Citrus fruits are known for their vitamin C content. An average orange, for example, contains about 65 mg. (about the RDA) of this important vitamin. Citruses are also high in potassium and other minerals. Like most other fruits, they are low in salt, or sodium.
Citrus fruits are used commonly for cleansing, as during colds and flus, and for cooling us down in the summertime. Citrus juice seems to help cut grease on the hands or dishes, and it likely has the same effect on the body, helping fat digestion and utilization. Citrus and vitamin C are thought to help reduce cholesterol. Gallbladder and liver function is thought to be supported by citrus fruits, especially lemons, and lemon water may help stimulate digestive juice secretions. More research is needed to evaluate the actions and effects of citrus juices in our body.
Grapefruits. Grapefruits are used in many diets to reduce the appetite and help digestion and utilization of foods. They are low in calories, and consuming them probably burns as many calories as they contain. Among the citrus fruits, grapefruits are an especially good weight-loss food.
One grapefruit contains about 75 mg. of vitamin C. Amounts of vitamin A and the Bs are fairly low, though there is some biotin. Potassium content is very good, and there is some calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus as well. Grapefruit juice straight or mixed with orange juice is a high-vitamin C meal.
Lemons. Lemons have been a very useful food in my life. Lemonade fasting has done wonders for me and thousands of others who have attempted the “master cleanse” described in my book Staying Healthy with the Seasons (Celestial Arts, 1981). Lemon water, as a half lemon in a glass of water, drunk 20–30 minutes before meals, seems to help stimulate gastric juices and help digestion. In general, liquids drunk a while before meals can reduce our appetite and thus help prevent overeating, and lemon water is a very good choice.
I consider lemons a cleanser, purifier, rejuvenator, and detoxifier, especially for the liver, as they help in fat metabolism. These functions come mainly from their astringent qualities, supported by high vitamin C and potassium levels. Like other citruses, lemons contain calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, but most of these minerals are present more in the white part of the rind and in the pulp. Lemon juice is used in salads and, more for its biochemical behavior, in cutting fats and oils (even in dishwashing liquid). It is more often used diluted in water as lemon water or lemonade (with sweeteners) than as a separate beverage, because its sour flavor limits its straight use. Lemon peel tea can be drunk after a meal as a digestive acid.
Limes. Limes are like minilemons in terms of nutritional content. Limes helped save the British sailors (“limeys”) from scurvy by means of their vitamin C content. This little citrus is not as prevalent in our culture as many others; however, it is used commonly in alcoholic or refreshment drinks, as it is not quite as sour as lemon.
Oranges. Oranges are one of the most commonly used fruits in the United States. As orange juice (OJ), they are popular as a breakfast drink. One orange can give us our minimum vitamin C requirement of 65 mg., and one glass of OJ provides about 125 mg. Oranges’ high potassium and good calcium levels are also helpful. Actually, oranges contain almost all the vitamins and minerals, at least in modest amounts. Since people can daily consume more oranges, as juice or fruit, than the other citruses, we are able to obtain higher vitamin C levels with OJ, often the drink for the common cold. Oranges also have more vitamin A, as beta-carotene, than other citruses, which may help fight infections and protect us from cancer by supporting our immune system.
Melons are high-water-content fruits that grow on the ground in the heat of summer. Most are harvested in late summer; casaba and honeydew melons are more of an autumn/winter crop. When we are dry and thirsty in the summer, melons are a good answer. They are also high in calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A as beta-carotene, especially cantaloupe and watermelon. Because of the high water and fruit sugar content of most melons, they are more easily digested than most any other food. For this reason, it is suggested that they be eaten by themselves to avoid abdominal gas and bloating, as fermentation may occur more easily when they are eaten with other, harder to digest foods. There are many varieties and colors of melons. I will discuss a few here—one red, one green, and a couple of orange ones.
Cantaloupes. Cantaloupes are very high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. One-quarter of a cantaloupe may give up to 3000 IUs of A as well as about 30 mg. vitamin C; some Bs; potassium (about 250 mg.); a little calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus; and traces of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc.
Casabas. The casaba is a muskmelon that is higher in the minerals than in vitamins A and C. Potassium, calcium, and phosphorus are all found in good levels. The casaba-type melons are a little higher in sodium than other fruits.
