Diet & Nutrition

Secret super-fruits

Exotic-sounding fruits like mangosteen, acai and goji are the caped crusaders of the nutrition world. However, most 'superfruits' are more like Clark Kent than Superman — they're so unassuming we don't notice their healing powers.
Red grapes: Red grapes — as opposed to green ones — contain resveratrol, a phytochemical which shows great promise in the fight against premature ageing, diabetes, several types of cancer, and heart disease. Those with the thickest, darkest skins, such as Concord, have demonstrated benefits in lowering blood cholesterol levels, boosting brain power, and even preventing the amyloid protein deposits that lead to Alzheimer's disease, at least in animal studies.
Mangoes: These are high in carotenoids, dietary antioxidants, and minerals, as well as prebiotic fibre — the type needed to encourage the growth of 'good' bacteria in the gut which enables the correct digestion of food and assimilation of nutrients. Of most interest to researchers, however, are two constituents that are unique to mangoes, mangoferin and mango lupeol, with studies showing extracts of these two may have specific antibacterial and cancer-preventive properties, respectively.
Figs: Exceptionally high in both insoluble and soluble dietary fibre, figs are not only a time-honoured cure for constipation, but — thanks to their high levels of vitamins A, C, E and K — they also support heart health, specifically optimal blood clotting and the strength of blood cell walls, veins, and arteries. Extracts from figs and fig skin — which is unusually rich in antioxidants — are also being tested as possible treatments for skin and digestive disorders, and the diabetes precursor, metabolic syndrome.
Oranges: Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it probably means we take this ubiquitous fruit for granted. For example, you already know that oranges have high levels of vitamin C — but did you also know they are a good source of calcium and potassium? Not to mention quercetin (in the pith), which strengthens blood vessels, hesperidins and citric acid (both in the pulp), which inhibit inflammation, regulate blood cholesterol levels, and are being investigated as possible allergy treatments? And don't waste the peel — it contains d-limonene, which improves digestion.
Strawberries: Not just a pretty face, strawberries get their appealing red colour from an abundance of anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments which lower the risk of a variety of diseases, including thrombosis, high blood cholesterol, chronic inflammatory disorders, several varieties of cancer, and problems associated with premature ageing, notably poor eyesight. Strawberries also contain good quantities of manganese, which is necessary for strong bones, optimal muscle function, and thyroid and sex hormone health, and omega-3 fatty acids which reduce blood cholesterol and also appear to play a role in reducing anxiety.
Top tip: Buy organic fruit wherever possible, but especially when it comes to picking strawberries. According to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), they are among the 'dirty dozen' of fruit and vegetables, meaning they are most likely to contain high levels of pesticides and herbicides.
Also, a study in the Public Library of Science has shown that organic strawberries contain much higher amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C and polyphenols than conventionally-farmed ones; plus they have better flavour, last longer and contain more 'matter per volume' — that is, more actual fruit, rather than water.
Video: A new study has found fruit juices may be doing more harm than good. Find out which types to avoid here

read more from