The health benefits of peach fruit include relief from hypokalemia, cancer, obesity, cholesterol, blood stasis and neurodegenerative diseases. It helps in maintaining healthy vision, skin care, nervous system, healthy bones, and teeth. It has anti-aging properties and also helps in detoxification, as well as improving digestion and cellular health. It has a wealth of essential nutrients and antioxidants which are valuable during pregnancy and it helps in strengthening the immune system.
Peaches are juicy and versatile summer fruits that are native to China and South Asia. Its Latin name is Prunus persica, and peaches are a product of a deciduous tree and grows in temperate regions across the world. Peaches belong to the family of Rosaceae, which also include fruits like plums and cherries.
China is the largest producer of peaches and they are auspiciously revered as a Chinese symbol of longevity and immortality. Other top contributors in peach production are Italy, Spain, the United States, and Greece. In fact, Georgia is also known as the “Peach State” for its contribution in producing the highest quality peaches with respect to flavor, texture, and nutritional content. Peaches attained the rank of the state fruit of Georgia in 1995. Peaches are available in many different sizes, and their colors range from yellow to red, depending on the country of origin.
Unlike nectarines, which have a smooth outer surface, peaches have fuzzy, velvety skin. It has a delicate aroma and juicy, yellowish pulp. Peach is a drupe or a stone fruit because its outer fleshy part surrounds a shell, which encloses an edible seed. Based on the grip of the flesh being free or rigid on the seed, peaches are classified in the clinging-stone variety where pulp clings tightly to the pit, a semi-free stone in which the flesh separates out with little effort, and a free-stone variety in which the pulp separates easily from the pit.
Nutritional Value of Peaches
Peaches store a broad range of nutrients that are vital for the healthy functioning of the body. Peaches are a rich provider of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). They are also a good source of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin K (phylloquinone), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B-6, folate, and pantothenic acid. Peaches also offer a rich treasure of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, and copper. Peaches are low in calories, contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are a good source of dietary fiber.
Health Benefits of Peaches
Besides its refreshing taste and aroma, peaches are rich in carotenoids and offer a variety of health benefits.
Antioxidant Capacity: The peels and the pulp of peaches possess significant antioxidant properties. The presence of chlorogenic acid in peaches also contribute to their protective effects. Antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-crytoxanthin help in scavenging the oxygen-derived free radicals and protect the body against the harmful effects of various diseases.
Hypokalemia: Peaches contain potassium, which is vital for proper nerve signaling and cellular functioning of the body. The potassium content in peaches also helps in metabolic processes, utilizing carbohydrates, maintaining electrolyte balance, and the regulation of muscular tissues. A lack of potassium in the body can lead to hypokalemia which can affect muscular strength and can cause an irregular heartbeat.
Cancer: Peaches are rich in phenolic and carotenoid compounds, which possess anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties, as well as helping in fighting various types of cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer . Studies have supported the fact that chlorogenic acid and neochlorogenic acid present in peaches exert beneficial effects in inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells without affecting the normal cells, unlike cancer treatment with chemotherapy, which negatively affects healthy cells as well. In addition to this, research has shown that the botanical group Rosaceae, which includes peaches, is rich in beta-carotene, thereby providing protective effects against lung cancer.
Skin Care: Peaches help in maintaining healthy skin owing to the presence of a good amount of vitamin C, which also provides a defense against harmful free radicals and infections. Peaches also exert protective effects on the skin against ultraviolet radiation. Studies have provided evidence that the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein have significant anti-inflammatory effects on the skin damage caused by UV-B radiation and they protect the skin from the hyperproliferation of cells. Flavonoids present in peaches have photo protective effects and help in preventing the skin from UV-induced erythema.
Peaches are widely used in the cosmetic industry for the manufacturing of skin creams and beauty packs. The wealth of flavonoids and essential vitamins and minerals in peaches help in sloughing off dead cells, as well as hydrating and revitalizing the skin. The antioxidants promote faster recovery of skin problems such as blemishes and spots.
Eye Health: Peaches are rich in beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A within the body. Beta-carotene plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight and prevents various eye diseases like xerophthalmia and blindness. An investigative research study has shown that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin present in peaches have positive effects associated with a reduced prevalence of nuclear cataract. As suggested by the studies, lutein and zeaxanthin reside in the macular pigment of the eye and help in protecting the retina from age-related macular degeneration. In addition to this, these components present in peaches guard the retinal tissues from the damage caused by free radicals and the potential injury caused by high-wavelength light.
Pregnancy: Peaches are valuable during pregnancy due to the presence of a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C helps in the healthy growth of the bones, teeth, skin, muscles, and blood vessels of the baby. It also helps in the absorption of iron, which is extremely crucial during pregnancy. The folate in peaches helps in preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida. Potassium content in peaches helps in averting the muscle cramps and general fatigue common during pregnancy. The presence of fiber aids in healthy digestion and reduces conditions like constipation.
Digestion: Peaches are good for maintaining healthy digestive health due to their alkaline content and fiber. Dietary fiber in peaches absorbs water and helps in preventing stomach disorders like constipation, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, gastritis and irregular bowel movements. It also helps in cleansing and eliminating the toxic waste from the intestines and preventing the body from contracting various abdominal disorders, including stomach cancer. Due to its laxative properties, peaches also aid in the dissolution of kidneys and bladder stones.
