Healthy Eating: Food fight, take two

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but how do pears compare? Find out which fruits are best for you.

Apples and pears 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Apples and pears 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Apples versus pears
When asked which has more calories – an apple or a pear – many of us will scream pear. And why not? After all, they are far sweeter, so shouldn’t they contain more sugar, and hence calories? Well our taste buds may be off when it comes to this fruit comparison as a pear actually contains few grams of sugar per serving.
Pears also have a slight advantage when it comes to fiber, offering nearly six grams (that’s one fifth of the 30 grams you are supposed to consume each day). As a result, they are good for your digestive system, as fiber keeps food moving efficiently though the colon, thus helping to prevent colon cancer. A diet high in fiber has also been linked to lower levels of cholesterol, and lower risks of breast cancer.
While we should all have our fair share of pears, there's a reason we say: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Aside from loading us up with vitamins, apples are rich in phytonutrients that have been linked with some extraordinary health benefit properties.
First off, most of the phytonutrients in apples act as antioxidants, and therefore there's a strong connection between apples and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The phytonutrients in apples have also been shown to reduce the rate of glucose absorption from our digestive tract, thus helping to improve regulation of our blood sugar. However, that’s far from all. Many studies have shown a correlation between fruit/vegetable intake and a lower rate of lung cancer; but few individual fruits or veggies have been found to protect against lung cancer, except for apples. Recent research has found that apples are one of the few fruits to exhibit the ability to lower the risk of lung cancer. When it comes to our respiratory system, the health benefits of apples keep on coming, as other studies have found a connection between this fruit and a lower incidence of asthma.
So while a pear is a very good addition to your regular diet, an apple a day (or at least a few times a week) will really keep many diseases at bay.
Oranges versus grapefruit
We've all heard about the "magical" properties of grapefruit. From helping to lose weight to lowering cholesterol, grapefruits are renowned for their beneficial health properties. But how do grapefruits stack up against the other citrus fruits, particularly oranges? Grapefruits and oranges are similar when it comes to calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium – they are low in everything across the board.
While grapefruits do technically have more calories than oranges (120 versus 80), it's important to remember that they are double in size – and most of us only eat half a grapefruit at a time. However, there is one ingredient that an orange is more abundant in, and it’s not necessarily a good thing – sugar. A whole orange contains more carbohydrates than a half a grapefruit. However, it also contains more fiber too, which helps to counteract some of the effect that sugar has on our blood glucose levels.
Moving on to micronutrients, how do these two citrus fruits stack up when it comes to vitamins and minerals? Oranges are often synonymous with vitamin C, as they provide more than 130 percent of one’s daily requirement. Grapefruits contain slightly less, however they are certainly not lacking in this cold-fighting vitamin. In relation to the other vitamins and minerals, grapefruits win when it comes to phosphorus and Vitamin A content, while oranges dominate in their selenium, thiamin and B vitamin levels.
While oranges and grapefruit have been pretty neck and neck until now, there are a few things worth checking out before declaring a winner. First off, as an orange-red fruit, grapefruits are loaded with lycopene – an antioxidant renowned for its anti-cancer properties. Once inside the body, lycopene goes straight to work, destroying cancer-causing free radicals. However, that's far from all: Grapefruits are rich in phytonutrients known as limonoids, which have been shown to help inhibit tumor formation.
Moreover, there is a link between consuming grapefruits and lower levels of cholesterol. Both white and red grapefruits are rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber that has been shown (in animal studies) to slow the progression of atherosclerosis. While these properties help to push grapefruits ahead of the other citrus fruits, don’t discount oranges just yet. Their high Vitamin C content also provides valuable heart protection, as the vitamin has been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
So, in the end, while grapefruits might do slightly more for you (and your health) it's safe to say, that you can love them both.