Health benefits of nectarines include better cellular functioning and improved cardiovascular and digestive health. The antioxidant defense mechanism of nectarines may prove effective in combating major conditions such as obesity-related complications, macular degeneration, and cancer. Consumption of multi-nutrient rich nectarine helps in strengthening the immune system, promoting youthful skin and is an excellent snack option during pregnancy and otherwise.
What are Nectarines?
Nectarine is a delicious fruit which belongs to the Rosaceae family, just like plums and peaches. In fact, they are quite similar to peaches in appearance except for the lack of fuzziness on the skin, which is there on peaches. Nectarines grown in warmer temperate regions are also referred to as stone fruits or drupes as they enclose a hard seed inside their outer juicy flesh.
Known with the botanical name Prunus persica var. nectarina in the research world, the trees of this fruit have a short life and stretch up to a medium height. They have long, shiny and bright green leaves, with slightly serrated margins. On the basis of the cultivars, the delicate flesh of the aromatic nectarine fruit may have the shades of deep yellow or creamy white with the outer skin having colors like pink, red, white or yellow.
Nectarine is a luscious nutrient-dense and low-calorie fruit. It has only 44 calories per 100gm. It offers an impressive array of powerful antioxidants and phenolic compounds along with dietary fiber. Vitamin wealth of nectarines include vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K. Nectarines are excellent sources of potassium and other minerals such as phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium, without any harmful cholesterol.
Types of Nectarine
Nectarines come in three main varieties and all are great when eaten fresh:
- White and Yellow Flesh: These varieties have a dark red skin with a smooth texture. White ones are sweeter and less acidic compared to the yellow variety, which is more acidic and a bit tangier to taste.
- Clingstones: The flesh of this variety is attached to the pit (also known as stone) of the fruit. Its fiber can easily get stuck in your teeth and hence, this variety is generally used for canning purposes.
- Freestones and Semi-freestones: Just as the name describes, freestone variety entails those fruits whose pulp separates effortlessly from the seed. The flesh of the semi-freestone variety clings only to certain parts of the pit. The fiber of both these varieties are not as tough as clingstones variety and they are usually preferred for freezing.
Health Benefits of Nectarines
Nectarines have a wonderful antioxidant power with a good amount of polyphenols, vitamin C content, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and cryptoxanthin. The skin of the nectarine fruit has a higher concentration of such components as compared to the pulp so, just wash the fruit properly and eat unpeeled. These protective antioxidants exert free radical scavenging activities and assist in neutralizing the damaging effects of oxygen free molecules.
Nectarines may prove useful in the condition of obesity and its associated complications. Research studies have shown that stone fruits such as nectarines contain bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, catechin, chlorogenic acid and quercitin derivatives which have the potential to combat obesity-related medical conditions like diabetes and cardiac disorders. The anti-obesity and anti-diabetic qualities may work against the metabolic syndrome and decrease the oxidation of bad cholesterol, which is implicated in obesity-related heart diseases.
Nectarines contains lutein, an important nutrient which encourages eye health and helps reduce the risk of a disease like age-related macular degeneration. Various investigative researches have shown that lutein is also an extremely powerful antioxidant which helps in reducing the risk of nuclear cataract. Lutein dwells in the macular pigment of the eye and assists in protecting the retinal tissues from the damage caused by oxidative stress and high-wavelength light. In addition to this, beta-carotene present in the fruit encourages the synthesis of vitamin A and contributes in maintaining healthy eyesight and prevents diseases like blindness and xeropthalmia.
Nectarines contain potassium, which is essential for proper nerve and cellular function. Potassium present in stone fruits such as nectarine helps in proteins synthesis, the functioning of the muscles, maintain electrolyte balance, and optimally utilize carbohydrates and supports metabolic processes. The deficit of potassium in the body may lead to disorders like hypokalemia which may degrade the muscular health and may cause cardiac arrhythmia.
Improve Cardiac Health
Regular consumption of stone fruits such as nectarines may prove beneficial in maintaining cardiovascular health attributing to the presence of heart-friendly antioxidants. Chlorogenic acid and anthocyanins present in nectarines exert inhibitory action against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, prevents hardening of arteries and encourages proper circulation of human platelets. Flavonoids found in nectarines may help in preventing the rise in the aggregation of platelets and reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
As stated above, nectarines contain chlorogenic acid, a natural compound which has multiple health benefits including prevention of various tumors and cancer such as colon cancer. Chlorogenic acid, as suggested by studies, possesses chemopreventive properties which inhibit the proliferation of colon carcinogenesis. Research studies have also presented qualitative evidence regarding the role of beta-carotene present in the Rosaceae botanical group which also includes nectarines in providing protection against lung cancer.
