You might think kiwi’s name is an instant giveaway of its place of origin, but not quite. This succulently delectable national fruit of New Zealand did not originate in the land down under but can be traced back to ancient China. Back in the day, the fruit was known by its Chinese name yang tao, which can be translated to Chinese gooseberry; it was highly valued not just for its refreshing taste but also for its therapeutic benefits. It was only at the turn of the 20th century that Chinese gooseberry was smuggled to the shores of New Zealand at the hands of a missionary educator named Isabel Fraser. Soon after that, kiwi’s appeal and acclaim spread far and wide with more and more countries partaking in its production. Currently, Italy leads the way in kiwi cultivation, followed by New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan, and the USA.
Striking the perfect balance between sweet and tart with a juicy yet crunchy bite to it, it was no surprise that kiwi became an instant hit among the people of New Zealand – so much so that the country adopted the fruit as its own and renamed it kiwi due to its uncanny resemblance to their national bird of the same name.
Kiwi is essentially an edible berry about the size of a regular egg. The fuzzy brown peel envelops a vibrant lime green fruity flesh, speckled with black seeds in an oval pattern around a creamy white center. This unique appearance makes kiwifruit a cut above regular berries and a treat for the eyes as well. Moreover, it’s also pretty easy on the taste buds, all thanks to its juicy texture and scrumptious flavor that’s tangy and sweet in just the right proportions.
Sliced and chilled slices of kiwi can be used to add a whole new dimension to your regular desserts, smoothies, cereals, salads, and fruit bowls in terms of flavor, texture, and color. Although Kiwi is best enjoyed raw and fresh, one of the less-talked-about culinary function of this exotic fruit is as a meat tenderizer due to the presence of an enzyme called actinidin in it. Thus, apart from the preparation of certain meat curries and roasts, kiwi is rarely cooked as this enzyme tends to break down milk proteins rather quickly, interfering with the final texture of the dish.
There is, however, much more to kiwi than just its enticing appearance and delicious taste. Another reason for noshing on this lip-smacking fruit is its nutrient-dense profile, making it a stalwart among its lesser fruit-basket counterparts. Kiwi is an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and also contains reasonable amounts of vitamin A, E, and K. The mineral content of kiwi includes a plentiful supply of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. All these vital nutrients in the fruit come packed with an added bonus of dietary fiber. Plus, kiwifruit is low in carbohydrates and calories.
As kiwis are grown in different parts of the world, this fruit can be found in stores all year round. You are likely to happen across two varieties of kiwi that commonly grace the market aisles: Green Hayward Kiwi and Golden Kiwi. While the former is characterized by a flavor that has traces of strawberry, banana, and pineapple in it, the latter possesses a yellow interior and a tropical flavor that is less tart than its green sibling. When you go kiwi shopping, plump and fragrant varieties with a slightly firm feel are the ones you want. Another skinny on this wonder fruit is that the fuzzy brown exterior that you almost always do away with can be eaten. Throwing away the skin is akin to throwing away a perfectly good source of insoluble dietary fiber that can be advantageous for staving off constipation due to its laxative effect. All you need to do is to thoroughly wash the surface to smoothen the fuzzy feel and dig in. Moreover, kiwi is also available as a supplement in powder, tablet, or capsule forms. This leaves you with absolutely no reason or excuse to miss out on the following health virtues of kiwi.
Health Promoting Qualities of Kiwifruit
Here are the top 10 supercharged health benefits of eating Kiwifruit.
1. Helps Treat Asthma
Kiwifruit can help provide relief from asthma symptoms such as wheezing and coughing due to its generous supply of vitamin C and antioxidants. In fact, kiwi contains almost double the amount of vitamin C than that of the more usual citrus agents, oranges and lemons. Vitamin C is involved in the metabolism of histamine and prostaglandins, which are responsible for asthma-induced bronchoconstriction or narrowing of the airways.
A 2000 study published in Thorax analyzed the effect of citrus and kiwifruit in over 18,000 children aged 6-7, living in central and northern Italy. Researchers concluded that those who ate the most citrus and kiwifruit (5 to 7 servings per week) had 44% less incidence of wheezing. Also, there was a significant reduction in shortness of breath, night-time coughing, chronic coughing, and runny nose.
2. Aids in Digestion
Frequent sufferers of digestive problems can benefit greatly from increasing their intake of kiwifruit. Not only is it replete with dietary fiber, but this fruit also contains a proteolytic enzyme called actinidin, which helps in the quick breakdown of protein, much like papain in papaya or bromelain in pineapple. This is particularly favorable for people with regular bouts of irritable bowel syndrome.
This property was expounded upon by a 2010 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, which reports that under simulated gastric conditions, kiwifruit extract containing actinidin enhanced the digestion of some, but not all, food proteins.
Another 2013 study published in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research further confirmed the positive influence of kiwifruit on protein digestion. Kiwifruit extract alone can help in the metabolism of some proteins present in foods, particularly those in yogurt, cheese, fish, and raw eggs.
Apart from aiding the digestion of protein, kiwi also helps prevent constipation and keeps the digestive tract healthy and optimally functional due to the fiber and prebiotics in the fruit. The abundant supply of fiber is what gives kiwi its satiating ability that helps quell excessive snacking and manage your appetite. Moreover, kiwi is one of the most alkaline fruits there is, which helps to restore the balance in the digestive tract in case you end up overeating acidic foods.
3. Improves Blood Sugar Control
Not only is kiwi safe to be consumed by diabetics, but it may also be useful in managing their sugar levels. It has a low glycemic index that ranges from 47 to 58, which implies that it will not raise your blood sugar level instantly or drastically.
