11 Impressive Health Benefits of Kiwi
Kiwi fruit is like no other fruit. In addition to its exotic taste, the multitude of health benefits that it provides can’t be matched by any other fruit or vegetable on the earth. In this article, the most important health benefits that can be derived from the regular consumption of kiwis will be listed and described in detail.
However, instead of directly proceeding into that, let’s take a moment to examine the nutritional composition of kiwis.
KIWI IS A POWERHOUSE OF VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Kiwis are a rich source for a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B6, B12 and E as well as the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. They are also a good source of antioxidants and contain a high level of fiber.
Unlike many other nutritious foods, kiwis provide all these nutritional benefits without any significant increase in the number of calories or fat a person consumes (that is, the fruits have low caloric content and are almost fat-free).
Kiwis contain more vitamin C (93 mg in one fruit) than oranges (which contain 53.2 mg in one fruit). Studies have shown that a single kiwi fruit can provide 100% of an individual’s daily vitamin C requirements (in fact, it contains one and a half times the recommended daily dose).
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the optimum function of our immune system and it also has antioxidant properties. It facilitates wound healing and is essential for the health of our bones, skin and other soft tissues like ligaments.
Another vitamin that’s abundantly present in kiwis is folate. This vitamin is especially essential for pregnant women as it reduces the incidence of birth defects in their newborns.
Folate is also a vitamin that should be available in abundance to growing children. In addition, folate is a crucial nutrient for the production of red blood cells (and thus kiwis help minimize the incidence of anemia).
However, a single kiwi fruit (which contains about 17 micrograms of folate) can provide only about 10% of the daily recommended dose. Thus, consumption of two to three kiwis per day should be supplemented by other good sources of folate (e.g. dark leafy vegetables, beets, asparagus, and potatoes) in order to fully supply the recommended daily dose.
In addition to their high content of folate, there is another mechanism by which kiwis reduce the incidence of anemia. Owing to their rich content of vitamin C and many phytochemicals (like lutein and zeaxanthin), kiwis improve the absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract.
That is the addition of kiwis to a meal that is rich in iron significantly increases the amount of iron that’s absorbed from the meal and distributed to different parts of the body.
Kiwis are a good source of potassium, a mineral that’s essential for the healthy functioning of our cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Kiwis also offer an impressive number of antioxidants in the form of phytochemicals (like flavonoids and carotenoids) and vitamin C. The number of antioxidants contained in kiwis is significantly higher than that in other fruits. Antioxidants are useful in optimizing cardiovascular health and preventing the development of cancer by protecting cellular DNA from oxidative damage.
Kiwis are fruits that possess a high level of fiber. The amount of fiber that can be found in a single serving of kiwi fruit can cover almost 16% of the daily recommended intake of fiber.
Fiber is essential in promoting smooth gastrointestinal transit, reducing blood cholesterol level and maintaining optimal cardiovascular health.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF KIWI
In the following paragraphs, the most important health benefits of the kiwi fruit will be described in detail:
1. It boosts immunity
One of the most well-known and proven health benefits of kiwi is its tremendous capacity for boosting the immune system. The fruit significantly improves the body’s ability to fight off a wide variety of infectious agents. In addition to protecting from infection, an appropriately functioning immune system also minimizes the possibility an individual will develop one of the many forms of cancer.
While a variety of factors enables Kiwi to have this “immune-boosting” property, the most remarkable is its high content of Vitamin C.
Kiwi also positively affects the regulation of the components of both innate and adaptive immune systems (the two main components of our immune system). This function is crucial as it provides our body with the capacity to regulate inflammation. In other words, Kiwi has an anti-inflammatory effect. These characteristics enable it to act as a natural remedy against a wide variety of inflammatory disorders.
One of the main inflammatory diseases that can be managed by the daily consumption of kiwi fruit is Asthma. The benefits of daily consumption of kiwis in patients with Asthma are well known and backed up by credible medical literature.
In one study that was published in Thorax, around 18,000 children in Italy aged 6 – 7 were followed. The study showed that Asthmatic children who regularly consume kiwis (5 – 7 servings per week) were significantly less likely to experience symptoms of Asthma attack (than those who don’t consume kiwi or consume less than 1 – 2 servings per week).
Both the high contents of vitamin C and antioxidants in kiwi are believed to contribute to the anti-asthmatic property of the fruit.
