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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Do You Recognize This Fruit?

Most of us kind of stick with what we know – bananas, apples, maybe an orange or grapes now and then. But research indicates that really mixing it up does more than just entertain your taste buds. This year, a study published by researchers at Colorado State University looked at the effects of fruit and veggie variety on health, and their results made me say, “Wow!”

The scientists fed over 100 women one of two diets designed to ensure different levels of variety. The first was pretty limited, consisting of produce from just five distinct plant families. The second was much broader, including fruits and vegetables from 18 distinct plant families. Both diets (which were consumed for 2 weeks at a time) provided 8 to 10 servings of produce each day, but it seems that quality (i.e. variety in this case), not quantity is key.

Blood samples taken from the women revealed that the more varied diet significantly reduced oxidation in the body (think of a freshly sliced apple turning brown – that’s an example of oxidation, and scientists believe this reaction initiates disease). If you’re a regular Diet Dish reader, you’ve seen my references to “body guards” (antioxidants and phytochemicals) which fight oxidation. Well, this study shows that having a high amount of just a few types of body guards may not be enough. Since the body guards in cactus pears (the fruit in the photo) are different from those in say kiwi or radishes, eating the same amount of produce, but a wider variety, would mean that smaller armies of more types of body guards show up for work each day.

The best analogy I can think of would be this – think about your wardrobe. Which would you rather have - 10 white shirts and 10 pairs of black pants OR 1 or 2 of each in at least 5 different colors? Variety really is the spice of life. So, if you think your grocery cart could use a little more diversity, try out the following tips:

-Buy at least 1 fruit or veggie this week you’ve never tried before (maybe even cactus pears)
-Make a fruit salad with at least 4 different types of fruit in 4 colors (such as pineapple, blood oranges, kiwi, and grapes)
-Make a dinner salad with at least 4 different types of veggies in 4 colors (Romaine, yellow peppers, tomatoes, and carrots)
-Buy just one each of several fruits to enjoy as snacks instead of a bunch or bag of one type
-If you drink 100% fruit juice, purchase a different type each week (orange the first then grape, apple, white grape, grapefruit, etc.)
-Buy a bag of mixed dried fruit or purchase a small amount of several from the bulk section

P.S. If you aren’t sure how to select a type of fruit you’re unfamiliar with, ask an employee in the produce section of your favorite market.
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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