One fine day I looked in the mirror and accepted reality - it wasn't leftover "baby weight" filling my size 16 jeans - it was too much of my own cooking! I joined a gym and hired a first rate trainer. He gave me a choice: "Do you want to get thin quickly and gain it back again or do you want to get fit and healthy and keep it off?" Reluctantly I chose the latter and my entire life changed. I learned to eat not just for taste, but for health. I still enjoy the occasional stuffed potato or slice of pecan pie - but I know how to balance those meals with equally delicious grilled salmon and steamed asparagus. The biggest change though was my fruit intake. There were four fruits that he insisted I eat a serving of every single day: banana, blueberries. papaya and apple.
Several years later, and still 80lbs lighter, I continue to eat those four fruits on a near daily basis. And, whether you are on weight loss journey, or simply want to up your nutritional game, here are some good reasons you should include them in your daily diet.
A lot of people believe (falsely) that bananas should be avoided on weight loss plans. But a medium sized banana only has 105 calories and contains a whopping 422 mg of potassium. Potassium is a key mineral in controlling high blood pressure, lessens the impact of sodium intake and helps release the energy from food. If you are undergoing an intense exercise routine, you want that banana in your diet. Bananas also contain high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, a natural mood booster. Bananas are also rich in calcium and B6. Just adding a sliced banana to your morning meal will start off the day with a healthy boost to the brain, heart, and bones.
Even though they are low on the GI index, bananas have a very sweet taste so, like applesauce, mashed bananas can be used in many desserts as a partial substitute when the recipe calls for sugar.
Blueberries are everything. No, really. I can't imagine a day without them. Blueberries are a daily serving of sharp brain, glowing skin, anti-aging, flat belly, good eyesight and healthy heart food. This tiny fruit is nothing short of amazing. Among all vegetables and fruits, blueberries rank number one in antioxidant capacities. Best of all, the catechins in blueberries activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells to assist with loss of belly fat. At only 84 calories a cup, there's room in every diet for blueberries.
To make a nutritious and delicious sweet/crunchy/creamy dessert combine blueberries, sliced natural almonds, and plain yogurt, place in the freezer and chill until firm but not frozen. Stir, eat and thank me later
A single serving of papaya only has 43 calories but provides 75% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C. Papaya is not only a good source of fiber but also contains Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant which aids in eye health by filtering out harmful blue light rays. Not only is papaya as rich in beta-carotenes as tomatoes and carrots, the bioavailability of beta-carotene from papayas is actually 3 times higher.than that from tomatoes and carrot. Best of all, papaya has a significant concentration of papain, an enzyme that helps digest protein. Papain, combined with the high water and fiber content of papaya make it a delicious source of regularity - that's even more important if you're eating a high protein diet.
Papaya does not lend itself well to cooked dishes, but it is a perfect addition to salads and a great side dish to any savory entree containing protein. A beautiful, colorful and nutrition packed summer dinner salad is a simple dish of cold salmon, papaya, baby spinach leaves and walnuts lightly tossed in olive oil.
Some people think apples are boring. I think they are slightly magical. With over 7500 varieties of apples - it's easy to find the perfect color, texture, and size for every taste bud. A medium sized apple only has 95 calories and contains quercetin, an antioxidant which aids in making oxygen more available to the lungs - let me tell you I appreciate that about half way into my dreaded morning run! The polyphenols in apples lessen the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract and because apples are high in soluble fiber, they are not only filling but help lower cholesterol.
There are countless ways to include apples, both cooked and uncooked into every meal. But, one of my favorites is to use natural applesauce in bread and cakes as a partial sugar/butter substitute.
These are my top choices for fruits during weight loss and beyond. Share your choices in the comments below!