A ‘Super fruit’ is part scientific theory and part marketing term. The former holds that certain fruits have a superabundance of nutrients and other qualities that together are greater than the sum of their parts and provide us with exceptional health-giving and disease-preventing benefits. As a marketing term, super fruit merely reflects which fruits are in vogue or are being heavily promoted as “the next big new thing”. The connection between these two poles is, at times, tenuous despite the best efforts of marketers to persuade us their latest super fruit is “scientifically proven” to be a miracle. That said, virtually all fruit is, by definition, good for you; though fruits, like people, are not all made equal – or even varieties of a particular fruit. The question then arises, which fruits can be said to be nutritionally superior ignoring the latest exotic fad promoted by the food industry? to answer that, scientists have been looking at the key elements of fruit: the macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils, and dietary or probiotic fibre – and the micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, omega fats and plant sterols.
The Macro-nutrients: All fruit is high in carbohydrates which we typically taste as sweetness when the fruit is ripe. It gives us energy. Fig, goji, kiwi, sea berry and guava have a particularly high protein content, essential for the healthy functioning of cells. The edible seeds of figs, red grapes, kiwi, blackcurrants, raspberries, and blackberries contain fats and oils, sometimes referred to as lipids, that are important for our structural and metabolic functions. (seaberry and acai contain oil within their berry pulp). Mangoes, figs, oranges, strawberries, the Rubus berries (raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries), goji berries (‘wolf berries’), kiwis, dates, açaí (as a puree or pulp) and prunes (dried plums) are the highest in dietary or prebiotic fibre essential to healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. The FDA has repeatedly confirmed the ability of polysaccharides found in dietary fibre to lower the risk and / or onset of cancerous and cardiovascular diseases.
The Micro-nutrients: superfruits by definition are rich in micro-nutrients, notably vitamins a, C and E – a group of antioxidants referred to as the “ACE” vitamins, B vitamins, dietary minerals, sterols and omega-3 fats. Many fruits typically have 10 per cent or more of recommended daily intake of dietary minerals. Fruits with edible seeds such as figs, kiwi, red grapes, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and açaí berries and dried goji berries are high in phytosterols that help reduce cholesterol, plus omega-3 fats (typically associated with salmon).
Recent research on the phytochemicals ‘Carotenoids’ and ‘Polyphenols’ – that are naturally abundant in plants and provide each plant food its colot, flavor and, where applicable, its scent – suggests they have considerable antioxidant value and might perform in human-beings what they perform in plants, notably defense against: diseases; ultraviolet exposure; bacteria; viruses; fungi; DNA and cell damage, and free radicals. The argument runs that the nutrient complement of the whole fruit acts together with phytochemicals in a process known as “nutritional synergy”. Thus some fruits are thought to have disease-preventing/health-enhancing benefits beyond the merely nutritional and are known as “functional foods”.