A standard serving of any fruit provides 60-80 calories. What piece of cake, pie, candy, ice cream, donut or any other sugar added sweet comes in at less than 100 calories per serving? And fruit delivers an amazing array of nutrients, not just vitamins, minerals and fiber but, antioxidants, plant sterols, polyphenols, isoflavones and other health promoting substances that are simply absent from most desserts and sweet snack foods.

The current US Dietary Guidelines recommend 2-4 servings of fruit each day. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only 12% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fruit each day.

To compare the body to a machine is not accurate because the body is far more complex than anything man has ever created. But for comparison sake, consistently not eating a recommended food group is like running your engine every day with low fluid levels and dirty oil. Eventually it will break down. This is one reason why so many Americans face poor health in their golden years.

A common sense approach to improving one’s daily fruit intake is to replace sweets with fruit. Saving the calories is one step toward managing a healthy weight and the added nutrients and fiber starts “cleaning up that dirty oil”. If you are not in the habit of eating fruit, remember not to get stuck in the apple, orange, banana rut. Berries and dried fruits are nutrient power foods that can turn a simple bowl of cereal into a breakfast feast. Fresh fruit alone makes a good snack but there are other choices to add variety such as canned fruit (without added sugar) to combine with cottage cheese or mixed into a gelled dessert.

One would be hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense fruit than mangos. Mangos are rich in vitamin A which helps support our immune system; Vitamin C that is needed to produce collagen a type of tissue that gives our skin elasticity and helps prevent wrinkles; Potassium which helps regulate blood pressure; Antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that support eye health by protecting the retina and lens from UV rays and help slow the progression of cataracts; And a dozen different polyphenols, plant compounds that protect cells from damage that leads to cancer. All fruits are healthy, but mangos stand out as a nutrient super food.

This month’s recipe includes a Mango Salsa that stands alone as a tasty alternative to other dipping sauces. And when used as a relish with roasted or grilled meats, you now have a condiment that adds flavor, texture and eye appeal. Bring this salsa to the family cook out. Just be sure to make a double batch!

Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with years’ experience practicing nutrition therapy in local hospitals and clinics, teaching nutrition and developing healthy recipes. He is a Nacogdoches resident and he helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health. Memorial Cooking Innovations currently runs in 62 cities and is locally available on Sudden Link cable channel 2 in Nacogdoches.