We've all heard the adage about an apple per day, but what about the rest of the produce aisle? Why should the apple get all the glory when there is a treasure trove of vitamin- and nutrient-packed leafy, stemmed, even floral vegetables and fruits waiting to be plucked and enjoyed? Picking the proper produce for your diet isn't so much a choice as it is a way of life.
Commonly (but mistakenly) referred to as a vegetable, the tomato's name comes from a South American word meaning "the swelling fruit," but whatever its classification, the tomato tops our list. Beefsteak, plum, cherry or grape, in salads, sauces, sandwiches or on a pizza, tomatoes are widely believed to benefit the heart and contain heavy doses of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
A "nutrient powerhouse," the banana contains so much potassium that it's actually slightly radioactive. Also an excellent source of vitamin B6, a banana has twice the carbohydrates and five times the vitamin A and iron as an apple, making it the fruit that gym-goers often grab when on the go.
As versatile as they are perishable (get them fresh and eat them fast), strawberries contain a range of nutrients. Loaded with vitamin C, these delectable, misnamed fruits also have plenty of phytonutrients and antioxidants to do battle with the free radicals, which are the aptly named elements that damage our cells.
One of the oldest known cultivated vegetables, the artichoke is an excellent source of dietary fiber and magnesium. It's not their fault that they taste so good when served with a side of melted butter.
With a better name and more vitamin C than an orange, the kiwi could seemingly rest on its laurels, but this fuzzy little guy is an overachiever. High in fiber, and with as much potassium as a banana, the kiwi is all soft texture and sweet flavor.
Another great source of vitamins and antioxidants, the papaya also contains an enzyme (arginine) that is said to boost male virility by increasing blood flow. If virility isn't a concern (and we didn't say it was), this wonder fruit is a known cold and flu preventer, is used to help digestive disorders and is believed to promote lung health.
This melon is so money it doesn't even know it. The rich-flavored base of myriad fruit salads, the cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and is loaded with antioxidants and dietary fiber. Not to mention the fact they're fun to thump when searching for a ripe one in the produce aisle.
Does the main ingredient for guacamole even have to have health benefits? Thankfully, the avocado is another super fruit (actually a large berry with a single seed). Though it has a significantly higher fat content than most other fruit, the avocado is high in fiber, contains more potassium than a banana and has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
The Bell Pepper
The bell pepper seems to have it all. Though technically a fruit, this is a produce that does more than come in different colors or go well with fajitas. With a crunch that can't be beat and a taste that is both sweet and tangy, the bell pepper is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Red bell peppers also contain lycopene, which has shown potential for reducing cancer risk.
Somewhere between Adam and Eve taking those fateful bites, and Steve Jobs turning this simple fruit into a symbol of revolutionary tech savvy, the actual apple seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Apples promote heart health, can increase your exercise endurance and might even boost your grade if left on your teacher's desk.