Being high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, kiwi aids in controlling blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol. Also, it helps treat complications associated with diabetes, such as neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences reports that natural compounds in kiwifruit, including protein-dissolving enzymes, aid in improving different aspects of the wound-healing process. Based on these benefits, researchers concluded that kiwifruit aids in the treatment of neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers.
However, kiwi consumption by itself might be ineffective if it’s not backed up by an overall healthy lifestyle and dietary pattern. The ideal way for people with diabetes to optimize the benefits mentioned above is to eat kiwi as a healthy alternative to snacks high in fat or refined sugar.
4. Induces Better Sleep
People who have difficulty enjoying sound sleep can eat a few kiwifruits to help solve this problem. This tangy and sweet fruit contains many medicinally useful compounds, including antioxidants and serotonin, that may be beneficial in the treatment of sleep disorders.
In a 2011 study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers analyzed the effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems. They found that kiwifruit consumption may improve sleep onset, duration, and quality in adults with self-reported sleep disturbances. However, more research is needed to understand the sleep-promoting properties of kiwifruit in detail.
To enjoy quality sleep, just eat two kiwifruits one hour before bedtime.
5. Supports Cardiovascular Health
Kiwifruit is loaded with vitamin C and E, polyphenols, and a good amount of potassium. All these nutrients contribute to maintaining optimal cardiovascular health.
The antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E, aid in removing free radicals from the blood and help prevent cell damage that has been linked to cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis.
Further, kiwis may help reduce the risk of blood clots and lower the amount of fat content in the blood. Parallels have been drawn between the anticlotting effects of kiwi consumption and a daily dose of aspirin, wherein the fruit was found to be as conducive for a healthy heart as the drug. Moreover, kiwi is devoid of any of the harmful side effects commonly associated with aspirin use, such as intestinal bleeding and inflammation.
According to a 2004 study published in Platelets, intake of two or three kiwifruits per day for 28 days helped reduce blood clotting response by 18 percent in laboratory studies. Also, consumption of kiwifruit lowered blood triglycerides levels by 15 percent but did not affect cholesterol levels.
The fiber and potassium in kiwifruit also support heart health by lowering the risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Moreover, kiwi also boasts high levels of potassium, which can counter the effects of sodium in the body to bring down elevated blood pressure.
6. Boosts the Immune System
The high vitamin C content in kiwifruit can help strengthen your immunity. This antioxidant helps bolster your immune system to ward off diseases and protect the body against harmful pathogens.
A 2007 study published in the Nutrition Research journal was found that the body can absorb certain antioxidants more effectively from kiwifruit than from other antioxidant-rich fruits, such as spinach and red pepper.
A 2013 study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology reports that, as a rich source of antioxidants, kiwifruit may protect the body from endogenous oxidative damage, support immune function, and reduce the incidence and severity of cold or flu-like illnesses in at-risk groups, such as older adults and children.
Kiwi also contains vitamin E, which helps increase your body’s T-cell count, further contributing to a stronger immunity.
7. Improves Vision Health
Kiwifruit is beneficial for your eyesight because it contains vision-promoting compounds known as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein helps increase pigment density in the macula, the oval-shaped yellow spot near the center of the retina, which in turn protects the retina and lowers the risk of macular degeneration. On the other hand, zeaxanthin helps protect your eye’s macula from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light that can cause eyestrain and vision problems.
Also, kiwifruit is rich in vitamin C, which aids in preventing cataracts. In addition, kiwi’s high vitamin A content benefits the eyes by protecting the cornea.
8. Fights Acne
Kiwifruit is also beneficial in treating acne. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help fight acne and thus may help relieve acne symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
Kiwi also comes loaded with the antioxidant vitamin E that helps restore the skin’s moisture and improve its elasticity. The vitamin E may even assist in minimizing acne scarring, although additional research is warranted to confirm these benefits.
- Apply mashed kiwifruit topically on your skin and allow it to dry on its own. Do this once daily until your acne is gone.
- As a preventive measure, mix the pulp of one kiwi with 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and honey. Apply it on your face and leave it on for 15 minutes. Wash it off with cold water and let your skin air-dry. Use this mask once a week to keep your skin acne-free.
9. Its Face Mask Rejuvenates Skin
A rich source of vitamin C, kiwi exhibits a potent antioxidant effect that can help your skin look its best. Vitamin C helps fight off skin damage caused by sun exposure, pollution, and advancing age. It stimulates skin cell regeneration and the production of collagen, thereby smoothening out wrinkles and restoring your skin’s suppleness.
Moreover, the fruit also helps keep your skin moisturized and lightens and brightens it.
- Put the pulp of one kiwi and one ripe banana in a bowl and mash them thoroughly using a fork.
- Mix in 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt.
- Apply the mask to your clean face.
- Allow it to dry for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Gently rub off the mask using a soft washcloth soaked in warm water.
- Rinse your face with lukewarm water and pat dry your skin.
- Use this face mask once every week.
10. Apply Scrub to Treat Chapped Lips
Kiwifruit works as an effective natural exfoliant for dry and chapped lips, helping get rid of dead skin cells.
Plus, the vitamin C and polyphenols in it help nourish your chapped lips and lighten dark lips.
- Put 1 tablespoon of mashed kiwi in a bowl.
- Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to it.
- Mix these ingredients well and apply the mixture to your lips.
- Using your finger, gently exfoliate your lips.
- Rinse your lips with lukewarm water.
- Pat dry and apply a moisturizing lip balm.
- Use this lip scrub once or twice a week.
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