Kiwi Fun Fact: Although the kiwi is about the size of an egg, it is a type of berry – also known as a Chinese gooseberry. And this fuzzy little fruit native to China is a nutritional powerhouse.
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Like most fruits, kiwi is full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs. But kiwifruit has some health-boosting properties that many other fruits can’t beat. And the natural compounds in kiwi can also improve your gut health.
Registered dietitian Jillian Culbertson, RD, explains the benefits of kiwifruit and why it’s a great (green) addition to your plate.
1. Helps maintain gut health
Fiber, the indigestible part of plant foods, keeps your digestion running smoothly. Kiwifruit is an excellent source of fiber, with 5 grams in a 1-cup serving. Much of its fiber is in the peel, so just wash and slice — don’t peel — your kiwi. (Yes, it’s okay to eat the fuzzy brown parts!)
Kiwifruit may have benefits for your gut that you won’t find in many other foods. Research shows that eating kiwifruit:
- Adds bulk to your stools so they can move through the colon more easily.
- Reduces bloating and digestive discomfort.
- Softens your stool to make it easier to pass.
- Speeds up the passage of stool through the colon.
And there is one more thing – kiwi helps to maintain the balance of the intestines. Kiwifruit is high in prebiotics, which are necessary for the growth of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria and yeast, in your gut.
“The right balance of probiotics is important for many processes in the body, including fighting disease and regulating your hormones,” says Culbertson. “And we know that a balance of good bacteria can prevent digestive problems, certain infections and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Prebiotics are important because they are a food source for these healthy bacteria.
2. High in vitamin C
Oranges get all the glory when it comes to vitamin C. But one kiwi will deliver more of this nutrient than two oranges. Vitamin C:
- It boosts your immune system so it can fight disease.
- Fights fatigue.
- It helps your body absorb iron, which is needed to make red blood cells so that oxygen can travel to your organs and tissues.
- It creates collagen in your skin, which helps wounds heal and keeps your skin looking younger.
“Vitamin C deficiency is rare in the U.S. today, but many people still don’t get the optimal amount,” notes Culbertson. “And people with malabsorptive conditions (who have trouble digesting food and nutrients) may have lower levels of this nutrient. Eating kiwifruit – along with other vegetables and fruits – can help you get enough vitamin C every day.”
3. Provides vitamin E
But most Americans don’t get enough vitamin E in their diets. This vitamin is an important nutrient for your immune system and heart health. Vitamin E helps dilate blood vessels, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. One kiwi contains 7% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin E.
“Kiwifruit is one of the few fruits that contains a good amount of vitamin E,” says Culbertson. “And studies show that the vitamin E in kiwi is very bioavailable, so your body can easily use it. To get your full recommended daily amount of vitamin E, add nuts, seeds or oils such as wheat germ and safflower oil to your diet.
4. Antioxidant power
Because it contains vitamin C and vitamin E, kiwifruit is also a great source of antioxidants. These nutrients fight cell damage caused by free radicals that come from sunlight, air pollution and everyday life. Getting antioxidants in your diet can clean up some of this free radical damage and improve your health.
“Eating antioxidant-rich foods like kiwis can reduce your risk of disease, including some cancers and heart disease,” says Culbertson. “Get your antioxidants from whole fruits and vegetables, not supplements. We have no proof that supplements can prevent disease like the natural antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can.
Kiwifruit and other fruits and vegetables can also help you feel better during the winter months. The antioxidants in kiwifruit can boost your immune system during cold and flu season and can help improve your mood.
5. Good source of potassium
Your heart, kidneys, muscles and nerves need potassium to function properly. And many people in the US don’t get enough of this important electrolyte. But one kiwi provides 215 milligrams of potassium, more than twice the amount in a tablespoon of peanut butter or a cup of iceberg lettuce.
Getting potassium in your diet can reduce your risk of:
“Potassium helps regulate chemical reactions and fluid levels in the body,” says Culbertson. “Many people get too much sodium in their diet, which lowers potassium levels and can lead to health problems. Eating potassium-rich foods and limiting sodium can restore this balance.
6. Rich in vitamin K
Vitamin K flies under the radar – often not listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. But despite its stealth status, it’s an important nutrient. “Vitamin K helps keep bones healthy and reduces the risk of osteoporosis,” says Culbertson. “Vitamin K can also help you prevent coronary artery disease, a leading cause of heart attack and heart failure.”
One kiwi contains 31 micrograms of vitamin K, about 25% to 30% of the adequate intake for most adults. Other good sources of vitamin K include spinach, kale, broccoli, and soybean oil.
Enjoy some kiwis – and other fruits and vegetables
Kiwifruit is a nutritional powerhouse, but you need to eat a lot of other fruits and vegetables if you want to improve your health. “No one food can give you all the vitamins and minerals you need,” Culbertson states. “Make your plate colorful – include red, green, purple, orange and yellow foods. Variety is key when it comes to following a healthy diet.”