Vitamin-Packed Tropical Fruits

The nutritional benefits of tropical fruits are no longer reserved for people lucky enough to live in the tropics. Supermarkets are waking up to the appeal of these once-exotic fruits and are making them available to all of us. Guavas, mangos and papayas rival any other fruit for top honors in the vitamin and mineral department, not to mention fiber and phytochemicals. Bananas and avocados are more familiar tropical fruits, but they have amazing health benefits too.

Mango: The unique juicy, sweet flavor of the mango will surely win you over once you give it a try. It may feel decadent to eat something so wonderful, but consider these nutritional facts:
half a mango provides all the vitamin A you need in a day (in the form of beta-carotene),
half of your vitamin C requirements, and
significant amounts of B vitamins (something most other fruits can't claim).
Get a great start on meeting your daily requirements with a mango peach shake!

Papaya: If you could only eat one fruit, this should be the one. Why? It contains not only beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A) and more vitamin C than oranges, but also more vitamin A than apricots and more potassium than a banana.

All those nutrients serve to help reduce your risk of:
cancer (vitamins A and C),
heart disease (vitamins A and C),
stroke (potassium), and
cataracts (beta-carotene).
For a main dish so full of healthful ingredients you'll feel like you've just added years to your life, try Baked Halibut with Papaya Salsa.

Guavas: This tropical fruit is a little harder to find, but worth the effort. One small fruit contains more than three times the RDA of vitamin C, and about five times more than an orange. Don't peel guava, because the edible rind has a large concentration of the vitamin. It also contains pectin, a soluble fiber helpful in reducing blood cholesterol. Cut one in half, scoop out the seeds, and slice. Enjoy the sweetness of the bright pink flesh. The wonderful color will make them a great garnish or addition to fruit salad.

Bananas: Did you know that this tropical treat is the most popular fruit in the United States? Bananas are easy to digest -- perfect for people of all ages. Their high carbohydrate content makes them the fruit of choice for endurance athletes, and their abundance of potassium makes them good for reducing blood pressure and risk of stroke. They are also one of nature's best sources of vitamin B6, important for keeping the immune system in top form.

Bananas are terrific in smoothies and, if frozen, make the smoothies even thicker. Or, bake up a batch of these muffins one morning and watch the family peel into breakfast: Healthy Banana Apple Muffins.

Avocado: This buttery, rich fruit, often mistaken for a vegetable, has a high fat content compared to other fruits, but can still make a significant nutritional contribution to your diet. The fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated, the same kind found in olive oil, which is shown to lower blood cholesterol. They contain more beta-carotene than many other fruits, like apples and grapefruit, and have even more potassium than a banana. They are rich in folic acid, known to prevent certain birth defects, and contain several other B vitamins. If your avocado recipe repertoire is limited to guacamole, try expanding it with this famous Moosewood Restaurant recipe: California Waldorf Salad.

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