, you’ll get multiple benefits. And once you’re feeling more adventurous, you can try switching things up—perhaps blueberries in your oatmeal instead of a banana, or have an orange instead of an apple.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What’s the Healthiest Fruit? This one is packed with nutrients.