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Take a Healthy Trip with Tropical Fruits

Kiwi SmoothieThe tropics are home to beaches, sunshine, beautiful flowers and some of the most delicious fruits imaginable. But you don’t have to travel far to sample some of these cancer-fighting delights.

Once upon a time, tropical fruits were rare and exotic. Nowadays, you’ll find a selection at many supermarkets. Once thing that they all have in common is their abundance of disease-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals.

AICR’s expert report and its updates say a diet with ample fruits is linked to reduced risks of cancers of the lung, esophagus, mouth, pharynx, larynx and stomach. Additionally, many fruits are a good source of fiber, which reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Here are just a few tropical fruits that can add variety and good taste to a healthy diet.


Small, khaki green and fuzzy, a medium kiwifruit has only 42 calories and serves up almost a day’s supply of vitamin C. One fruit provides 2 grams of fiber and a healthy dose of the mineral potassium. Kiwifruit also contains lutein, a cancer-fighting antioxidant and relative of beta-carotene that appears to help protect against eye disease.

Choose kiwifruits that are plump, fragrant and yield to gentle pressure.


This sweet fruit provides beta-carotene and two other carotenoids. Foods that contain carotenoids probably protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and lung. Mangos are a rich source of vitamin C and folate. They also provide phenols, a class of phytochemicals studied for their cancer prevention benefits.

Choose mangoes with yellow or red areas on the skin because completely green mangos will not ripen. Add diced mango to a black bean salad or to a chicken and broccoli stir-fry. Or mix it with red onion, cucumber, jalapeno peppers, lime juice and fresh cilantro for a salsa that pairs well with chicken, fish or shrimp. Mango perks up fruit salad and naturally sweetens oatmeal or plain yogurt.


Larger than mangoes but easy to cut, melon-textured papayas provide a host of vitamins and minerals including potassium, vitamin C and folate as well as beta-carotene and lycopene. Foods containing lycopene protect against prostate cancer.

Select a papaya with some yellow streaks on the skin. Add chunks to chicken salad, broil papaya halves or freeze slices to eat like popsicles.


Pineapples are rich in vitamin C and provide bromelain, an enzyme studied for possible anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain also breaks down proteins, making pineapple juice a very good marinade that tenderizes meat or poultry.

If you buy fresh instead of canned (unsweetened) pineapple, choose a fruit that is heavy for its size and has dark green leaves. Add fresh pineapple to cabbage or carrot slaw or mix it into chicken salad, cottage cheese or yogurt. Grilled or broiled pineapple makes a sweet summer side dish or dessert.


Technically called carambola, this fruit gets its common name from its shape. Slice it crosswise and you have a plate full of 5-pointed stars. The unripe fruit is green, but it’s perfect for eating when it turns golden. A large starfruit provides 4 grams of fiber for only 40 calories. It is also a rich source of vitamin C and provides several antioxidant phytochemicals including quercetin, a compound that shows anti-cancer properties. Its flavor is both sweet and tart and is typically eaten fresh. Slice on up for a tasty garnish for drinks, slads and meat dishes.

Tangerine. This citrus fruit is typically much sweeter than an orange. It is usually smaller and easier to peel, too. Like other citrus fruits, tangerines provide carotenoids and are an excellent source of vitamin C. Enjoy one for a snack or dessert or add tangerine slices to a spinach salad, coleslaw or tuna salad.

Each of these fruits is delicious alone or mixed with other foods. For a real treat, mix them together for a tropical fruit salad.

Honeydew Kiwi Smoothie

  • 2 cups cubed honeydew melon, frozen or well chilled
  • 1 ripe kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 mint sprigs, optional, for garnish

In blender, whirl melon, kiwi, lime juice and honey until smoothly blended. If using frozen melon, divide smoothie between 2 tall, narrow glasses. If using chilled melon, pour the smoothie into glasses filled with ice cubes. Garnish each glass with mint sprig, if desired, and serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 120 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 32 g carbohydrates,
2 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 35 mg sodium.

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Ann Wrenshall Worley

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