Passionfruit is richer in phosphorus than papaya, a mineral essential for energy release. The opposite is true for calcium, which is the mineral that occurs most frequently in the body.
According to a recent study, eating more whole fruits like blueberries, apples, and grapes can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Oranges, peaches, and plums did not have any significant impact. This does not mean that the fruits are bad.
Combinations of fruits can be more effective than individual fruits. Higher antioxidant capacity was found in mixtures of orange and starfruit juices than in pure juices.
Fruits at certain stages of maturity showed improved health benefits. These bioactive compounds, which are found in fruits but are not nutrients technically, appear to have health benefits. They are present in greater levels of the green jujube (red date) compared to the ripe fruit.
Does it matter if the bananas are yellow or green?
Ripening fruits involves a variety of chemically complex processes. These processes cause changes in texture, color, and taste. Fruits are generally more delicious when they have fully ripened. However, this isn’t always true. Guava is a good example of a fruit that tastes better when it’s partially ripe.
We can’t properly digest unripe bananas. Lotte Lohr/Unsplash, CC BY
Unripe fruit typically contains more complex carbohydrates that can act as dietary fiber and turn into sugars when ripe. Unripe bananas have higher levels of resistant-starch (which is not digestible by humans, but which can act as a prebiotic and provide food to microbes living in our intestines), which has been linked to a lower risk of bowel cancer. The amount of resistant starch decreases as the banana ripens.
Researchers found that the opposite was true in regards to vitamins and phytochemicals. Vitamin C levels decrease during the early stages in sweet cherry development, but increase at the start of darkening of the fruit and the accumulation of anthocyanin pigment. The main sugars in cherry fruits, glucose and fructose levels, increase as the fruit ripens.
Over-ripening can lead to nutrients being lost after harvest. This is also associated with fruit darkening, softer texture and general loss in sensory appeal.
Fruits can be preserved by freezing, canning, mashing, juicing, or drying. Fruits can be processed to increase shelf life but also to lose nutrition. This can happen due to physical damage and long-term storage.
Fresh fruit salads, which are minimally processed and have only been cut into small pieces, usually contain the same nutrition as the fruits themselves. Tinned fruit may have added sugar in the form of syrup or preservatives. This may make it a less healthful option.
It appears that drinking fruit juice is not as healthy as eating whole fruits. In a study, participants who were given whole fruit to eat before eating ate less than those who drank juice. A study found that those who ate whole fruit had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. However, some studies suggest that juices with sugar added may be the problem.
Fruit juices are high in sugar, and many contain additional sugar. freestocks.org/unsplash, CC BY
Some processing, such as juicing, may also increase the availability and faster absorption of beneficial nutrients found in fruit. It is important to weigh the benefits against the increased sugar availability.
What should I eat?
Fruits have different nutritional qualities, and it’s hard to say which one is the best. In general, the more fruits you include in your daily diet, the healthier it is. Fresh fruits at the right ripening state may be better for many fruits. This is more about taste than nutrition.
Overripe fruit can be eaten or converted into juice, smoothies, or as an ingredient in recipes such as banana bread. The amount of sugar in a banana or other overripe fruit is not increased after harvest as the total carbohydrates remain the same.
Fruit products, such as juice, dried, or tinned fruit, that contain more sugars and sometimes preservatives are not as healthy as whole fruit. However, eating fruit in these forms is still better than eating no fruit.
Fruits alone can’t do the job. To reap the most health benefits from fruits, it is important to select foods from the Australian Guide for Healthy Eating.