I love fruit so much that I could easily take my veganism to the next level and become a fruitarian. Fruit’s allure is partly due to the sugar content; I’ve got a serious sweet tooth, and a juicy peach or a ripe banana instantly curbs the sugar cravings when they kick in. But I’m also a huge fan because of the many ways that savoring fruit—especially when it’s organic and in season—supports my health.
An endless body of research has concluded that a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables is the path to optimum health, with some studies even suggesting that a higher fruit intake can reduce mortality risk by as much as 35 percent! More fresh fruit means more fiber, more micronutrients, and even a healthier gut microbiome. And have I mentioned how vast and varied the fruit world is?
Fruit comes in every imaginable shape and size, from smooth, tiny kumquats to super-sized, spiky-skinned durian, and represents the entire flavor spectrum, too, from mouth-puckeringly sour to ultra sugary. I have my favorites (looking at you, strawberries), but I find joy in eating just about every fruit out there.
Whenever possible, I opt for fruit that is grown organically, without any pesticides (or genetic modification). This is especially important with fruit that is consumed with the peel intact, like apples, apricots, peaches, and other stone fruit. I also go for organic when it comes to the fruit on the “dirty dozen” list—so named because they are the crops grown with the heaviest pesticide loads—which includes grapes, apples, nectarines, and pears.
To maximize the health benefits of consuming fruit, I mix it up by eating a wide variety that spans the colors of the rainbow, and by privileging in-season fruits over out-of-season produce that traveled a long way to reach the store. In the northern hemisphere, that could look like bright red strawberries and green kiwis in spring; deep purple blackberries and vivid orange cantaloupe in the summer; pale yellow apples and violet-hued figs in the fall; and pink grapefruit and tiny orange clementines in winter.
So while there isn’t exactly one single healthiest fruit, there are many fruits that boast different health perks that range from being high in iron (figs and dates are great for red blood cell production), bursting with vitamin C (citrus is fabulous for bolstering the immune system), loaded with potassium (bananas help balance electrolytes in the system and are a great pre- and post-exercise) and brimming with vitamin A (the orange flesh of cantaloupe and mangos signals that they are loaded with it).
And good news: frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh fruit, so if your local supermarket is having a sale on organic blueberries, stock up! And for salads, smoothies, and snacks, treat yourself to these 20 vitamin-packed fruits to reap the flavorful, health-supporting benefits throughout the seasons.
The Top 20 Healthiest Fruits Ever
These little berries deserve the superfood label they’ve been bestowed. Countless human studies show that consuming the blue anthocyanins (that give them their eponymous color) can lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function, and reduce symptoms of depression. If that doesn’t make you want to make a batch of blueberry muffins, I don’t know what will!
In the northern hemisphere, oranges (and their cousins, clementines and mandarins) come into season in winter, just when we need their vitamin C packed goodness most. Besides staving off colds and bolstering our immune systems, citrus helps prevent oxidative damage that can leave us susceptible to illness.
Vitamin C, potassium, and anti-inflammatory properties are just a few of the things that cherries have going for them. The tart variety, in particular, has been found to decrease joint and muscle pain after strenuous workouts. I love treating myself to a bowlful after a morning yoga session.
One furry little kiwi fruit offers 75 percent of our daily vitamin C requirement, so I like to stock up on these during winter cold and flu season. Fruits high in C also help with collagen synthesis, so besides warding off colds, they support skin, hair, and nail health, too.
When we eat pomegranate seeds, they undergo a fermentation process in our digestive tract that creates urolithins—tiny metabolite compounds that circulate in the body, protecting it from age-related decline and inflammation. Pomegranates are time-consuming de-seed, but they are definitely worth the extra effort!
The most popular fruit on the planet is best known for its impressive potassium content, but bananas are also high in pectin, which has a soothing effect on our intestinal tract and supports healthy bowel function. I love them frozen in smoothies and or made into vegan ice cream.
Although we often think of them as a vegetable, avocados are, in fact, a fruit. While they come in many varieties, they all share common characteristics, including being a source of healthy fats that help clear the body of unhealthy oxidized LDL particles. But more importantly, what would life be without guacamole and avocado toast?!
Although guavas aren’t as well-known in the US as they are in tropical countries, they are worth getting familiar with for their super-high vitamin C content and for being a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that can help protect cells from oxidative stress.
Persimmons are a divisive fruit; you either love them or hate them! Of the two more common varieties, fuyu and hachiya, fuyu are more popular for their crisp, apple-like texture and mild yet sweet flavor. Adding them to salads means getting a healthy boost of vitamin A, along with vitamin C and fiber.
While it’s not my favorite fruit, I do appreciate a ripe, juicy slice of cantaloupe. I’m talking about the kind with the tangerine-colored flesh—not the anemic variety found in your in-flight meal’s fruit salad. The flavor difference is amazing, and the health benefits are impressive: one serving meets all your daily vitamin A and C needs.
These lovely little berries have a delicate look and taste, but when it comes to their antioxidant properties, they are powerhouses! Packed with polyphenols that support brain health and possibly ward off cancer, they’re worth indulging in daily in smoothies and fruit salads.
This juicy tropical fruit is the sole source of bromelain, an enzyme that promotes tissue healing. Pineapple is also an amazing source of manganese, a trace mineral that supports healthy brain and nerve function—something we can all need a little more help with in our hyper-busy and often stressful lives.
Yes, they are a fruit, and they’re packed with lycopene, a flavonoid that lends them their red color. Lycopene acts like a scavenger, collecting and eliminating free radicals in the body, which may explain why study after study points to tomatoes as a cancer-fighting food.
You’ve probably heard that cranberries can be helpful if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection, and there is some solid science behind why: they contain phytochemicals that inhibit certain bacteria growth, including the kind that causes bladder infections and UTIs. How great is that?!
Purple grapes (and red wine) are loaded with quercetin, a plant pigment similar to the lycopene found in tomatoes and beta carotene in carrots. It acts as an antioxidant with myriad potential health benefits, including inhibiting histamine response and reducing allergy symptoms. It’s also been shown to offer protection to the heart by lowering plaque build-up in arteries.
There’s something to that old adage about an apple a day keeping the doctor away. They are a wonderful source of fiber, contain both pectin and quercetin that fight inflammation, and, perhaps surprisingly, they are also a good source of vitamin C!
In the spring, I practically live off of fresh strawberries. They’re a bit of a splurge, but I treat myself knowing that with every juicy bite, I’m getting a supercharged dose of vitamin C and am supporting my cognitive function thanks to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that abound in the fruit.
This berry, native to the Amazon river basin, bears a passing resemblance to a blueberry, and boasts many of the same health-supporting properties. Studies show that it can help regulate blood sugar levels and lower bad cholesterol, and it’s also loaded with antioxidants that help ward off disease.
- Dragon fruit
Food scientists have discovered that this tropical fruit (and its flashier cousin, the red pitaya) has the ability to neutralize toxins (including heavy metals) in the body, as well as combat oxidative stress. Bioactive compounds in the fruit also offer protection to both the heart and the liver, making it a great addition to your a.m. smoothie bowl after a festive Friday night.
Is there anything more delightful than a juicy slice of watermelon on a hot summer’s day? Besides being extremely hydrating thanks to their high water content, Watermelons are a solid source of lycopene, and they boast a bit of B6, which is fabulous for maintaining a healthy immune system.