Years ago, peaches were first cultivated in China where they are considered a symbol of immortality and friendship. In addition to being beautiful, fragrant, and delicious, they possess an impressive assortment of nutrients to support good health, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids.
Peaches are a characteristically fuzzy fruit native to northwest China. They are a member of the stone fruit family, having one large middle seed, as do cherries, apricots, plums, and nectarines.
The inner flesh of a peach can range in color from white to yellow or orange. There are two different varieties of peaches: freestone and clingstone, depending on whether the flesh sticks to the inner seed or easily comes apart.
According to a study from Texas A&M, stone fruit like peaches, plums, and nectarines have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
The study suggests that stone fruits have bioactive and phenolic compounds with anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory properties that may also reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) associated with cardiovascular disease.
Research shows that peaches may help reduce allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamines in the blood.
The authors attribute the benefits to four major phenolic groups in stone fruits: anthocyanins, chlorogenic acids, quercetins, and catechins, all of which work together and complement each other to fight off obesity-related illness.
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C, peaches can also help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. While an adequate vitamin C intake is necessary and very beneficial as an antioxidant, the amount necessary to consume for treatment purposes for cancer is thought to be beyond oral intake.2
High fiber intakes from all fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form (in whole foods such as peaches) or applied topically, can reduce wrinkles, improve overall skin texture and help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the support system of your skin.
Another study from Texas A&M showed that peaches and plum extracts were effective in killing even the most aggressive types of breast cancer cells and did not harm normal healthy cells in the process.
Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One medium peach provides about 2 grams of fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline content in peaches all support heart health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Mark Houston, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee.
In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day).
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A higher intake of fruits (3 or more servings per day) has been shown to decrease the risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
It is important to note that the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including peaches, are infinite. As plant food consumption goes up, the risk of all lifestyle related diseases (such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease) goes down. High fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, lower weight, and lower risk of mortality.
Peaches may reduce allergy symptoms. When your body is exposed to an allergen, it releases histamines, or chemicals made by your immune system to help rid your body of the allergen.
Histamines are part of your body’s defense system and trigger allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, or coughing.
Research shows that peaches may help reduce allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamines in the blood. Moreover, test-tube studies report that peach extracts may be effective as well and limit the inflammation commonly seen in allergic reactions.
However, more research is needed to determine the strength of these effects in people with allergies.
Summer is the best time to buy peaches, when they are in the peak of their season and have the best flavor, freshness, and nutritional value. Make sure to choose peaches with taut, fuzzy skin that give in slightly when pressed. To ripen peaches, place them in a paper bag or near a windowsill with plenty of sunshine.
When buying canned peaches, avoid those canned in heavy syrup and look for varieties with no added sugars.
- Make it a meal: Create a summer salad by starting with mixed greens or spinach and add dry-roasted nuts, fresh peaches, fresh mozzarella and grilled chicken, salmon or tofu. Drizzle with a balsamic dressing.
- Easy as can be: Peaches are a quick and easy “on-the-go” snack that requires no prep time.
- Have a peachy morning: Add peaches to your breakfast! Sliced peaches go great with oatmeal and cold cereals, and as a topper for pancakes, waffles and French toast.
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- So refreshing: Muddle peaches into your glass of lemonade, iced tea or water for a burst of fresh fruity flavor.
- Sweet as pie: Bake sliced peaches with a drizzle of honey and cinnamon for a quick and healthy dessert.
- Get spicy: Incorporate peaches into your salsa. Make a fresh salsa with diced peaches, mango, jalapeno, red peppers, and chipotle pepper. Use as a topper for your favorite fish tacos.
- Smooth it over: Add a few slices of frozen peaches to your smoothies. Add pineapple juice, half a frozen banana and Greek yogurt for a sweet citrusy treat.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is best to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
Peaches are rich in many vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. They’re easily incorporated into a variety of dishes and may offer impressive health benefits, including healthier skin, fewer allergy symptoms, and improved digestion and heart health.
Peaches also appear to be linked to a lower risk of certain cancers and may boost immunity, protect against toxins, and lower blood sugar levels. All in all, it’s a fruit well worth adding to your diet.