Piled high in the grocery store produce area you may have noticed peculiar-looking fuzzy fruits with thick brown-green skin, each about the size of a lemon. When cut open, their inside is bright green, although in the late 1990s a sweeter yellow-fleshed variety was also developed. These native Chinese fruits, originally called “sunny peaches,” are not only nutritious, they also taste delicious. Kiwis, which have a slightly acidic flavor similar to a mixture of banana, pineapple, and strawberry, are especially popular in summer but are enjoyed year-round. Kiwifruit is eaten on its own or in a variety of salads, fruit displays, and desserts. Considering the kiwi’s many nutritional benefits and palate-pleasing qualities, it is a fruit that should be on everyone’s menu.
How Peaches Became Kiwifruits
Missionaries first carried Chinese “peach” seeds home to New Zealand about 100 years ago, where the fruit was named the kiwifruit, or kiwi, in honor of New Zealand’s native kiwi bird. Kiwifruit has since been grown in a number of other countries, including the United States (California). Italy is the world’s number one producer, followed by New Zealand and Chile. The United States currently ranks eighth.
Due to their delicate nature, kiwis are slow to acclimate to changes in temperature and take about 8 months to mature. The kiwifruit plant produces white or cream-colored flowers, and the fruit grows to about 2 to 2.5 inches long. Kiwifruits are rich in vitamin C and potassium, containing about as much potassium as a banana and more vitamin C than an orange. They are also high in vitamins A and E as well as other powerful antioxidants. The edible black seeds inside the soft-fleshed fruit are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an essential member of the omega-3 fatty acid family. Fatty acids are excellent supporters of brain function and cardiovascular health.
Small Fruit, Big Health Rewards
Because kiwis are high in fiber, they have proved beneficial to people with colon cancer and other digestive issues. Various studies have shown that the phytonutrients in kiwis have benefitted many people with asthma and can reduce the risk of macular (eye) degeneration. An article in the medical journal Thorax reported a study that followed thousands of children and found that those who consumed citrus fruits and kiwifruit daily had an incidence of expressing symptoms of asthma and wheezing that was half as high as the incidence for those who consumed the fruits less than once a week.
With regard to vision support, in the publication Archives of Ophthalmology, a study reported that, because kiwis are great sources of the antioxidant-rich vitamins A, C, and E, of those people who consumed three servings of kiwi and citrus fruits per day, kiwis have contributed to helping prevent vision loss by as much as almost 40% compared with those who ate one and a half servings of kiwi and citrus fruit per week. Other studies have shown that daily kiwi consumption is beneficial to heart health by lowering triglycerides, reducing blood clot formation, and protecting the integrity of blood vessels.
Make Kiwis a Good Habit
Kiwis are ready to enjoy in a wide variety of tasty ways. Some prefer to eat kiwifruit like an apple (the kiwi skin is completely edible and a valuable fiber and nutrient source), but others prefer to peel away the skin. Kiwis make an appetizing addition to fruit and vegetable salads, but note that they tend to soften quickly, so make sure you add them as the last ingredient. Once cut, it is helpful to store kiwifruit in a sealed container by itself. Kiwis also make excellent additions to yogurt and fruit smoothies and nicely complement oranges, pineapple, bananas, melons, and strawberries. Recipes are even available for kiwi blend chutney and a variety of chilled soups. And, of course, how can any cook forego adding that delightful touch of kiwi to a cold fruit pie or tart?
If you are not already eating kiwis, get to know this delicious and nourishing fruit. Its numerous health-promoting and symptom-fighting components make it an ideal addition to the diet as a solo fruit or in many wonderful salad, fruit cocktail, soup, and dessert recipes. By adding kiwis to your fruit choices, you are also adding notable health benefits.