When it comes to eating fruit, let’s get one thing straight from the beginning. The healthiest kinds are the ones that you will actually eat. That being said, some fruits do pack a heavier nutritional punch than others. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, they provide a wealth of health benefits. So, whether you’re looking to support your immune system, reduce inflammation, improve heart health, or just want to enjoy delicious food, here are the top 5 healthiest fruits that you should eat regularly.
Some of the most common citrus fruits are oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and tangerines.
Rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins and minerals, they are a powerhouse of nutrients1. The vitamin C2 and other antioxidants1 in them help to protect your body from the damage caused by free radicals. In addition, citrus fruits support collagen production3, help to reduce inflammation1, can boost and maintain a healthy immune system4, and even help to reduce the risk of some cancers1.
It’s important to note that some citrus fruits – especially grapefruit – can interfere with the body’s ability to process certain medications. If you’re taking medications and eat grapefruit or a lot of citrus fruits overall, be sure and let your doctor know.
Berries are among the top 5 healthiest fruits because they’re another great source of antioxidants, essential vitamins, and minerals. In fact, some experts consider them to be the healthiest fruit because of their high antioxidant content5. How healthy are they? They “average nearly ten times more antioxidants than other fruits and vegetables6, which can be seen through their bright, vibrant colors.
Berries are also low in sugar and high in fiber, which can help keep your digestion healthy and regular7 and promotes healthy blood sugar levels. When buying berries, be sure to look for the ones that have the brightest, deepest colors (blueberries are my personal favorite!)
Apples are the unsung all-stars of the fruit world. They’re not always the flashiest, but they are always there as a good healthy standby – ready to get the job done. They are a good, portable whole food that can be easily packed and taken anywhere. The key is to eat the peel because it contains high amounts of insoluble fiber, which helps to regulate bowel movements. Then clearly, you want to eat the inside of the apple, which provides soluble fiber that can lower blood sugar and slow down food passing from the stomach to the intestines8.
Stone fruits such as cherries and plums
Stone fruits get their name because their seed is protected by a hard pit9. Cherries and plums fall into this category and are among the non-berry fruits with the most antioxidants per calorie1. In his book How Not To Die, Michael Greger M.D. cites research that shows that high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables, “have been found to douse systemic inflammation significantly better than the same number of servings of more common low-antioxidant fruits and veggies5.” In fact, tart cherries are so ani-inflammatory that tart cherry juice is often used as part of the treatment for arthritis and other inflammatory-related conditions10 as well as for exercise recovery by many athletes.
It’s important to note that the amount of tart cherry juice that has shown to make a significant difference in helping to relieve arthritis symptoms is 16 ounces a day11, 12. Just like any fruit juice, tart cherry juice has high amounts of natural sugar. That means that if you’re going to drink it, you want 100% juice with no added sugar. It’s also best to drink it with a meal or a snack that has protein and fiber, which can help mitigate the effect that it will have on blood sugar levels.
The edible seeds of pomegranates, called arils, are where the good stuff is. Used for thousands of years to treat many diseases and to support health, pomegranates are no fly-by-night health fad. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are being studied for potential brain and heart health benefits as well as helping to protect against some types of cancers13. A half cup of arils is considered to be a serving of pomegranate.
If you’ve never eaten a pomegranate, the Spruce Eats offers a great guide for easily getting to those nutrient-dense seeds.
Serving Sizes for Fruit
The key for eating fruit is being aware of the serving size. If you have 2-3 servings in one sitting, you need to consider it as such and not just as one serving.
- ½ cup fresh or frozen fruit
- 1 cup cut-up fruit
- 1 medium-sized fruit
- ¼ cup dried fruit
- ½ cup berries
How to Eat Fruit
When it comes to incorporating any of these fruits into your diet, there are a variety of options. You can add them to your salads, smoothies, juices, or even use them as a topping for your oatmeal or yogurt. If you’re drinking tart cherry juice, it’s delicious to add to seltzer water.
The same tip for offsetting the natural sugar in tart cherry juice also holds true for other fruits as well. If you’re having a serving of whole fruit, be sure to also have something with protein and fat in it to help lessen the effect on your blood sugar. For example, apple slices and two tablespoons of peanut butter, or berries and a ¼ cup of raw pumpkin seeds.
Bottom Line on the Top 5 Healthiest Fruits
The bottom line on our top 5 healthiest fruits is to eat a variety every day. As we’ve seen here, they all contain numerous nutrients that when combined, can go a long way toward supporting an active and healthy lifestyle.
- Lv X, Zhao S, Ning Z, Zeng H, Shu Y, Tao O, Xiao C, Lu C, Liu Y. Citrus fruits as a treasure trove of active natural metabolites that potentially provide benefits for human health. Chem Cent J. 2015 Dec 24;9:68. doi: 10.1186/s13065-015-0145-9. PMID: 26705419; PMCID: PMC4690266.
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Fact Sheet for Consumers.
- Gref, R., Deloménie, C., Maksimenko, A. et al. Vitamin C-squalene bioconjugate promotes epidermal thickening and collagen production in human skin. Sci Rep 10, 16883 (2020).
- Fung, Teresa, RD, ScD. Are Certain Fruits Healthier Than Others? Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Jan. 31, 2022
- Greger, Michael, M.D., FACLM. How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. 2015.
- Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutri J. 2010; 9:3.
- National Institute on Aging. Healthy Eating As You Age: Know Your Food Groups.
- Cleveland Clinic. Improving Your Health With Fiber.
- Okie, W.R. 2008. Minor Prunus spp.–stone fruit. In: Janick, J., Paull, R.E., editors. Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts. Cambridge, UK: CABI. p. 727-733. Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts. https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publication/?seqNo115=154359
- Arthritis Foundation. Nutrients in Tart Cherries Can Help Fight Arthritis Pain.
- Du C, Chapman SC, Kwon YH, Vijayagopal P, Juma S. Impact of Tart Cherry Juice on Joint Flexibility and Pain in Individuals with Self-Reported Knee Osteoarthritis (P01-030-19). Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 Jun 13;3(Suppl 1):nzz028.P01-030-19. doi: 10.1093/cdn/nzz028.P01-030-19. PMCID: PMC6574019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6574019/
- Schumacher HR, Pullman-Mooar S, Gupta SR, Dinnella JE, Kim R, McHugh MP. Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Aug;21(8):1035-41. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 May 31. PMID: 23727631. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23727631/
- Akbar M, Song BJ, Essa MM, Khan MA. Pomegranate: An ideal fruit for human health. INT J Nutr Pharmacol Neurol Dis [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Feb 16]; 5:141-3. Available from https://www.ijnpnd.com/article.asp?issn=2231-0738;year=2015;volume=5;issue=4;spage=141;epage=143;aulast=Akbar