Being in the field of nutrition for quite a while (I would rather not say exactly how long 😉), it makes me a little loopy when someone trying to lose weight gets on the no-fruit bandwagon. Yes, they are a carbohydrate, but all plant foods are carbohydrates! Carbohydrate refers to the molecular structure that makes up most of the plant — a chain of carbons with a water molecule attached to each = hydrated carbons or carbohydrates. Grains, fruits, starchy veggies and dairy products-all carbs. Cookies, cake, ice cream-all carbs. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are our unprocessed, natural, nutritious carbs. Fruit is also an awesome source of antioxidants, plus an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals and high in fiber. Eating fruits and vegetables can truly reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes. There is a lot of misinformation out there, but cutting fruit out of your daily diet has its consequences.
Let’s focus on the boatload of antioxidants present in fruit. Antioxidants play a major role in minimizing damage to cells, coming from both the food we eat and our environment. Known as free radicals or oxidants, these bad boys are natural by-products our cells create when they convert food into energy. Natural free radicals are tolerated and normal, but too many and they become your body’s environment bullies. We encounter free radicals in many aspects of our daily lives. Sunlight triggers the formation of free radicals in our skin and eyes. They are also in the food we eat and the air we breathe. Cigarette smoke, pollution, alcohol and stress can also contribute to the development of free radicals, all set to destroy your healthy cells. Antioxidants are your only defense when it comes to health of your cells. Antioxidants protect healthy cells from being “bullied” or injured.
How do we make sure we get enough antioxidant protection? By making sure we consume foods rich with antioxidants. And to help with their defensive measures, we need to try to consume the least amount of ultra-processed foods as possible. Think of your antioxidants as your shield from the bad guys. If you do not have your antioxidant shield in place, the chemicals from the environment and those ultra-processed foods are coming after your healthy cells. And yet, certain diets out there put fruit, your antioxidant treasure chest, on their do-not-eat list.
Fruits are not the only food high in antioxidants, they are just an excellent source, especially all of the berries. Vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds also contain lots of antioxidants. If you are more of the supplement type, keep in mind that supplements can easily entice you to over-consume antioxidants. When it comes to nutrition, more is not always better. Popping a pill is not better than getting all of the benefits of a balanced diet. If you consume high-quality whole foods, including fruits, you are getting a multitude of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Eat the foods that love you back❤️. Let’s get fruit loopy.
HAWAIIAN TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD🍍🥭 🥥This could be served as a side dish, dessert, or with yogurt and and a low fat granola for a sweet and satisfying breakfast or lunch. The dazzling combination of fresh summer fruits takes you right to the Hawaiian beaches
2 mangoes, very ripe, peeled, pits removed and cut into cubes
1–2 Tablespoons honey (taste for sweetness)
2 cups pineapple, peeled and cubed
1 cup papaya, peeled and cubed
2 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into thin wedges
2 ripe plums, pitted and cut into thin wedges
1–2 cups any combination of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, optional garnish
2 Tablespoons freshly shredded coconut, optional garnish
Puree the mangoes in a blender until smooth. Press through a sieve to remove pulp. Add honey to taste.
Place all prepared fruit in a large serving bowl. Mix gently to combine. Drizzle with fruit sauce, garnish with mint leaves and/or fresh coconut.
Leftovers? For a delightful breakfast or lunch, place 1 cup fruit salad on top of 1/2–1 cup nonfat greek yogurt and top with 1–2 tablespoons low fat granola.
CREAMY BASIL CHICKEN🌱🐓🌱Not everyone desires fruit in every dish, so this dish does not contain fruit, but of course I strongly encourage some fruit on the side (ie. the Hawaiian Tropical Fruit Salad😊). This garlicky, creamy dish is a healthy take on an Alfredo sauce, without any of the fat, but even more flavor from lots of garlic and fresh basil.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3–4 garlic cloves, crushed
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound chicken breast, sliced lengthwise
1–2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
Place a large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat one minute. Add garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 2–3 minutes. Add wine and continue to sauté for 2–3 minutes, or until wine evaporates.
Generously pepper and sprinkle salt on both sides of chicken and add to skillet. Sauté chicken for 4–5 minutes and flip. Sauté for another 4–5 minutes. Cover pan with foil for 2–3 minutes to make sure chicken is cooked through.
While chicken is cooking, combine flour and milk in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until think and bubbly. Add chopped basil and blend into sauce.
Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with one tablespoon fresh basil and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 4. Suggest serving over whole wheat pasta with a fresh fruit or vegetable salad.
STRAWBERRY SQUARES🍓🍓🍓Wine or dessert? This time, choose dessert. A strawberry take on the original lemon bars, lightened up with with less butter, some healthy fat, and of course vitamin C, manganese, folate, potassium and antioxidants from the strawberries. It is like a strawberry mousse on top of a shortbread cookie :).
2 cups strawberries, hulled, washed, halved
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons canola oil
Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 large eggs + 1 large egg white
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
Place strawberries in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a medium bowl. Add whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, pine nuts and salt to the blender or food processor and 2–3 times to combine. Add the butter and canola oil and pulse another 4–5 times or until mixture is crumbly. Spray 8 x 8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Add mixture from blender and press evenly to create a bottom layer in the pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325˚.
Mix granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, lemon juice, eggs and egg white into the strawberries, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Pour mixture over crust and place in oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and slice into 16 squares. So.Yum.
🌟🌟Other food stars (besides fruits) high in antioxidants🌟🌟
- Dark chocolate — a small square is best!
- Artichokes — steaming is the way to go!
- Beans — plus an excellent source fiber and protein!
- Beets — may also help decrease inflammation!
- Pecans — 1–2 Tablespoons is a healthy serving. Toast them to bring out more flavor for less!
Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success…
~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
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Bittman, M., & Katz, D. L. (2020). How to eat: all your food and diet questions answered. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.