Why You Should Make Your Own Fruit Cocktail!
Do you remember those small cans of fruit cocktail that were often thrown onto your cafeteria tray by the elementary school lunch lady? The all too soft peaches, pears, pineapples and wrinkled grapes that were drowning in a thick overly sweetened syrup. And let’s not forget about the one or two cherries that were hidden in the mix and that brought such joy to our six-year-old selves! If we were lucky enough to get one more bright red cherry than our buddy sitting next to us it was “the best day ever!”
And mom felt good about the fact that we were getting a good serving of fruit with our lunch each day. Unfortunately though, what she didn’t know at the time was that the sweet sauce that the fruit was swimming in took away any health benefits that could have been provided by the bite-sized pieces of fruit.
Today we have a much greater understanding of the hazards of many of the ingredients contained in these snacks that were once considered a “health food.” For example, many of these cans of fruit contain syrups made from high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high triglyceride levels and cardiovascular disease, and corn syrup produced from genetically modified seeds with unknown long-term effects. And those ruby red cherries that we sought out – well they have likely been processed with artificial preservatives and then injected with FD&C Red No. 4 to give them their bright red color. Many studies have linked FD&C Red No. 40 (and other artificial food dyes) to hyperactivity, cancer, and allergic reactions.
What about those packed in juice rather than syrup and sans the artificial coloring? Sounds like a good option, but many of these contain a high amount of added sweeteners including Ascorbic Acid which research has suggested may cause cancer. And once again the mysterious ingredient that goes by the name “natural flavor” is found on many of the labels. Does anyone actually know what “natural flavor” consists of?
How about the sugar-free variety? Unfortunately, this is not a good option either. Many of these options contain Ascorbic Acid as well as Acesulfame Potassium, an artificial sugar which research has also shown to possibly cause cancer, and Sucralose (marketed under the name Splenda), which has been linked to a number of adverse health effects including migraines, gastrointestinal disturbances, allergic reactions, acne, dizziness and weight gain.
Now, knowing that the options of years past are not the healthiest, why not spend a few extra minutes in the kitchen (and I really mean just a few!) and make your own fruit cocktail? This is an especially good option now that we have entered the summer months when there are so many fresh seasonal fruits to choose from in your local grocery store or farmer’s market! Change it up from week to week as new fruits come into season!
This colorful cocktail contains layers of fruit soaking in a naturally sweet and spicy dressing and can be eaten as a healthy and satisfying snack, a light nourishing breakfast, or can even be served at the end of a perfect meal. The fruit, of course, provides a natural source of essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, all of which are crucial for the proper functioning of the body. They also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals (chemicals produced by plants) which have been linked to a reduced risk of many chronic diseases.
The addition of Ginger only increases the health benefits! Ginger is a good source of Vitamin C, Potassium, Omega-6 Fatty Acids, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Copper, and Magnesium. Historically ginger has been used for medicinal purposes, particularly fighting inflammation. It is a known natural antibiotic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compound that can ease pain and decrease congestion. Ginger is used by many suffering from arthritis. It is also a remedy for nausea and motion sickness. Studies have shown that ginger decreases inflammatory substances associated with various cancers, including colorectal and ovarian.
- 4 cups diced fruit and/or berries such as pineapple, mango, watermelon, grapes, blueberries, strawberries.
- 6-10 mint sprigs
- 1 tsp. organic sugar or coconut sugar
- Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1/2″ piece of ginger grated
In a food processor combine strawberries, sugar, lime juice and zest, water and ginger. Blend until a puree consistency. Add additional water if necessary.
To make 4 on-the-go servings, evenly distribute puree in 4 12-ounce sized containers. Alternatively, the puree can be evenly distributed in 2 24-ounce sized containers to be shared.
Layer fruit on top of the puree until the jar is almost full and top with a mint sprig.
Cover jar and refrigerate for at least two hours. Gently shake the jar to distribute the puree before serving. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
And don’t forget the importance of using organic produce in order to avoid the health hazards associated with pesticides and other poisonous chemicals found in commercially grown food. Remember, healthy soil breeds healthier plants. In other words, organically grown produce not only contains more nutrients but also, and most importantly, tastes better!