The kiwi has rich nutritional value, delicious flavor, and a surprisingly interesting history.
Native to China, kiwi fruits were originally known as Yang Tao. They were brought to New Zealand from China by missionaries in the early 20th century with the first commercial plantings occurring several decades later. In 1960, they were renamed Chinese Gooseberries. In 1961, Chinese Gooseberries made their first appearance at a restaurant in the United States and were subsequently “discovered” by an American produce distributor who felt that the U.S. market would be very receptive to this uniquely exotic fruit. She initiated the import of these fruits into the United States in 1962 and changed its name to “kiwi”, in honor of the native bird of New Zealand, the kiwi, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of this unique fruit. Today, California kiwis are available November through May, while the New Zealand crop hits the market June through October, making fresh kiwis available year ’round.
The kiwi is a small fruit approximately 3 inches long and weighing about four ounces. Its green flesh is almost creamy in consistency with an invigorating taste reminiscent of strawberries, melons, and bananas, yet with its own unique sweet flavor. Kiwis are often overlooked in favor of the more popular apples, bananas, and oranges. However, these little furry green fruits pack a big punch, and should be included as part of a healthy diet, particularly if you are trying to lower your blood pressure.
Kiwi fruit emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, kiwis contain more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange! Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, neutralizing free radicals that can cause damage to cells and lead to problems such as inflammation and cancer. In fact, adequate intake of vitamin C has been shown to be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. It may also help prevent conditions such as colon cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetic heart disease. Since vitamin C is necessary for the healthy function of the immune system, it may be useful for preventing recurrent ear infections in people who suffer from them. Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Additionally, kiwi is a very good source of dietary fiber. The fiber in the fruit has been shown to be useful for a number of conditions. Researchers have found that diets that contain plenty of fiber can reduce high cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Fiber is also good for binding and removing toxins from the colon, which is helpful for preventing colon cancer. In addition, fiber-rich foods, like kiwi fruit, are good for keeping the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients under control.
Enjoying just a couple of kiwi fruit each day may significantly lower your risk for blood clots and may reduce the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood, therefore helping to protect cardiovascular health.
Unlike aspirin, which also helps to reduce blood clotting but has side effects such as inflammation and bleeding in the intestinal tract, the effects of regular kiwi consumption are all beneficial. Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, polyphenols, and potassium, all of which may function individually or in concert to protect the blood vessels and heart.
Kiwis can be eaten either alone, after peeled with a paring knife or cut in half and scooped out with a spoon. Or you can add them to a salad with other fresh fruit such as pineapples, mangoes, and strawberries. The fruit can be blended into a smoothie or a chilled soup.
While the kiwi fruit is definitely a positive addition to a heart healthy diet, don’t count on it alone to be a magic cure-all. Continue to eat a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and lower your sodium intake. Of course, exercise is a crucial component of blood pressure control. As always, consult your doctor before beginning a new fitness regimen.