What is the healthiest fruit? The No. 1 pick, according to a dietitian

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According to government guidelines, fruit, along with vegetables, should form the cornerstone of your diet. Yet, the reality is that a mere 12% of adults meet the recommended 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit (or the equivalent) daily.

There’s no denying that fruit is healthy. It’s loaded with fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and other protective substances that guard against chronic diseases, from heart disease to cancer to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. But if you’re looking for the healthiest fruits to prioritize, here are some with impressive science-backed benefits.

What is the healthiest fruit?

Blueberries take the title of healthiest fruit. Blueberries’ stunning hue comes from their anthocyanins — an antioxidant believed to be responsible for their numerous health benefits. Long-term studies suggest that including blueberries in your regular lineup may lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Blueberries may also improve cognitive performance and strengthen your brainpower.

Additional research suggests that high blueberry intake may help you maintain a healthy weight. A study among healthy female twins found that the twin who ate more blueberries had lower body fat compared to the twin who ate less. Plus, high anthocyanin intake was associated with a 3% to 9% lower body fat mass and less belly fat among these ladies.

Top 15 healthiest fruits

There’s a whole world of fruit to explore, so while blueberries are linked with multiple benefits, there’s no need to ignore other fruits. Eating a variety of fruits ensures you’re getting a spectrum of essential nutrients, making it more likely that you’ll meet your daily requirement of various vitamins and minerals.

Plus, research suggests that eating a wide range of unique plant foods each week contributes to a diverse gut microbiome, a marker of a healthy gut. Since all roads to health begin with a healthy gut, varying your fruit intake is a great strategy.

Strawberries

Just 8 of these ruby red gems will score you all the vitamin C you need in a day. Vitamin C is an antioxidant involved in immune function and collagen production. There’s also evidence that strawberries may reduce markers of harmful inflammation and improve total and LDL cholesterol among people with high baseline levels.

Raspberries

A cup of raspberries has 8 grams of the 25 to 38 grams of fiber recommended daily. It also supplies key nutrients like magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. They’re also high in ellagic acid and quercetin, antioxidants that protect your cells from disease-causing damage.

Avocado

Although we often eat them as a heart-smart fat, avocados are technically a fruit. Much of their fat is monounsaturated, a type predominant in extra virgin olive oil, a staple of the ultra-healthy Mediterranean diet. One study found that replacing some of the carbohydrates in a meal with either a half or whole avocado was associated with several improvements in markers of heart health among overweight and obese individuals.

Watermelon

Watermelon may taste sweet, but a cup of this juicy fruit has less natural sugar than the same portion of many other fruits, including blueberries. Watermelon and 100% watermelon juice are notable for a compound called l-citrulline, which has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after exercising. Watermelon is also a good choice after a workout since it’s about 90% water. Each cup supplies about five ounces of water, so it can help on the hydration front.

Dates

One thing that makes dates so special is they’re sweet and caramely but have no added sugar and are low on the glycemic index. Dates make our list of the healthiest fruits because they’ve been associated with impressive benefits, including supporting brain and gut health. Additionally, a small study among people with type 2 diabetes found that dates may help lower total cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol without impacting blood-sugar levels.

Prunes

Many people think of prunes for their impact on digestive health, but their effect on bone health is worth mentioning, too. One study found five to six prunes per day preserved bone mass among postmenopausal women, while those skipping this daily habit experienced a decline in bone mass.

Kiwi

In addition to supplying more than 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement, kiwis may support better sleep, digestion and mood. A wide range of nutrients, antioxidants and bioactive substances are thought to be related to kiwi’s health benefits.

Cherries

Like kiwis, cherries have the potential to help you sleep better. Studies also indicate that cherries may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress factors involved in initiating and promoting numerous chronic illnesses. Eating cherries may also reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Bananas

Bananas get a bad rap, but we consider them one of the healthiest fruits because they have a slew of nutrients, including fiber, potassium, copper, magnesium and vitamin B6. They also get extra points for being portable, convenient and naturally sweet.

Apples

An apple a day really may keep the doctor away. In addition to supplying fiber, apples contain potent antioxidants. Daily intake of this fruit has been shown to lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, unhealthy LDL cholesterol and inflammation status while increasing good HDL cholesterol and supporting healthy endothelial function — a metric of how well your blood vessel lining is performing.

Grapefruit

The vitamin C in grapefruit helps promote collagen production, which supports skin health and helps prevent against wrinkling and sagging skin. This antioxidant also supports healthy immune functioning. This juicy fruit may also be a great weapon against cancer. Compounds in grapefruit may have anti-cancer properties and studies on vitamin C suggest that people with high intakes have lower incidences of numerous cancers, including bladder, breast, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

However, eating grapefruit while taking certain prescription medications may cause serious health problems, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before eating grapefruit if you’re taking prescription drugs.

Pomegranate

Chemical compounds in this fruit act as an internal sunscreen, protecting you from UVB rays. Other potential benefits from consuming pomegranate and its juice include improved memory, protection against cancer, reduced blood pressure and less post-workout muscle soreness and fatigue.

Pears

The high fiber content in pears promotes digestive health, blood sugar control, heart health and weight management. Plus, evidence suggests that eating two pears each day improves metrics of metabolic health among people with metabolic syndrome.

Blackberries

In addition to being rich in fiber, compounds in blackberries have antiviral and antibacterial properties that target the germs associated with cavities and gum disease. Additionally, evidence suggests that blackberries may help promote insulin sensitivity and protect against obesity.

Mangoes

Carotenoid compounds give mangoes their golden color, and they’re also related to mangoes’ health benefits. Two of these nutrients — lutein and zeaxanthin — promote better vision, while a third, mangiferin, protects against cancer. Early research also suggests this nutrient may help reduce acne.

Best fruits to eat daily

Berries will give you a lot of bang for the buck, but you don’t want to eat the same fruit on repeat for the rest of your life! Fruits vary in the types and amounts of nutrients they supply, but they all have superpowers. So it’s best to eat a variety of fruits to benefit from the spectrum of protective substances they provide. Most people could benefit from adding more fruit to their diets, and while we’ve listed some of the healthiest fruits to prioritize, it’s a good idea to eat a range of fruits throughout the week.

Whole fruit is the healthiest way to eat fruit

Reach for fruit in forms that don’t include added sugars, such as fresh and unsweetened frozen and dried fruits. A small amount of 100% fruit juice, such as 100% orange or grapefruit juice, can also fit within healthy dietary patterns and help you meet your nutrient needs. If you’re choosing juice, stick with one, 4-ounce serving and choose alternative forms of unsweetened fruit to meet the rest of your fruit requirements.

Are there any unhealthy fruits?

Many people are concerned about the sugar in fruit, but the sugar found naturally in fruit differs greatly from the sugar added to processed foods. Research shows that it’s beneficial to include fruit in your diet, so you don’t need to worry that certain fruits are unhealthy because they’re high in natural sugar.

Fruit drinks — punches, ades (such as lemonade) and cocktails — contain added sugar and potentially other additives, so it’s best to drink these infrequently, if at all. Dried fruit that’s coated in added sugar should also be swapped for unsweetened dried fruit when possible.

Best fruits for weight loss

While some diets, like keto and carnivore, shun fruit, evidence suggests that fruit can help support a healthy weight. The fiber in fruit contributes to feelings of fullness, helping you eat the right amount for your body’s needs while also supplying beneficial bacteria to your gut. Your gut is involved in nutrient absorption and weight regulation, so fruit can help support weight management via its role in gut health. Low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruit can also replace higher-calorie, heavily processed snacks. The bottom line is that any fruit is a good choice for weight loss.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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