The inclusion of drupes such as nectarines aids in enhancing the immune defense mechanism of the body. An abundance of antioxidants such as vitamin C, zinc and other protective phenolic components in the fruit increase body’s ability to fight various infections by promoting the synthesis of antibodies. These defending components reduce the risk and intensity of diseases such as malaria and common cold and lead to a speedy recovery of wounds and other illnesses.
Bioflavonoids present in the fruit contributes productively in the skin care. Anti-oxidative components such as vitamin C, lutein and beta-carotene found in nectarines take up the credit for such defensive effect. Beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A, is instrumental in exerting protective action against the skin damage caused by the exposure to UV radiations. Vitamin C contributes in collagen synthesis, helps in keeping the tissues toned up and maintains the youthfulness of the skin. In addition to this, research study has advocated the photo-protective effect of lutein present in nectarines in guarding the skin from free radical damage and UV-induced erythema.
Presence of dietary fiber and alkaline nature of nectarine makes it perfect for maintaining digestive, as well as overall health. Fiber content present in nectarine absorbs water, adds bulk to the diet, regulates the bowel movements and prevents problems like gastritis, constipation, and ulcers. It also helps in preventing the binding of toxins to the colon walls and promotes detoxification by eliminating the toxins out of the body.
Food for Pregnancy
Expectant mothers can benefit from the vitamin and mineral treasure present in nectarines, especially the folate content, which helps in reducing the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida, and also contributes in the overall health of the mother and the baby. The abundance of potassium assists in preventing muscle cramps and keeps up the energy levels by building up the proteins. Fiber keeps up the digestive health and vitamin C content contributes to the proper growth and development of the muscles, teeth and blood vessels of the growing baby. So if you’re pregnant, the next time you feel hungry, just grab a nectarine and feel enriched!
Nectarines contain phosphorus, an essential mineral which plays an important role in the normal functioning of cells and tissues. Phosphorus in the fruit helps in the formation of strong teeth and bones and assists in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It extends its support in the cellular maintenance and repairs and also assists in renal functioning, muscular contraction, normal heart rate and nerve communication. In addition to this, iron present in the fruit help in the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells and majorly contributes to general growth and development.
Nectarines are juicy fruits which may be used to accentuate the flavor and health factor of yogurts, pies, jams, smoothies, shakes, cakes. To keep things simpler, the fruits can also serve as a delicious addition to the fruit portion along with any meal during the day or just as a snack between the meals. Along with the fresh variety, they can also be used in their dried version.
How to Select and Store?
Good quality fruits are firm to touch and free from bruises or disease damage. The ripe ones have a nice and fresh color, which varies for different cultivars. They should be consumed as quickly as possible for they tend to perish under high temperatures. Unripe nectarine may be kept in a paper bag at room temperature to speed up the ripening process. For later usage, ripe and ready nectarines may be stored in a refrigerator for a few days and in cold storage for not more than two weeks.
Word of Caution
Pits or seeds of nectarines contain small amounts of cyanogens which on ingestion may get metabolized to cyanide. Although rare, excess inadvertent ingestion of these pits may result in cyanide poisoning. In fact, these pits may also cause choking problems in little children, if left unmonitored.
Apart from this, nectarine is free from major allergies and is generally safe for consumption. Although for first timers, it is always advisable to be naturally precautious before trying anything new in life especially when you are unaware of the allergic reactions.
On the whole, the numerous health benefits of nectarines is due to some of the amazing phytonutrients concealed in its small structure. Magnesium content present in nectarine assists in regulating the nervous system, keeps it calm and prevents the conditions of hyperactivity of nerves and muscles. Fiber content present in nectarine sustains a feeling of fullness for a longer time, which can prove fruitful in the weight-loss regimes. Presence of zinc content in nectarine exerts anti-aging effects and keeps up the resistance against antigens. Consumption of fruits such as nectarines may benefit an individual multi-dimensionally during all phases of life including early years, adolescence and adulthood, and even during special phases like recovery from illnesses, pregnancy and lactation.