Fruits: How to select, store and serve these healthy foods
- Nature offers many sweet choices for eating well: juicy red cherries,
plump purple plums, and orange, luscious tangerines, just to name a
few. In fact, all fruits fit into a colorful and healthy diet.
Whether you eat them as snacks, main meals or trimmings, fruits offer
a variety of nutrients, very little fat and relatively few calories.
Find out why you need to eat fruits and the best way to select, store
and serve them.
Why eat fruits?
Fruits are a great-tasting way to get vitamins, minerals and fiber
and to satisfy your sweet tooth without loading up on calories. And
except for a few, such as avocado, coconut and olives, fruits are
Fruits contain phytochemicals a group of compounds that may reduce
your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and
some cancers. Many are also good sources of antioxidants substances
that slow down oxidation, a natural process that leads to cell and
Eating a variety of fruits is vital because different fruits provide
different nutrients. For example, oranges and kiwi fruit are good
sources of vitamin C. Bananas are a good source of potassium, and
apricots are high in vitamin A. So if you rarely venture beyond a few
of your favorites, you're missing out on the nutrients and benefits
of other fruits.
Tips for selecting, storing and serving fruit
Here are suggestions to help you select the highest quality fruits
when you're shopping, ways to store them once you get home, and tips
for preparing and serving fruits to enhance their flavor and retain
Choose in-season fruits. The closer you are to the growing season,
the fresher your produce and the better it tastes.
Select fruits that feel heavy for their size. Heaviness is a good
sign of juiciness.
Smell fruits for characteristic aromas. Fruits should generally have
their characteristic ripe scent but not smell overly ripe. For
example, cantaloupe (muskmelon) shouldn't smell too musty, especially
if you don't plan to eat it right away.
Test texture. A kiwi that feels mushy to the touch is too ripe.
However, an avocado with a somewhat spongy texture is ideal. Be
sensitive to the correct texture for the specific fruit you're
Buy dried fruits processed without added sugar. Dried fruits are a
concentrated source of dietary fiber, but they're also higher in
calories than are fresh fruits. Use dried fruits sparingly and try to
buy versions that don't contain added sugar.
Read labels on packaged fruits. Look for frozen fruits processed
without added sugar. Choose fruit canned in water or fruit juice.
Avoid fruits preserved in sugar-sweetened syrup, which is a source of
calories without nutrients.
Keep fruits at room temperature to ripen them. Some fruits such as
bananas, pears, nectarines and kiwi may be picked and sold at
grocery stores before they're ripe. To ripen, leave fruit at room
temperature. Ripe fruits are usually slightly soft, have their
characteristic smell and have a uniform color.
Store ripe fruits in your refrigerator. The cool temperature slows
the ripening process, giving you longer storage times. The length of
time you can store fruit depends on many factors, including how ripe
the fruit is at the time of purchase and the type of fruit. Oranges,
apricots and cherries keep well from one to two weeks in your
refrigerator. Others, such as strawberries, raspberries, grapes or
peaches, may ripen and spoil in less time even a couple days.
Throw away produce you've kept too long. Discard fruit that is moldy
or slimy, smells bad, or is past the "best if used by" date. Besides
being unappetizing, spoiled or moldy fruit may contain toxins that
could make you sick.
Freeze fruits for long-term storage. You can freeze many types of
fruit for up to one year. Grapes, cherries, berries and melon freeze
particularly well. For best results, cut larger fruit into smaller
chunks and remove the skin of peaches, apples and nectarines before
freezing. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put in the
freezer. Once frozen, take the fruit off the cookie sheet and put
into freezer bags for long-term storage.
Prepare fresh fruit within about an hour of serving to maximize
flavor, texture and nutrients. Some salads benefit from a little
chilling time about 30 to 60 minutes for the various flavors to
Wash all fruits thoroughly under cold running water before cutting or
eating whole. This includes those fruits with hard shells or skins,
such as melons. That's because the knife you use to cut the melon
could transfer germs from the surface into the flesh. Wash your hands
before and after handling fresh fruits.
Leave on edible peels whenever possible. The peels of apples, pears
and most fruits with pits add interesting color and texture to
recipes and contain added nutrients and fiber.
Remove zest from citrus peels before discarding and save it for other
recipes. The zest is the thin, brightly colored, outermost layer of
citrus fruit, such as limes or oranges. Grated or shredded, it adds a
bright spark of flavor and color enhancement to both sweet and savory
Add more fruit to your diet
Keep bowls of colorful, luscious fruits on hand so that they're easy
to grab whenever hunger pangs strike. Fresh fruit is generally best
because it contains the most nutrients, but frozen fruit, fruits
canned in their own juice or water, and dried fruit are good
Here are easy ways to incorporate more fruit into your diet:
Add fresh or dried fruit to breakfast cereals.
Add dried fruit to batters and doughs for quick breads, muffins and
Replace the oil in baked goods with thick fruit purees, such as
applesauce, mashed bananas or prunes.
Saute with fruit juice instead of oil.
Add grated raw apple to lean ground beef or turkey when making
meatloaf or meatballs.
Make fruit sauces and toppings for desserts or pancakes.
Freeze fresh grapes and enjoy them instead of sugary iced treats.
Place a package of dried fruit in your car, purse, briefcase,
backpack or lunchbox for a between-meal snack.
Carry two pieces of fruit with you to work every day for lunch and a
Enjoy fruit as a snack by keeping a variety ready to eat in the
refrigerator or in a display bowl at all times.
Make it a goal to have fruit at each meal.
A healthy diet doesn't have to be monotonous. Be adventurous. Try
some new and unfamiliar fruits, such as kumquats, papayas,
breadfruits or persimmons. You may be surprised to find that you like
them, and they'll add interest and more health benefits to your diet.