Therefore, kiwi is a fruit that provides benefits to the immune system in the form of an intricate balance between the maximization of the body’s immune function and the regulation of the immune system to prevent unwanted side effects from the inflammatory reaction.
Thus, on one side the fruit enables the body to be able to fight off several infections and reduces the likelihood of our body developing cold or flu-like illnesses. On the other hand, it helps control the inflammatory reaction and minimizes the likelihood of the development of autoimmune or inflammatory disorders.
It protects vision
The need to maintain essential eye health can’t be overstated. As is true with other parts of our body, the health of our eyes is significantly affected by the content of the meals that we consume daily.
The numerous types of cells that make up the different components of our eyes depend upon the consistent availability of several nutrients to function appropriately. While the balanced consumption of numerous fruits and vegetables is a proven way of providing these cells with the nutrients they require, it’s also possible to find most of the essential nutrients by the daily consumption of kiwi.
When it comes to the issue of maintaining the health of our eyes, the most widely provided advice has been to increase the consumption of carrots. While carrots are indeed extremely helpful and provide a good quantity of Vitamin A essential for eye health, recent research has shown that fruits are even more important for maintaining optimum eye health.
Among the different types of fruits that are available in the market, kiwis stand out due to the high content of nutrients required for eye health (specifically they are a rich source of the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin). These phytochemicals along with vitamin A protect the eyes from a variety of disorders that destroy vision including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Age-related macular degenerations (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the developed part of the world. It’s a degenerative disease of the macula (the central part of the retina) that’s more common in older adults. Regular consumption of kiwis can help protect our eyes from developing AMD.
One medical study which aimed to evaluate the role of nutrition in preventing the development of age-related macular degeneration followed around 110,000 men and women (the research was conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital).
By evaluating the consumption of fruits and vegetables by the study subjects (who were followed for more than a decade), the researchers evaluated the relationship between the nutritional content of food and the development of age-related macular degeneration.
The study concluded that the daily consumption of three servings of fruits minimizes the risk of AMD by 36 percent. Among the different fruits’ kiwi stands out as it is especially rich in phytochemicals (in fact, apart from yellow corn kiwi fruits have the highest content of lutein of any of the fruits on the earth).
It promotes intestinal transit and prevents constipation
If you suffer from constipation, the kiwi fruit is an excellent natural alternative to laxatives. The fruit has a high fiber content which helps to keep bowel movements regular. It also adds bulk to the stool making its consistency softer. The combined result of these effects is the provision of relief from constipation.
Kiwi also improves overall bowel function and is very helpful for patients who suffer from inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal system including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
It helps in digestion
The high fiber content of kiwi facilitates digestion. In addition to their high fiber content, kiwis also contain a proteolytic enzyme called “actinidin”. These enzymes promote the breakdown of proteins. Thus, the addition of kiwi to a high protein meal (e.g. meat) is always a good idea.
Furthermore, polysaccharides present in the fruit may play a role in preventing the adhesion of disease-causing bacteria to the intestinal walls while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
As was previously described, kiwis are also rich in a variety of minerals. This has been reported to have the beneficial role of neutralizing stomach acidity and minimizing the dyspeptic complaints (abdominal pain and nausea) that are caused by it.
It nourishes your skin
The health and beauty of our skin are highly dependent on the nutritional content of the food we consume. The continual regeneration of new skin cells and the synthesis of collagen require the consistent availability of a variety of nutrients.
Kiwis serve as a plentiful supply of vitamins C and E. Vitamin C enables the skin to be smooth and firm and facilitates healing of skin following cuts and abrasions. Both vitamin C and E can act as antioxidants and prevent skin degradation.
They minimize the appearance of wrinkles and serve as perfect anti-aging agents. To harness these benefits Kiwi can be consumed through a variety of methods. Also, applying a few slices topically over the skin can be very helpful. The effect would be a beautiful, glowing and youthful skin.
It’s a good option for patients with diabetes
Regular consumption of kiwis is useful to patients with diabetes because, in addition to all the other benefits that have been mentioned, kiwi fruits have a low glycemic index. According to one report, 100 grams of kiwi fruit affects blood glucose levels in the same way as 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of glucose.
Plus, the fruit also has a low carbohydrate content (14.6 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams) and is almost fat-free.
