The healthiest fruits include blueberries, bananas, avocados, and citrus fruits.
The healthiest vegetables include kale, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Fruits and vegetables are healthy because they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Fruits and vegetables are typically low in calories and high in nutrients, which means they’re a great source of food to fuel your body.
We talked to dietitians to figure out what makes fruits and vegetables so healthy and which 10 fruits and vegetables you should start incorporating into your diet.
What makes fruits and vegetables healthy?
Fruits and vegetables are healthy because they are packed with essential nutrients your body needs to function normally. Here are the types of nutrients most fruits and vegetables offer:
Vitamins are a collection of organic molecules that are essential nutrients, meaning our bodies cannot make enough of them on their own and you have to get them from your diet, says Gina Keatley, RD, a certified dietitian-nutritionist based in New York City.
Vitamins are important for your overall health and support your immune system, help convert food into energy, and keep nerves healthy. Some common vitamins include:
Minerals are also essential nutrients. Unlike vitamins, minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals.
Minerals promote bone, heart, brain, and muscle health. Some common minerals include:
Phytochemicals are chemical compounds found in plants that give fruits and vegetables their color, taste, and smell. Phytochemicals support immune function and have antioxidant properties, which means they prevent cell damage.
“[Phytochemicals are] not necessarily essential for our bodies to function like vitamins and minerals are, but they do provide benefits to our health,” says Colleen Christenson, a registered dietitian-nutritionist with a virtual private practice.
Common phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables include:
The following table shows some of the nutrients you might find in common fruits and vegetables and how they can improve your health.
Here are 10 healthy fruits and vegetables you should consider adding to your diet:
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative stress – a process in which too many free radicals accumulate in the body and damage cells. Free radicals form through normal bodily processes like metabolizing food or from outside sources like pollution or sunlight
A 2012 study compared blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries and found that blueberries had the highest antioxidant capacity.
“One medium-sized banana contains about 420mg of potassium, which is quite a bit more than other fruits such as blueberries which have closer to 60mg per ½ cup,” says Christensen.
Avocados are packed with healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart health.
It’s important to consume healthy fats because, “some vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, are fat-soluble meaning that our bodies need fats in order to absorb and utilize them,” says Christensen.
Most vegetables lose nutrients when cooked. However, cooking tomatoes actually boosts the lycopene concentration in the fruit.
5. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, like lemons and grapefruits, contain high amounts of vitamin C, flavonoids, and fiber.
They are especially rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties and is known for keeping your immune system functioning.
6. Sweet potatoes
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables. It contains vitamins K, A, and C, all of which benefit your overall health including your heart, blood, eyes, immune system, and skin. It also has minerals like calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Spinach is a good source of potassium and magnesium, which are important minerals for electrolyte balance and regulating blood pressure. It is also rich in vitamins A, K, and folate – a B vitamin that promotes normal cell growth and division.
“Aside from making your food a little more flavorful with limited addition of calories, [garlic is] loaded with phytonutrients,” says Keatley.
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which offer tons of health benefits. Generally, it’s better to get the nutrients you need through your diet, rather than through pills or supplements. Keatley says the key to making sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
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