What makes the healthiest fruits, healthy?
Some out there tend to bad-mouth fruits. But, as Berkeley Wellness says, "Don't be afraid of fruits.
Despite their high sugar content (which we'll discuss in a moment), they are rich in micronutrients and fiber.
But not all fruit is created equal.
The composition of nutrients in each food - fruits in this case - exist in different quantities and concentrations. In general, fruits are a great source of many of them, like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Therefore, we compared the nutrient composition of 75 fruits to see how they stack up against each other. Some nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and flavanoids add to their health quality, while others like sugar take away from their quality.
Putting it all together, we ranked their balance and nutrition quality from best to worst. So what is the most nutritious fruit?
Yep. Calorie-per-calorie, those little, red, delicious berries top our list of the healthiest fruits.
It's best to remember that all fruits are great additions to any well-balanced diet. While they don't have to have every nutrient to be considered healthy, they often provide good sources of a few that add value to any diet. And in general, most of us are not getting enough micronutrients or fiber in our diets.
Plus, they're delicious!
Sure, they're delicious because they often carry with them lots of sugar. And we already consume too much sugar as a nation.
But the most nutritious fruits can add much needed micronutrients to your diet. Not to mention, the high fiber content of fruits generally helps regulate sugar absorption in a way that modulates insulin spikes.
So, like tried and true nutrition advice for almost every food choice, don't over-consume fruit.
There are some fun, interactive charts below that you should play around with and share! See what insights you can find!
For those of you who are interested in the best fruits to eat for your health, read on!
The Healthiest Fruits are Nutrient Dense
First, all fruits can be a part of a healthy diet. But the best fruits, and the most nutritious fruits, are nutrient dense.
Fruits are great sources of vitamins and minerals, and since many of us do a very poor job of meeting our micronutrient intake recommendations, fruit would be a welcome addition to almost all of our diets.
In order to compare apples-to-apples (sorry), the healthiest fruits were determined by comparing them on a calorie-to-calorie basis.
This calculation determined each fruit's micronutrient density.
But nutrient density alone wasn't good enough to compare health.
Nutrient density doesn't give a fruit points forever.
Most vitamins and minerals add little generalized health benefits above their dietary reference intake (DRI) values. For example, eating 10X the DRI for riboflavin doesn't suddenly give you super-riboflavin-powers (although your pee will have riboflavin-induced super-yellowness).
Therefore, the value given for each micronutrient to the overall health of each fruit plateaus shortly after meeting the its DRI (on a calorie-per-calorie basis).
The Healthiest Fruits Have a Breadth of Nutrients
A few healthy fruits come to mind when thinking about specific nutrients. (Bananas and potassium....oranges and vitamin C).
But to earn a high ranking in the list of the healthiest fruits, they need to have a high nutrient density for many vitamins and minerals.
For example, grapes have exceedingly high levels of manganese. Much more than navel oranges.
But oranges have acceptable densities for calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and many others.
Therefore, nutrient density_ _and nutrient breadth count.
Feel free to use the interactive chart to view the ranking of the healthiest fruits and the micronutrient densities below. Select data to see changes and compare the most nutritious fruits.
What are the Healthiest Fruits? (75 Ranked from Best to Worst)
See the snapshot below of the healthiest fruits ranked by nutrient density, or click here to view the interactive chart.
The Healthiest Fruits Have a High Quality Macronutrient Profile
A healthy, balanced diet meets the typical body's requirements for protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Straying too far in any one can lead to a poorly balanced diet over time.
And other recommendations from institutions like the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization, and most national health organizations across the globe address dietary constituents like fiber, sugar, and saturated fats.
Most fruits, as you can see below, are high in sugar. This isn't a big surprise to many of you.
Many even argue this is a reason not to eat fruit.
I would agree that only eating fruit is a bad idea. For many reasons.
But as we've seen, many of them are jam-packed full of micronutrients.
And as you'll also notice below, they are full of fiber. Fiber has many cardiometabolic health benefits, and also may improve your gut microbiome profile, too.
Please use and share our interactive charts by mousing-over the data to see the macronutrient profiles for our list of the healthiest fruits, below.
Healthiest Fruits: Macronutrient Balance Quality?
See the snapshot below of the healthiest fruits ranked by their macronutrient profile, or click here to view the interactive chart.
Low Sugar Fruits
Fruits can sometimes get a bad rap due to their high sugar content.
It's true - fruits tend to have a lot of sugar.
See how much sugar we actually consume in America!
But you shouldn't be afraid to eat fruits. First, they are nutrient-dense, containing a great deal of essential vitamin, minerals, and phytochemicals important for good health.
