It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s the superfruits. While they may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, they may do wonders for your health.
A superfruit is a fruit that contains extremely high health-promoting compounds that help to fight certain diseases and ailments, according to superfruits.org. “Superfruits are high in antioxidants, great for cell production and help prevent cancer,” says nutritionist Carissa Sanchez of Susan’s Healthy Gourmet in Irvine. “Blueberries are best, that’s what I recommend."
But chances are you’ve already heard about blueberries' high levels of antioxidants. To help spice your diet up a little, here are some lesser known superfruits you can incorporate into your meal plans.
Background: Goji berries can be found on evergreen shrubs in sub-tropical climates.
Possible Benefits: They have been used to boost the immune system, protect the liver and even improve sexual function. Goji berries are believed to help eyesight as well. The berries are rich in antioxidants, most notably zeaxanthin, which protects the retina of the eye. Studies suggest that increasing zeaxanthin in your diet may lower your risk of AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, which is the primary cause of vision loss in individuals over the age of 65.
How to Eat: The juice form is popular, however, the berries are mostly available in dried form. The Chinese are fond of tossing them into chicken soup along with red dates. Goji berries can also be soaked in hot water to make tea or eaten alone as a snack, like raisins.
Background: Native to the Amazon of Brazil, these dark-colored berries are about the size of small grapes.
Possible Benefits: Acai berries are said to help fight bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol. They are also full of antioxidants.
How to Eat: Pure acai berries are hard to come by in the United States, but frozen berries are a cheap and easy way to keep them on hand. Another alternative is acai juice, which can be found everywhere.
Background: Found in warm tropical climates, the guava has a green to yellowish outer skin with a pink to white inner flesh. Guavas are roughly the size of medium lemons.
Possible Benefits: These fragrant fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Guavas also contain lycopene, an antioxidant known to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
How to Eat: Ripe guavas can be consumed raw, skin and all, just like apples. In fact, the skin is where you’ll find the most nutrients. Raw guava can be sliced and added to salad or ice cream. Guavas can also be boiled down and pureed, sans seeds, to make juice, pie, cake, and jelly.
Background: Native to Southern China, lychees grow on trees. These small fruits have white, translucent flesh similar to grapes with large brown pits on the inside and tough, textured, red skin on the outside.
Possible Benefits: These small fruits have high levels of vitamin C and polyphenols, which may help fight heart disease. Some studies have shown that the lychee may even help against certain kinds of cancer. Lychee has also been used to aid in digestion and boost the immune system.
How to Eat: The best lychees have no dark spots or bruises and still have the stem attached. They can be used as substitutes for any recipe that calls for grapes.
Background: Sweet and hollow pear-shaped fruit, usually cultivated in warm climates. Figs have dark green to brown skin with a red fleshy center and a white rind.
Possible Benefits: Fresh figs have a high amount of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. Figs also contain concentrated levels of calcium and are high in fiber.
How to Eat: Figs can be diced and added to cottage cheese, oatmeal and yogurt. They can be enjoyed alone, or served with goat cheese to dress up a salad or with a little honey to make a dessert.
Background: This tropical fruit comes from Southeast Asia. The fruit is dark purple in color and about the size of an apple. The outer tough skin is removed to reveal the actual fruit, which is white and resembles a garlic bulb.
Possible Benefits: Besides the rich antioxidants typical of superfruits, the fully ripe mangosteen contains xanthones, which some studies suggest are key in fighting cancer. The fruit is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
How to Eat: The mangosteen can be segmented like an orange and eaten alone. It makes an exotic addition to fruit salad or add to beef soup for a Thai flavor.