Nervous System: The presence of magnesium in peaches helps to prevent stress and anxiety in the body and aids in keeping the nervous system calm. A deficiency of magnesium can affect the functioning of the central nervous system, resulting in hyper excited muscles and the increased activity of nerve signals. An investigative research study conducted in this regard has suggested that the intake of magnesium-rich foods along with vitamin B-6 has favorable effects in the treatment of central nervous system hyper-excitability in children. Another study has suggested that magnesium treatment helps in recovering from the symptoms of major depression. The consumption of peaches is also considered beneficial in Ayurvedic therapy for balancing the nervous system.
Obesity: Peaches contain bioactive components that have shown beneficial effects in combating obesity-related disorders. An investigative research study has suggested that the presence of phenolic compounds in peaches have anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity properties which help in fighting metabolic syndromes that can otherwise lead to serious health concerns.
Immune System: Peaches are rich in ascorbic acid and zinc, which aid in the normal functioning of the body and help to maintain a healthy immune system. Zinc and vitamin C exert effectual wound healing and antioxidant properties that help in fighting infections and reducing the prevalence and severity of diseases such as the common cold, malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. A deficiency of these components can result in oxidative bursts and impaired cellular activity.
Low Cholesterol Levels: Research has shown that phenolic compounds present in the peel and pulp of the clingstone peaches helps in maintaining lower levels of LDL cholesterol and stimulating good HDL cholesterol. This aids in reducing the risk of developing diseases related to the heart and maintains optimal cardiovascular health.
Anti-Aging: Peaches are a source of zinc, which has anti-aging properties. The consumption of zinc-rich foods such as peaches promotes the production of antibodies and inhibits the cellular damage caused by free radicals. It also interferes with the aging process of male reproductive organs by boosting the levels of the reproductive hormone testosterone in the body.
Healthy Bones and Teeth: Peaches contain phosphorous which, along with calcium, helps in strengthening bones and teeth and helping in the maintenance and repair of bodily tissues. It also aids in the prevention of various bone diseases like decalcification, which can lead to osteoporosis, particularly in post-menopausal women. Consumption of foods rich in phosphorus such as peaches promotes re-mineralization of bones and maintains their rigidity. Along with calcium, the vitamin C content in peaches also plays an important role in the strengthening of jaw bones and gums which helps in keeping the teeth intact.
Detoxification: Peaches are beneficial for cleansing and detoxifying the body and they assist in flushing out harmful toxins from the liver and kidneys. An investigative study has proven that peach extracts possess hepato-protectant elements and are valuable in treating the condition of hepato-toxicity caused as a result of prolonged therapy for various diseases like migraine, tuberculosis, and diabetes. Peaches are widely used in eastern cultures in the manufacturing of herbal detoxification products such as detox teas.
Blood Stasis: The inner kernel of peaches has been suggested to be beneficial in treating the condition of blood stasis in which the blood becomes inactive. Blood stasis may arise as a consequence of a long-term deficiency of blood, and may result in dryness of blood. This can also happen because of childbirth, abdominal injuries, or surgeries.
Cellular Health: Peaches contain iron, which is vital for the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. The consumption of foods like peaches is important during all the stages of life, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood and phases such as menstruation and pregnancy.
Neurodegenerative Disorders: Studies have proven that peach extracts exert beneficial effects on the central cholinergic system. The cholinergic system is a neurotransmitter system that acts as the backbone of memory and learning functions. Components present in peaches avert the cholinergic system from degenerating and prevents various disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Culinary Usage: Due to the abundance of health promoting compounds, delicious flavor and low calories, peaches are often added as an ingredient in various healthy recipes such as yogurts, shakes, and cakes.
Other Uses of the Peach Tree
Apart from peaches themselves, other parts of the peach tree also provide a range of health benefits.
Peach Leaf: The leaves of the peach tree are beneficial for the treatment of coughs, bronchitis and abdominal disorders. They possess detoxifying, laxative, and diuretic properties and are also effective in treating abdominal worms and in the healing of wounds. They are also used in the manufacturing of green-colored dyes.
Peach Kernels: Peach seeds are effective in the treatment of menstrual disorders such as dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea and other conditions including blood stasis, elderly asthma, and coughs. They are also beneficial in the treatment of acute appendicitis and dyspnea (shortness of breath) and they promote healthy blood circulation.
Peach Bark: The dried bark of the peach tree is beneficial in the treatment of jaundice and dropsy.
Peaches – A Word of Caution
Allergic Reactions: Peaches may cause food allergies due to the presence of certain allergens. Production and storage of dried peaches may involve the usage of sulfite as a preservative, which can lead to allergic reactions including worsened symptoms of asthma, urticaria, bronchial-constrictions, and anaphylaxis.
Peach Seeds: Excess usage of peach seeds should be avoided as they may have toxic effects due to the presence of cyanide in trace amount. It is always advisable to consult a medical professional in case of any use of medicinal products made from seeds of peaches.
Peaches also help in maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure and boosting cardiac health. Along with the fresh and processed products, canned peaches can also be used to obtain its healthy benefits. The addition of peaches to your diet can enrich you with countless benefits, with the lucrative bonus of having no harmful calories.
Get out there and pick some peaches – what do you have to lose?