And second, they come full of fiber. This is important because he slows down the absorption of, among other things, sugar! So the insulin response is nowhere near that of raw sugar, or the sugar found added to soft drinks and other processed foods.
Not to mention fruit juices. These should be consumed in moderation, too. The lack of fiber that often accompanies them mean that sugar does become a problem. Indeed, children who regularly drink fruit juices, despite the better nutrient profile, can gain weight from the added calories.
The healthiest fruits in our list have moderate amounts of sugar. But what are some low sugar fruits?
Often forgotten in the fruit category, avocados are the fruit with the least amount of sugar! Low in sugar, avocados are also high in fats - different than most of the fruits on this list.
Raspberries (the healthiest fruit on our list) again show up as low sugar fruits, too! But also near the bottom are both lemons and limes.
Browse our charts below to see other low sugar fruits!
See the snapshot below of low sugar fruits, ranked, or see our interactive chart, here.
High Protein Fruits
Fruits are not usually the first thing you think of when it comes to protein. It's true - fruits are generally not going to be your best source of protein.
But the protein in fruit can sometimes be higher than you think. And in some cases, actually present in concentrations that meet your protein needs.
See how much protein we consume on average in America!
Which fruit has the most protein? Kiwano! Also known as the horned melon or the African horned cucumber. Originally from sub-Saharan Africa, it is now grown widely.
When it comes to protein density on a calorie-by-calorie basis, the top 10 fruits actually exist in the range recommended by the USDA (i.e., 10-35% of your calories should come from protein).
Here is a snapshot of the rankings of 75 of the healthiest fruits by protein density. To use our interactive chart, click here!
Low Calorie Fruits
Nutritious fruits are a great addition to a balanced diet, even for those interested in losing some weight.
Fruits are nutrient-dense, and they can make sure you are still getting enough essential nutrients while reducing calories.
But nutritious fruits can also help you lose weight because they are dense in fiber.
Learn more about your dietary fiber intake needs!
Fiber can help with weight loss because it can increase satiety - the feeling of fullness.
Therefore, the best fruits for weight loss have the distinct combination of being low calorie fruits while also being high fiber fruits.
This combo will help you keep calories down while also maintaining fullness.
So what are the best fruits for weight loss?
Berries, once again, rank high on the list of low calorie fruits with high fiber density. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries - they're all great choices.
But another option high on the list is passion-fruit. While a little more obscure to find in some regions, this sweet, exotic treat is worth a try!
Here's a snapshot from our analysis of the best fruits for weight loss. Check out the interactive chart, here.
Phytochemicals in Fruits
Phytochemicals refer to the myriad compounds in fruits and vegetables that exist in small amounts but may have effects on your health and well-being. The healthiest fruits also tend to be rich in many of these phytochemicals.
Research into many of these compounds has been increasing over the last few decades as we've discovered many potential positive health benefits ranging from better cardiovascular health to reduced risks of neurological disorders.
One of the more highly studied phytochemicals is quercetin.
See our detailed post to learn more about quercetin rich foods.
Quercetin may provide health benefits related to chemo-prevention and better cardiovascular health.
In addition to many vegetables, berries are particularly dense in quercetin among fruits. In fact, elderberries are the most quercetin-dense food according to information from the USDA Food Database.
See the snapshot below for the most quercetin-dense fruits, and click here to view the interactive charts.
Kaempferol is phytochemical in fruit within a similar class as quercetin.
Kaempferol too has been associated with chemo-protective traits. In addition, it may help protect against inflammation.
See our detailed post to learn more about kaempferol rich foods.
Kaempferol, like quercetin, is more dense in many vegetagbles. Nevertheless, many fruits, also including berries, contain kaempferol. Blueberries are the most kaempferol-dense fruit!
See a snapshot of the most kaempferol-dense fruits below, or click here to view the interactive chart.
So there you have it. A ranking of the healthiest fruits, from best (raspberries) to worst (persimmons). The most nutritious fruits were compared by assessing and comparing the following criteria:
Calorie-per-calorie, the most nutritious fruits had high concentrations of key nutrients.
Calorie-per-calorie, the most nutritious fruits met thresholds for recommended daily intake requirements.
The best fruits contained a wide array of nutrients at high concentrations; not just one or two.
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The best fruits to eat also had better macronutrient profiles, good fiber content, and less sugar.
So if you're looking for a list of healthy fruits to eat, this ranking should serve you well. Berries do well, even before incorporating qualities like antioxidant effects from other phytochemicals.
Where does your favorite land on the list!?