Kiwi fruit is a truly exotic food. It has a strange appearance, with fuzzy brown skin hiding a gorgeous, bright green color inside – yet its color pales in comparison to the health benefits they offer. Kiwi is a tiny fruit with a sweet taste and a powerful nutritional punch.
What Are Kiwi?
Though kiwi has been eaten for a very long time, they were strictly a Chinese fruit known as a Yang Tao until the 20th century, when they were brought by missionaries to New Zealand. It wasn’t until the 1960s that what had been renamed the Chinese Gooseberry was given a new name again, and began being imported around the world. This time it was referred to as a kiwi, in honor of the New Zealand national bird whose fuzzy brown coat was similar to the exterior of the diminutive fruit. Its sweet taste quickly made it an international hit.
Kiwis are very small fruit, but they pack a nutritional punch. At just 3” long, this citrus fruit gets the most attention for its high density of Vitamin C, but it also contains over 80 other nutrients, and most notably countless phytonutrients that help to protect our cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Though most people are only familiar with the Hayward kiwi, with its fuzzy brown skin, its emerald green flesh and its tiny black seeds, there are other varieties available, including two smooth-skinned varieties called the silvervine kiwi and the hardy kiwi. These tend to be much smaller, and their flesh has a more yellow tone.
1. Kiwis are Loaded with Antioxidants, Fiber and Minerals
It’s hard to believe that a fruit that is so small offers as many health benefits as the kiwi does. In addition to a remarkable array of phytonutrients, it is also rich in vitamins and minerals that contribute to almost every organ and cell in the body. A single kiwi’s flesh contains:
Calories – 56
Protein – 1 gram
Fiber – 2.7 grams
Vitamin C – 84.4 mg (141% of RDV)
Vitamin K – 36.7 mcg (46% of RDV)
Potassium – 284 mg (8% of RDV)
Vitamin E – 1.3 mg (7% of RDV)
Copper – 0.1 mg (6% of RDV)
Folate – 22.7 mcg (6% of RDV)
The nutrients found in kiwi fight damage caused by oxidative stress and protect us by strengthening our immune system. They also fight inflammation. They are a sweet, low-calorie way to give yourself a nutritional boost.
2. Kiwi’s Vitamin C Keeps Us Breathing Easily
When our respiratory system is compromised, it impacts every cell in our body. Eating kiwi helps to keep us breathing easily, as its high levels of vitamin C help to boost our immune system and to fight colds, viruses, and even the impacts of asthma. A far-reaching Italian study involving 18,000 six and seven-year-old children showed that when young they ate five to seven servings of citrus and kiwi per week, they cut their incidence of wheezing by almost half. More than one in four eliminated their nighttime coughing and chronic coughing, and even runny noses were reduced by 28%. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this research was that the most dramatic impact seemed to be on children who had been diagnosed with asthma, indicating that the fruit had a healing impact in addition to a protective one. Another study showed a similar impact on an adult population, protecting against respiratory illnesses and infections.
Bottom Line: Foods that are high in Vitamin C have been shown to be highly effective at treating and protecting respiratory ailments, and kiwi has more vitamin C by volume than almost any other food.
3. Kiwi Keep You Looking Young
Maintaining the levels of collagen in our skin, bones, muscle and tendon is one of the keys to fighting the effects of aging. Collagen is found in all of these body structures, and when its presence diminishes, it results in everything from wrinkles in the skin to the breakdown of joints. The key to synthesizing our collagen levels is vitamin C, which has been shown to increase the body’s ability to make collagen. Additionally, kiwi contains an antioxidant called lutein that helps protect against damage from UV rays, and vitamin E, which helps to keep our skin well hydrated. Not only does eating kiwi help to protect your skin, but you can also use slices of the fruit directly on your skin to counteract damage and help maintain your skin’s proper pH balance.
Bottom Line: Eating kiwi can help to keep our skin firm and supple. It helps our skin cells to generate new cells, giving us a fresh, healthy glow.
4. Kiwis Help to Maintain Good Vision and Protect Our Eye Health
Kiwi is high in both lutein and vitamin A. Both of these phytochemicals tend to concentrate in the cells of the retina – in fact, the center of the retina is actually made of lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals found in high levels in the kiwi. When you eat kiwi, your body uses these compounds to make vitamin A. It not only protect against cataracts macular degeneration, and other degenerative conditions that can cause vision problems, but can actually rebuild damaged cells. Lutein filters out UV light, protecting against oxidative damage and stress that it can cause after years of sun exposure.