Honeydews. Sweet, juicy, green melons, honeydews have a fairly good vitamin C content. The amounts of vitamin A and the Bs are lower, but potassium is high, as are calcium and phosphorus.
Watermelons. Eating watermelon can be quite an art. Red and juicy, watermelons are really America’s national melon. They are almost all water and nutrients—high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Watermelon is a great treat in the hot summer. Most people experience this fruit as a diuretic, stimulating urine flow. The ground seeds have been used as an herbal diuretic and kidney cleanser.
There are many varieties of edible berries found all over the world. Discussed here are some more common berries available to us in both wild and cultivated forms. Berries usually can be found or harvested in later summer or early autumn, depending on the climate. Depending on ripeness, they may vary in flavor from very sour to very sweet.
Most berries have some vitamin C, about 20–30 mg. per cup. Vitamin A content varies, but at least 150–300 IUs can be found in a cup of berries. B vitamins are generally low, but minerals are fairly plentiful, with potassium content the best. Amounts of calcium, magnesium, silicon, and iron are actually pretty good. Most of the berries have a good fiber content as well.
Berries are a treat for young and old. Berry pie made with fresh-picked berries can be a flavorful and nutritious dessert, ideally consumed at least an hour or two after dinner. Berries with cream or a la mode can be a little heavy and harder to digest but definitely a taste treat. Berries with cereals are also fairly popular, but overall, berries are best by themselves.
Blackberries. Blackberries are almost exclusively wild and local, even to city folk. Come midsummer, we can stain our hands and get a few stickers pickin’ and eatin’ them blackberries. They need to be black and ripe to be sweet; otherwise they can make us pucker. They have pretty good amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, and other minerals. Both vitamins A and C are found in blackberries.
Blueberries. Blueberries are sweeter and meatier and a little lower in vitamins A and C and minerals than the other berries, though they still have lots of nutrients.
Boysenberries. A really special treat, boysenberries may come earlier than the other dark bushberries. They are similar to blackberries in their nutrient content.
Cranberries. Cranberries are tart berries used mainly in their cooked and “sauced” form for celebration. Cranberry juice is commonly used to help acidify the urine to reduce symptoms and clear mild urinary bladder infections. They are lower in vitamins A and C and minerals than the other berries but are still nutritious.
Raspberries. Both red and black raspberries are another summertime treat. They are fairly high in vitamin C and especially abundant in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Strawberries. Our most popular American berry, strawberries grow in little ground bushes without prickers. Maybe their friendliness is what gives them top billing. But they are very tasty as well, and they are also highest in vitamin C, though a bit lower in vitamin A, and better in iron and potassium than the other berries. Strawberries are unique in that their seeds are on the outside. That trait, along with their red color, makes them the most yang, or activating, fruit from an Oriental perspective. I surely liked strawberries in my milk and cereal when I was growing up, especially drinking that pink, sweet milk at the end, with the extra white sugar, of course. Ooh!
Tropical fruits are those that grow in a hot or tropical climate, usually one with lots of rain and sun—like Hawaii, Tahiti, the Caribbean, South America, or even Southern California or Florida. The tropical fruits vary in type of plants, fruits, and nutrients, but all are fairly exotic tasting. Each one is known for its unique taste and a particular nutrient in which it is high. Bananas are great in potassium and are likely the most popular fruit in our country, even though they are not grown here. Papayas are high in beta-carotene and the papain enzyme; guavas in vitamin C; pineapples in manganese and the digestive enzyme bromelain; while avocados, a tropical and temperate fruit (will be discussed shortly under Unusual Fruits), have some protein and fat (they are really more like nuts in nutrient makeup). Some other less common varieties of tropical fruits are cherimoya, lychee, and zapote.
Bananas. Bananas have the number one vote as Americans’ favorite fruit. They are commonly recommended as a potassium source in those patients on potassium-losing diuretic therapy. Bananas are almost completely carbohydrate. They contain many vitamins and minerals, including iron, selenium, and magnesium.
Bananas are used in flavoring for desserts, as in banana splits or banana bread, in breakfast cereals, or even in sandwiches. Most commonly, though, they are eaten after peeling the skin as a snack or dessert carried in lunch pails to work or school. As far as treats go, bananas are one of the healthiest. However, there is concern, since bananas are not indigenous in the States, over the pesticides that are used to fumigate these fruits when they come from Mexico or Hawaii. Also, some people do not digest bananas well, some are allergic, and others may become constipated from their use.