We all need to eat two servings of fruit every day. So why not choose fruits with the biggest nutritional bang for your buck?
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Dietitian Jennifer Hyland, RD, CSP, LD, shares her top five favorite fruit choices that offer both taste and health benefits.
“Our favorite fruits are packed with nutrients and fiber. And while they’re sweet enough to eat as a treat, they won’t trigger a sugar binge that’s common in other fruits,” she says.
On so many levels you’ll love wrapping in more of these tasty, tempting fruits into your diet.
“They’re sweet, juicy, flavorful and bursting with fiber and phytonutrients,” Hyland says.
“Blueberries are also particularly high in antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage.”
“What’s not to love? You can sprinkle them on everything like yogurt, oatmeal, salads, or simply snack on them by the handful,” she says.
Here’s how to enjoy blueberries all year, at a fraction of off-season prices: Buy them in bulk in the summer, when they’re cheapest and most flavorful, she advises. Then wash, dry and store them in plastic zipper bags in your freezer to enjoy all year long.
“Add frozen blueberries and cinnamon to plain Greek yogurt in the morning and place the container in the fridge,” she says. “By mid-day the blueberries have thawed and their juice has melded in, which is by far the healthiest way to sweeten up your yogurt!”
2. Pomegranate seeds
“Pomegranate seeds may be tiny but don’t let their size fool you,” Hyland says.
These small seeds are filled with some of the most powerful plant-based nutrients (polyphenols) that help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.
Research also links antioxidant compounds in pomegranate seeds (ellagic acid and anthocyanins) to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
One-half cup of pomegranate seeds contain 72 calories, 3.5 grams of fiber and 12 grams of sugar.
“Try buying a whole pomegranate, cutting it in half and removing the seeds,” she says. “Store the seeds in a glass container in the fridge then add them to smoothies, salads and trail mix during the week.”
“These berries really do pack a powerful nutritional punch,” Hyland says. “They’re high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants and are also low in sugar.”
Raspberries are also full of those plant nutrients called polyphenols that decrease oxidative damage. One cup of fresh raspberries also provides 65 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 5.4 grams of natural sugar.
“It’s hard to find another fruit with more dietary fiber which aids in digestion, blood glucose control and weight loss,” she adds. “Raspberries are also a great source of natural sweetness that can help you cut back on or eliminate other added sugars.”
Fresh, ripe raspberries are easily enjoyed plain as a dessert — or use them frozen to sweeten smoothies or whole-grain pancakes or waffles.
They’re also perfect to top yogurt, oatmeal or salads or infused in water to add a hint of natural sweetness and flavor.
Oranges are packed with vitamin C and potassium. They also contain flavonoids, plant nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties.
“Oranges aren’t too sweet so you don’t end up craving sugary sweets after eating one,” Hyland says. “They’re also the perfect fruit to eat before a long training run or other sports or aerobic activity.”
Eating an orange is better than just drinking its juice. You get 3 grams of fiber in an orange, which has 69 calories and 12 grams of natural sugar.
“Apples are one of the easiest, long shelf life fruits to pack and enjoy on the go — so if you always have them with you you can reach for the apple instead of other tempting treats,” she says.
“The extra bonus is that they offer some satisfying sweet, along with a bit of weight-management-loving fiber,” she adds.
Apples are also packed with antioxidant plant nutrients, and vitamins A and C and have been shown to help lower cholesterol due to their high soluble fiber content.
When you’re choosing apples, just watch out for the size. Some very large apple varieties at your local market can harbor 200 calories or more. But one medium apple with skin has just 95 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 19 grams of natural sugar.
“Remember, as a general rule for any fruits that have a higher natural sugar content, try to pair them with natural peanut butter or nuts to get some protein at the same time — this can prevent your blood sugar from spiking,” Hyland emphasizes.