While neighbors and friends may be jet-setting off to the tropics for a mid-winter warm-up, you can bring the tropics right into your kitchen. Now is the perfect time to purchase tropical fruits. In season and at their nutritional peak, tropical fruits are immune-boosters, thanks to their many cold-kicking vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A and many antioxidants. It’s time to scoot off to the supermarket to bring the color and warmth of the tropics right into your home.
You may consider trying papaya, mango or pineapple not only for their flavors, but also for their color and versatility. Papaya is sweet with a touch of tart and it’s bursting with vitamin C. Just cut it in half, remove the seeds and eat. Cubing papaya makes for an easy transition into a salad or a smoothie.
Are you looking or a ray of sunshine? Try mango. At the supermarket, hold the mango in your hand and squeeze lightly. If the fruit gives to a little of the pressure you are putting on its flesh, then it’s ripe and ready to eat. To get the most out of your mango, try using a mango splitter or following the directions found on the National Mango Board website. Mangoes are loaded with vitamins, including vitamins A and C. They taste delicious when chopped into a salsa, a salad, added to smoothies or even a bowl of oatmeal.
A year-round favorite, pineapple is probably the most popular of the tropical fruits. But how do you pick the perfect pineapple? Just pull out a center leaf, if it comes out easily, it’s ready to eat today. If it takes a bit of strength to pull it out, then it will be ready to eat in a couple of days. Pineapples are an excellent source of vitamin C and are perfect in salads and salsas. And consider grilling pineapple slices to really break you out of the winter blues.
If you decide your fruits need a little extra sweetness, just add a sprinkle of a low-calorie sweetener like aspartame. Adding low-calorie sweeteners are a simple way to add the taste of sweet without adding any calories. Whether you choose papaya, mango or pineapple, your mouth will savor the flavor of the tropics.
Jen Haugen RD, LD is an award winning registered dietitian based in Austin, MN. She is currently writing her first book, focusing on growing healthier families through gardening and cooking together. She is also a media expert frequently appearing on ABC 6 News . In 2012, Jen was named Emerging Dietetic Leader in Minnesota by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She continues to be a leader in her field with her supermarket and media expertise, garden program development and nutrition experience. Reach Jen on Twitter @JenHaugen and check out her blog JenHaugen.com.