The New Best Super Fruits
For Perfect Blood Pressure
Better: Fresh figs
Why: Six fresh figs have 891 mg of blood pressure-lowering potassium, nearly 20% of your daily need — about double what you'd find in one large banana. In a recent 5-year study from the Netherlands, high-potassium diets were linked with lower rates of death from all causes in healthy adults age 55 and older. You'll also get... a boost to your bones. Figs are one of the best fruit sources of calcium, with nearly as much per serving (six figs) as ½ cup of fat-free milk!
To Protect Your Heart and Fight Disease
Good: Red grapes
Why: A French study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that lychee has the second-highest level of heart-healthy polyphenols of all fruits tested — nearly 15% more than the amount found in grapes (cited by many as a polyphenol powerhouse). The compounds may also play an important role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer. "Polyphenols act like a force field, helping to repel foreign invaders from damaging your cells," says David Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! You'll also get... protection from breast cancer. A recent test-tube and animal study from Sichuan University in China found that lychee may help to prevent the formation of breast cancer cells, thanks to the fruit's powerful antioxidant activity. Shop for lychee with few black marks on the rough, leathery shell, which can be anywhere from red to brown in color. Look for fruit that gives when pressed gently. Shells should be intact and the fruit attached to the stem. Serve by peeling or breaking the outer covering just below the stem; use a knife to remove the black pit. Add to stir-fries or skewer onto chicken kebabs to add a sweet, grapelike flavor.
For Beautiful Skin
Why: One cup of guava has nearly five times as much skin-healing vitamin C (it's a key ingredient in collagen production) as a medium orange (377 mg versus 83 mg) — that's more than five times your daily need. Women who eat a lot of vitamin C-packed foods have fewer wrinkles than women who don't eat many, according to a recent study that tracked the diets of more than 4,000 American women ages 40 to 74. You'll also get... bacteria-busting power. Guava can protect against foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and Staph, according to research by microbiologists in Bangladesh. Also, a cooperative study by the USDA and Thai scientists found that guava has as much antioxidant activity as some well-known superfoods like blueberries and broccoli (though every plant contains a different mix of the healthful compounds). Shop for guava using your nose. A ripe guava has a flowery fragrance, gives a bit to the touch, and has a thin, pale green to light yellowish rind. Serve by adding to fruit cobbler recipes (the tiny seeds are edible) or simmer chunks in water as you would to make applesauce. Guava also makes a super smoothie: Blend ½ banana, ½ ripe guava, a handful of strawberries, ½ cup soy milk, and a few ice cubes.
To Lower Cholesterol
Better: Asian pears
Why: One large Asian pear has nearly 10 g of cholesterol-lowering fiber, about 40% of your daily need; a large apple has about half that much. People who ate the most fiber had the lowest total and "bad" cholesterol levels, according to a recent study of Baltimore adults. You'll also get... protection from creeping weight gain. The same researchers found that people who ate the most fiber also weighed the least and had the lowest body mass index and waist circumference.
To Fight Cancer
Why: It is one of the top sources of beta-crypoxanthin, which research suggests can protect against lung cancer. Like watermelon, it is also a rich source of lycopene. "Although there is currently no recommendation for how much lycopene you should consume in a day, research shows that the nutrient may protect against several different types of cancer, including stomach, endometrial, and prostate," says Grotto. You'll also get... better healing. Papayas may help speed burn recovery when used topically, thanks partly to the enzyme papain, which also aids in digestion. "Papain helps break down amino acids, the building blocks of protein," says Elisa Zied, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson.