Kiwi Fruit: Health Benefits and Nutritional Value
Health benefits of kiwi fruit include improved digestive and cardiovascular health and it aids in the treatment of cancer, insomnia, macular degeneration and diabetes. Flavonoids-rich kiwi is beneficial during pregnancy, contributes in keeping the skin healthy and promotes the absorption of iron in the body. Anti-microbial properties of kiwi guards against a range of pathogens and strengthens the immune defense of the body.
Kiwi fruit is a delicious berry of a woody, twining vine and is popularly known with its shortened version as ‘kiwi’. It is native to China and is revered as the country’s national fruit. Originally known as ‘Yang Tao’, kiwi is an oval-shaped, dull brown colored fruit with a fuzzy texture. The inside pulp is a vivid, semi-translucent, bright green flesh with a radiant pattern of lighter-colored spikes, freckled with a few tiny, edible black seeds. Kiwi fruit has a unique and invigorating flavor with a soft and just about creamy texture. The Actinidia genus which includes kiwi comprises of about 60 species. Globally, the most commonly consumed varieties are the ‘fuzzy’ and ‘golden’.
Kiwi was brought from China to New Zealand during the early 20th century by the missionaries. With the growing appreciation of this exotic fruit, people of New Zealand renamed it as Chinese Gooseberries. Later, it was imported to United States where it proved quite popular. After multiple rechristening, the fruit was finally named as ‘kiwi’ in the honor of the national bird of New Zealand for its small, fuzzy, brown appearance resembles the fur coat of the flightless brown kiwi bird. Presently, Italy, New Zealand, France, Japan, Chile and the United States are the major contributors in the commercial production of the kiwifruit.
Nutritional Value of Kiwi Fruit
The small kiwi fruit stores a treasure of nutritional surprises. It is an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Others vitamins including vitamin A, folate, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and vitamin K (phylloquinone) are also present in good amounts. The mineral wealth of kiwi includes tremendous quantity of potassium along with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. All these vital nutrients in the fruit come with an additional bonus of dietary fiber.
Health Benefits of Kiwi
The growing global popularity of the kiwifruit attributes to an amazing blend of its unique appearance, flavor and nutritional assets. Benefits of the fruit for medical conditions have been discussed as under:
Antioxidant properties: Kiwi offers an impressive amount of vitamin C along with other phenolic components and carotenoids which promotes good health. A comparative study involving kiwi, oranges and grapefruit has revealed that kiwi fruit contains stronger antioxidant qualities as compared to the latter. Attributing to the presence of nourishing phytochemicals, it has the ability to protect the DNA present in the body cells from the oxidative damage caused due to free radicals thereby, reducing the risk of development of associated inflammations and diseases.
Cardiovascular health: As mentioned, kiwifruit is rich in protective polyphenols along with vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium which are effective in the maintenance of cardiovascular health. An investigative study has revealed that the fruit exerts inhibitory activities which aids in the reduction of triglycerides in the blood. According to the study, consumption of couple of kiwis on a daily basis helps in reducing the platelet aggression response or the risk of blood clotting. This fibronolytic effect of the fruit on the blood vessels prevents the risk of thromboembolic and cardiac disorders like atherosclerosis.
Better sleep: It is a source of serotonin which helps to promote better sleep. An investigative study conducted in this regard has shown that consumption of kiwi helps in improving the sleep efficiency and total sleep time. It may also help in improving the sleep onset and reducing the waking time after the onset and hence provides relief from the sleep disturbances. The fruit contains good amounts of flavonoids such as naringenin, quercitin, rutin, catechin, epicatechin which modulates the sleep inducing receptors and is considered an effectual plant-based sedative agent. Attributing to this, the peel of kiwi is a potent ingredient for the development of natural sleeping aids.
Improves iron absorption: An amazing benefit of kiwi is its ability to facilitate the absorption of iron in the body. Richness of vitamin C and other phytochemicals such as lutein and zeaxanthin in the fruit helps in improving iron status in the body and prevents iron deficiency disorders. A comparative study performed between kiwi and banana has revealed that consumption of kiwi along with iron-rich breakfast cereal results in significant progress in the status of iron in the body as compared to banana.
Macular degeneration: Kiwi is the fruit for the eye and it contributes beneficially towards the eye health. As already stated, it is a source of phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin which are critical components residing in the human eye. These healthful components along with vitamin A protect the eyes from cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and other vision-destroying disorders.
Digestive health: Kiwi may prove valuable for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It is a delicious source of fiber which promotes digestion and intestinal health. It helps in providing relief from constipation by stimulating the bowel system. The natural laxative properties of this fruit owing to its fiber content add bulk to the stool and make them soft. A study conducted on Kiwi has revealed that it stores a good amount of proteolytic enzyme actinidin which improves the digestion of proteins and facilitates smooth traffic through the digestive system. Polysaccharides present in the fruit helps in averting the adhesion of enteropathogens and stimulate the probiotic bacteria in the colon. Kiwi extracts promotes the growth of lactic acid and inhibits the development of Escherichia Coli bacteria and aids in sustaining digestive health.
Pregnancy: Kiwi is a perfect fruit for a pregnant woman attributing to the abundance of natural folate. Folate helps to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects in the unborn babies and is essential for their brain and cognitive growth. Other vital nutrients such as vitamin C, E and K along with flavonoids present in the fruit also contribute beneficially in the overall health and development of the fetus and the expectant mother.
Skin care: Kiwifruit helps to maintain healthy and smooth skin attributing to its significant contribution in the process of collagen synthesis. It contains generous amount of vitamin C, may be more than oranges which helps to keep the skin firm and expedite healing of cuts and abrasions. Vitamin E present in kiwi assists in reducing the fine lines and appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin E also helps in reducing the harmful effects of ultra-violet radiation on the skin. Antioxidants present in the fruit work as a perfect anti-aging agent, prevent the skin from early degeneration and keep it rejuvenated.
Cancer: Kiwi fruit have been traditionally trusted in the Chinese folk medicine for their effectiveness in healing various types of cancers such as liver cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer and lung cancer. Extracts of the kiwi fruit inhibits the proliferation of cancerous cells and protects endogenous DNA damage. The fruit works against cancer by being cytotoxic to malignant cancer cells without affecting the normal, healthy cells. The plethora of antioxidants, carotenoids, vitamins along with fiber contribute beneficially in the effectiveness of kiwi in the prevention or healing of cancers. Catechin, a phytochemical present in kiwi helps in reducing the toxicity of anti-cancer agents by stimulating the bone marrow proliferation.
Strong immune defense: Kiwi contributes favorably in the regulation of the innate and adaptive immune system which is very critical for the healthy functioning of the body. Consumption of kiwifruit helps in fighting seasonal infections and other ailments attributing its anti-microbial and anti-fungal action. Extracts from kiwi have shown to exert bacteriostatic action against various pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus and Staphyloccous pyogenes. Kiwi fruit helps in reducing the symptoms of cold and flu and other upper respiratory tract infections. It also exerts anti-inflammatory effects and exhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Diabetes: Kiwi has low glycemic index which makes it suitable for the individuals with diabetes. A study conducted on kiwi extracts demonstrated that consumption of the fruit helps in the regulation of adipogenesis which is critical for the prevention of diabetes. Dysfunction of adipose tissues in the body is strongly implicated in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.
Culinary usage: Owing to its characteristic looks and refreshing taste, kiwifruit can bring an amazing tropical style to your fruit salad dish. Nutrient-dense kiwi can be used as a functional ingredient to prepare bakery products with enhanced health factor. It contains a tenderizing enzyme papain which is useful in breaking down the fibrous tissues of tough meats. However, for this reason kiwi does not gel well with the gelatin-based products. Papain enzyme is known to have curdling effect on the milk. In case, you intend to use kiwi in the dairy or gelatin based products, cook the kiwifruit for a while to neutralize the enzyme.
How to select and store?
Pick up kiwis which are soft and firm and avoid those with bruises or damp spots. Ripe kiwi would yield with a gentle pressure. The fruit that does not yield to a slight pressure indicates the rawness of the fruit and is not ready with its sweet taste as well as complete nutrient factor. It can be ripened by keeping them at room temperature away from heat or sunlight for a couple of days or placing them with an apple or banana in a paper bag to speed up the ripening. Ripe kiwi can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Word of caution
Kiwi is a nutritious fruit however; it can cause allergic reactions to susceptible individuals. These allergic reactions may vary from mild, localized oral allergy to fatal conditions such as anaphylaxis which may lead to death depending upon the sensitivity. Several studies have validated the presence of significant allergens in the kiwifruit which can cause severe reactions predominantly in the young children.
Oxalates: Kiwi is a source of oxalate raphide crystals. Excessive consumption of oxalate-rich foods like kiwi can pose as a threat for the development of calcium oxalate kidney stones in some individuals. Excess-intake of oxalates may also interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients including calcium and magnesium in the body.
In case of any allergic reaction, it is always advisable to consider immediate medical opinion to avoid any fatal circumstances.
Kiwi is a delicious, nutrient-packed and one of the popular fruit which not only satisfies the taste buds but also encourages good health. It contains kissper, a cysteine-rich peptide which may prove valuable in the treatment of cystic fibrosis. Across populations, kiwi is used in the preparation of anti-microbial products to reduce the development of resistance towards the conventional medications for fungal and bacterial infectivity. The fruit has natural blood thinning qualities without any side effects like aspirin. Attributing to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is also valuable in rheumatoid arthritis. Include this fruit in your diet to bring a nutritionally dramatic flair in your health.