Bottom Line: The phytochemicals and minerals found in kiwi help protect your eyes against damage and repair cells that have been harmed by the sun and the environment.
5. The Copper in Kiwi Helps Give You Energy and Keeps Your Metabolism Healthy
Eating one cup of kiwi gives you 20% of your daily recommended intake of copper. This mineral is an essential for maintaining the health of your nervous system and your cell health. Copper also helps to support the formation of collagen and the absorption of iron, and as such it is essential to maintaining a healthy metabolism and high levels of energy. Copper is only available to us from the foods that we eat, so it is essential that we seek out foods that provide the proper levels.
Bottom Line: The copper in kiwi plays an essential role in our overall health, including ensuring proper growth and protection of our cardiovascular system, nervous system and skeletal system.
6. Kiwi Supports a Healthy Digestive System
For its small size, kiwi contains a large amount of fiber that helps to keep our digestive systems moving and sweeps away waste and toxins. But beyond its ability to keep us regular and minimizing constipation, kiwi also contains a unique enzyme called “actinidin” that has been shown to increase the rate at which protein is absorbed. This means that when you’ve had a protein-rich meal eating a kiwi can help to counter the uncomfortable sense of being overly full. In fact, studies have shown that the actinidin in kiwi can break down kiwi much faster and more efficiently than digestive enzymes alone. Additionally, kiwi contains many compounds that act as prebiotics that help to maintain and support healthy bacteria in the gut.
Bottom Line: Eating a kiwi each day can help you digest your food more easily, ease discomfort from consuming rich foods, and keep you regular.
7. Kiwi Helps Maintain a Healthy Cardiovascular System
Not only are the antioxidants found in kiwi helpful for countering the impact of oxidative stress on the cells of the heart, the fruit also has many other minerals and nutrients that help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular disease. The high levels of Vitamin K found in kiwi help to protect against both blood clots and the buildup of calcium and plaque in the arteries. Its high fiber helps to sweep away cholesterol, lowering triglyceride levels as well as blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Kiwi’s high levels of Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and polyphenols all help to protect the blood vessels of the heart, repair damage caused by oxidative stress, and minimize the risk of blood clots and plaque build-up that can lead to heart attack or stroke.
8. Kiwi’s High Levels of Vitamin K Support Bone Health
Vitamin K is a nutritional essential. It helps to protect against blood clots while also improving bone health by making calcium more readily available. Kiwi can be a powerful tool in the fight against osteoporosis and other degenerative bone diseases that can lead to higher risk of fractures as we age. Kiwi also contains calcium, potassium and magnesium, all of which contribute to the development of bone and protect against calcium loss.
Bottom Line: Because kiwi protect against bone loss and aid in the development of bone, they are the perfect healthy snack for young and old alike.
9. Kiwi Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Kiwi may be one of the best bedtime snacks you can give yourself to eat. Not only are they low in calorie and easy to prepare, but they also contain high levels of serotonin, which is known to help people fall asleep more easily. One study showed that adding kiwi as a nightly snack helped to increase the time that people stayed asleep by 13 percent, and increased the quality of their sleep too. Serotonin has also been shown to have other benefits including being a mood lifter and increasing memory.
Bottom Line: If you’re struggling with insomnia or feel that your sleep quality needs a boost, start eating a kiwi at bedtime to increase your serotonin levels.
Tips for Buying and Using Kiwi
Kiwi are sourced from all around the world and are available year-round, so you should be able to find them in your local market. Look for fruit that are not bruised and that yield slightly when you apply pressure when you press on them. If a kiwi is too firm then it is not ripe, and won’t provide the highest levels of antioxidants. Let it ripen at room temperature for a few days, keeping it out of direct sunlight. You can keep kiwi at room temperature or refrigerate them.
Most people eat kiwi raw, peeling off the fuzzy skin and then slicing them into yogurt, cereals, salads or desserts. You can also slice them in half and then use a spoon to scoop the flesh out directly. Try to use kiwi as soon after slicing them as possible, because once the enzymes are exposed to air, the fruit starts to break down, though they will still maintain their nutritional value.