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A higher fruit intake has been tied to protection from heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cataract, macular degeneration, cognitive decline, digestive tract cancers and lung cancer.mediaphotos/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Q: I’m trying to eat more fruit, but the choices are limited this time of year. Which winter fruits offer the most nutritional value?

Winter isn’t known for an abundant variety of fresh fruit. But that doesn’t mean your fruit intake has to take a nosedive.

During the winter months, it’s still possible to find fresh fruits that deliver plenty of nutrition and flavour. Not to mention numerous health benefits.

A higher fruit intake has been tied to protection from heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, cataract, macular degeneration, cognitive decline, digestive tract cancers and lung cancer.

Many people forgo fruit in order to avoid eating too much sugar. But unlike refined sugar that’s added to pastries, ice cream, candy and many highly processed foods, naturally occurring sugar in fruit (fructose) comes packaged with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plus, the fibre in fruit slows the body’s absorption of its natural sugars.

Include two or three servings of whole fruit (not juice) in your diet each day, year-round. A medium-sized fruit or one cup of berries or fruit salad is considered a fruit serving.

The following nutrient-packed fruits are worthy additions to your winter diet.

5. Grapefruit

One medium grapefruit offers 3 grams of fibre, 356 mg of blood-pressure-regulating potassium and a full day’s worth of vitamin C (90 mg). Not bad for 82 calories.

Like all citrus fruit, grapefruit contains flavanones, phytochemicals that have been shown to protect brain cells, strengthen blood vessels and dampen inflammation. Pink and red grapefruit are also decent sources of lycopene, an antioxidant thought to guard against prostate cancer.

Broil half of a grapefruit (with a drizzle of honey) for breakfast, serve sliced grapefruit alongside grilled seafood and fish, or add grapefruit segments to green salads.

Grapefruit interacts with many medications, including some used to treat high cholesterol and blood pressure. Consult your pharmacist to determine if it’s safe to eat grapefruit while taking certain drugs.

4. Pomegranate seeds

Opening a pomegranate to extract its juicy seed sacs (called arils) can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort. One-half cup of these jewel-like seeds (72 calories) supply fibre, potassium, folate, vitamin K and vitamin C.

The fruit’s claim to fame, though, is its exceptional content of polyphenols, compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Among their many potential health benefits, research suggests that pomegranate polyphenols may help fight inflammation in the gut.

Add pomegranate seeds to yogurt parfaits and fruit salad, sprinkle over oatmeal, stir into whole grain pilafs, toss into salads and mix into muffin batter.

3. Clementines

My go-to wintertime snack, two clementines (70 calories) deliver plenty of vitamin C (72 mg) along with fibre, potassium, folate, calcium and beneficial citrus flavanones.

Simply peel and enjoy on their own or add clementine segments to yogurt, smoothies, hot cereal, pancakes and spinach salad. The vitamin C in citrus fruit enhances the body’s ability to absorb iron from leafy greens.

2. Kiwifruit

This small green fruit is a nutrient powerhouse. Two kiwifruit (84 calories) serve up 4 g of fibre, as much potassium as a banana (430 mg), more vitamin C than an orange (128 mg) along with folate, vitamin E and calcium.

Kiwifruit is also a good source of vitamin K, a nutrient needed for blood clotting and healthy bones. Two fruit provide two-thirds of a day’s worth of the vitamin for women and half of a day’s worth for men.

Add kiwi slices to cereal and salads, mix chopped kiwi into yogurt and blend kiwifruit into smoothies. Make a kiwi salsa with red bell pepper, onion and cilantro to serve with fish and chicken.

1. Apples

The fact that apples keep well for up to five months after fall harvest makes them a readily available fruit in the winter months.

In addition to fibre, vitamins and minerals, apples are an excellent source of quercetin, a strong antioxidant concentrated in the skin that’s thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Mix chopped apple into oatmeal, add thin slices of apple to quesadillas or turkey sandwiches, snack on an apple with almond butter or serve baked apples for dessert.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan.

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