It plays a role in the prevention of cancer
Oxidative stress on cells can result in damage to our DNA. Oxidative DNA damage is strongly linked to the development of different types of cancer. Regular consumption of kiwis has been shown to reduce the likelihood of oxidative stress. Hence kiwis can help in reducing the incidence of cancer.
The high concentration of antioxidants in kiwi fruits (the likes of which include flavonoids and carotenoids) is crucial in protecting DNA from oxidative damage by free radicals. Research has provided credible evidence that the kiwis inhibit the proliferation of cancerous cells without affecting normal cell lines.
In addition to the phytonutrients mentioned above, the high content of vitamin C in kiwi also provides additional antioxidant effects. In fact, vitamin C is considered as the primary water-soluble antioxidant of our body. It neutralizes free radicals that could have caused oxidative damage to cells and thus it reduces the likelihood of the development of cancer.
It improves heart health
We all grew up listening to the old (and wise) advice – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. The health benefits of apple and other fruits shouldn’t be underestimated; however, when it comes to maintaining optimal cardiovascular health, regular consumption of kiwis may be the better choice.
Kiwis are rich in polyphenols, vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber and are also a good source of potassium. All of these nutrients function individually or together to prevent cardiovascular diseases and optimize heart function.
Eating two to three kiwis per day significantly reduces the possibility of cardiovascular disease by minimizing the risk of blood clots, improving the level of blood pressure and reducing the blood lipid level.
Reduction of the risk for blood clots
One of the ways by which kiwi fruits improve cardiovascular wellbeing is by reducing the risk of blood clotting. This effect was proven by a study done at the University of Oslo in Norway.
According to the study, the daily consumption of two to three kiwis reduces platelet aggregation and was found to be as effective as Aspirin in the prevention of blood clotting (but without the numerous side effects of Aspirin).
The study showed the incidence of dangerous blood clots could be reduced by up to 18%. This means the kiwi fruit plays a significant role in helping prevent the risk of atherosclerotic heart disease and other thromboembolic disorders.
Improvement in the blood pressure
Any person who is concerned about his cardiovascular health is advised to add kiwi to his/her daily diet plan. One of the methods by which kiwi fruits contribute to improved cardiovascular health is the lowering of blood pressure. Several bioactive compounds present in kiwis are responsible for this effect. Kiwi is also a source of potassium, which makes it an excellent choice for naturally lowering blood pressure.
Studies have shown that the daily consumption of three kiwis significantly lowers blood pressure (improvements in the blood pressure may also be seen in an individual that consumes fewer fruits). Reducing an individual’s blood pressure decreases his/her likelihood of developing a heart attack or stroke.
Reduction in blood lipid level
One of the many benefits of kiwis is a reduction in the level of blood cholesterol and other lipids. Scientists believe that this effect is, at least partially, due to the high concentration of polyphenols and the high level of fiber in these fruits.
The medical study that was conducted at the University of Oslo and was mentioned previously had also evaluated the effect of kiwis on blood lipid levels. It found out that the study subjects who were encouraged to consume two to three kiwis per day had their triglyceride levels decreased by 15%.
It promotes weight loss
The high quantity of fiber in kiwi fruits promotes satiety (that is, it makes the person consuming the fruit to feel full earlier) and minimizes the total food consumption per meal. In addition, the caloric content of the fruit is low (57 calories per 100 grams) and hence regular consumption of the fruit doesn’t significantly increase the total caloric content of the food we consume.
Therefore, the daily consumption of kiwi fruits assists in weight loss by helping a person minimize the amount of food he/she consumes in every meal without introducing a significant amount of calorie content to the meals.
It improves sleep quality
Numerous studies have shown that kiwis contain a number of chemicals including serotonin, antioxidants and various flavonoids that improve the quality of sleep and may be beneficial in the treatment of different forms of sleep disorders.
A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who consume kiwi regularly have improved quality (as well as quantity) of sleep. The study also showed that when individuals are given two kiwi fruits an hour before bedtime, they fell asleep faster (this benefit is thought to arise from the serotonin content of the fruits).
It’s very beneficial to pregnant women
Kiwi is a very beneficial fruit for pregnant women because it contains a high content of folate. Folate is a nutrient that plays a crucial role in preventing the occurrence of congenital defects in the fetuses and is also crucial for the brain development of the fetus and newborn.
Other nutrients that are found in high quantity in kiwi (e.g. vitamins C, E, and K) also contribute to the proper development of the fetus within the womb as well as to the health of the pregnant mother.