Fruit contributes greatly to our health thanks to the healthful effects of many natural substances such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers and the synergistic effects among them. Fruit is rich in a variety of pigments which, in addition to contributing to their beauty, also serve as antioxidants that aid the plant itself and us by providing protection from disease and environmental damage, stemming from solar radiation in Israel's hot climate. Sugars make fruit taste great, but also dictate that we should consume them in moderation.
The orange is the most prevalent citrus fruit in Israel and throughout the world. It is rich in vitamin C, which helps to protect tissue integrity and the immune system, especially in growing children, as well as with preventing winter illnesses. Oranges are also rich in dietary fiber, potassium and calcium, vitamins A, B1 and folic acid as well as carotene and polyphenol pigments, which are antioxidants. According to the World Health Organization, eating an orange a day contributes to reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Oranges also help protect against infectious and cancerous processes and contribute to oral and digestive track (esophagus, stomach, intestine) health as well as to that of the skin and bones.
The lemon is a citrus fruit that also serves as a condiment and is typical of the Mediterranean region. It is rich in potassium and vitamin C, which is especially active in the acidic environment inside the fruit. This vitamin, along with carotene and polyphenol pigments which become more concentrated as the lemon ripens helps protect against oxidative damage, strengthens the intracellular material in connective and epithelial tissue (of the mouth, intestines, blood vessels and skin) and support the immune system's resistance, while also reducing infection. Thus, these elements contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancerous processes and signs of accelerated ageing.
The avocado is rich in healthy fats (similar to olive oil) and phytosterols that contribute to lowering cholesterol levels. It also provides minerals —potassium, copper and magnesium, vitamins B3, B6 and folic acid, as well as vitamins C, E and K and dietary fiber. Collectively, along with the fruit's green and orange carotenes, these substances help protect against oxidative damage such as eye disease in the elderly, thanks to the lutein pigment found in the fruit, as well as against inflammatory, heart disease and cancer processes.
Grapes are an ancient fruit and were among the seven species with which the Land of Israel was blessed. They are rich in manganese and potassium as well as vitamins B1, B6 and C. Along with the pigments, antioxidants from the polyphenol family help to protect against oxidative damage, such as the tendency for cholesterol oxidation, as well as against the risk of vascular damage. Prominent among these is the resveratrol in the skin of the red grape, which is the leading health promoter in red wine, typical to Mediterranean cuisine. Thus, grapes, and particularly red grapes, contribute to protecting heart and brain function, to reducing inflammatory and cancer processes, as well as to general health.
The pomegranate is a symbol of plenty and the "crown" of health. It is rich in potassium and copper, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C. This fruit contains a high concentration and winning combination of antioxidants from the red polyphenol family (anthocyanins and antocyanidines) and helps protect against oxidative damage. It also protects against cholesterol oxidation and vascular cholesterol buildup and its harmful effects, as well as against atherosclerosis. The pomegranate also contributes to protection against inflammatory processes in the joints, gums and bones, against sun damage and cancer processes. It helps to promote general vascular health and improve circulation, which greatly affects improved heart and brain function, as well as overall health.
Niva Shapira, Ph.D., R.D., Agr.
Clinical Nutrition Consultant
R&D Functional Foods and Diets
Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions,
Tel Aviv University