Kiwi: The nutritional properties and lesser known uses of this fruit

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Deliciously juicy, low in calories and very rich in properties; kiwifruit is a nutrient-dense fruit that brings numerous health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, anti-insomnia and intestinal well-being. Let’s find out together the characteristics and properties of this fantastic fruit.

The kiwi is a very popular fruit, produced by numerous species of lianas of the genus Actinidia, belonging to the family of the Actinidiaceae, whose name derives from the symbolic animal of New Zealand, the Kiwi precisely.

The most common variety is Hayward and it is the classic fruit that we all know; with a brown and hairy skin, it contains a bright, slightly acidic green pulp, the characteristic of which are the small black seeds arranged radially around the center of the fruit.

Another widespread variety is the yellow kiwi (Gold variety), whose fruit appears more elongated, with a golden yellow flesh, on the skin of which there are generally no lint.

Originally from China, it was subsequently exported to New Zealand where it took the name of “Chinese gooseberry” and from there began the conquest of the world markets; the kiwi is in fact exported all over the world, but Italy is the world’s largest producer of this fruit with cultivation concentrated mainly in Lazio.

The properties of kiwis are numerous, studies suggest that the consumption of these fruits brings a variety of benefits for our health, including decreasing the risk of heart disease, reducing constipation and better digestion of proteins.

Kiwi: Calories and nutritional values

Like most fresh fruit, kiwis are mainly composed of water and carbohydrates, but despite this, thanks to the moderate glycemic index, they are a safe food for consumption even by people with diabetes.

From an energy point of view, however, how many calories does a kiwi have? Kiwifruit is not too caloric because it contains around 61 calories per 100 grams of product. It should also be remembered that a portion of kiwifruit is given by the consumption of 2 medium-sized fruits. The following table collects the main nutrients present in kiwis.

Kiwi: Nutritional properties

Fibers: The pulp of the kiwi is made up of about 3% of fibers, including both insoluble ones (such as lignin and hemicellulose) and soluble ones, in particular pectins.

The fiber is not digested in the intestine, but once it reaches the colon, it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer and protecting us against infections.

In addition, the adequate intake of fiber also has other benefits such as increasing the sense of satiety, improving intestinal transit and reducing the absorption of simple sugars and fats, especially cholesterol;

Vitamin C: also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant very common in fruit and vegetables. 2 kiwis are sufficient to supply more than 150% of the recommended daily dose of this vitamin, a much greater value compared to the orange vitamin C intake.

Vitamin C represents an essential co-factor in the synthesis of proteins and hormones, contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress, to the normal function of the immune system (even during and after intense exercise), to collagen formation, metabolism energy, the function of the nervous system, the reduction of fatigue and the increase in the bioavailability of edible iron;

Vitamin K: essential for blood clotting but also useful for preventing osteoporosis;

Potassium: essential mineral involved in the control of blood pressure, cardiac health, nerve transmission and hydro-saline exchange at the cellular level;

Vitamin E: powerful antioxidant protects cells from environmental toxins and the action of free radicals. Kiwi seeds are particularly rich in this vitamin;

Copper: participates in the formation of hemoglobin by promoting the use of iron and is found in many enzymes. It plays an important role in the formation of collagen and elastin, the main structural components of our body. A copper deficiency can cause anemia, hypercholesterolemia, bone fragility and demyelination of the nervous system;

Folate (vitamin B9): essential for normal cellular function, tissue growth, in reducing both physical and mental fatigue and are very important for women’s health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding;

Quercetin: flavonoid with antioxidant action, whose contribution can reduce the risk of heart disease, pressure and cancer;

Lutein: among the most abundant carotenoids found in kiwis. The high intake of lutein can promote vision health;

Actinidine: one of the main allergens found in kiwis. It can improve the digestion of proteins by being an enzyme capable of breaking them down.

Kiwi: Health benefits

The components inside, give the kiwi useful properties to support the health of the whole organism. Let’s see in detail all the benefits that regular consumption of these fruits brings.

✓ Kiwi against constipation

The constipation is a disorder characterized by intestinal irregularities, hard stools, and poor evacuation or absent. It is linked to poor colon health and is a cause for concern especially when older people are affected. Several studies indicate that kiwi consumption can help counter constipation. Thanks to the natural laxative effect that this fruit causes.

A 2010 study, published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, would have shown how the consumption of 2 kiwis per day for 4 weeks would improve bowel movements and therefore evacuation in subjects with irritable bowel syndrome, a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal system, characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation or diarrhea alternating with constipation.

✓ Better protein digestion

The kiwis are rich in actinidina, a single plant compound that can denature (break) proteins. Animal studies have shown that actinidine can improve the digestion of proteins in the intestine and, for this reason; the consumption of kiwis can benefit those with impaired protein digestion and in those who accuse an unpleasant feeling of fullness after having taken high protein meals.

✓ Heart health

Heart disease is currently the most common cause of premature death in the world. Some of the main risk factors include hypertension, high cholesterol and the presence of blood clots. Several studies indicate that consuming 2-3 kiwis a day can reduce some of these risk factors:

  • Reduction of blood pressure : a 2015 study published in Blood Pressure showed that the consumption of a couple of kiwifruit per day determines the reduction of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, also improving endothelial function;
  • Blood thinning action: thanks to the good potassium content, kiwi consumption works by improving blood fluidification, thus reducing the risk of blood clots;
  • Better lipid profile: kiwi consumption would act by improving the blood lipid profile through the reduction of triglycerides and the increase of good cholesterol (HDL).

✓ Kiwis improve sleep

Numerous studies have revealed that kiwis are rich in different compounds including antioxidants and serotonin that can be useful in the treatment of sleep disorders, so much so that these fruits are considered as real food sedatives.

✓ Better iron absorption

Kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which has the ability to increase the absorption of iron from the digestive tract. Therefore, ending the meal with a couple of kiwis is an excellent strategy for preventing anemia.

✓ Antioxidant properties of kiwis

The kiwis are packed with an impressive amount of vitamin C, much higher than citrus, ensuring these fruits excellent antioxidant properties, thus protecting our DNA from oxidative damage, reducing the risk of developing inflammatory diseases and cancer.

✓ Kiwi benefits for skin and hair

The kiwi, thanks to the high concentration of vitamin C, helps fight skin damage caused by sun exposure and pollution, relaxes and purifies the skin, reduces wrinkles and improves the general structure of the skin. Furthermore, always vitamin C plays an essential role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin. Because of these properties, kiwifruit is the basis of many beauty recipes, including masks and ointments. It is also good for hair because it stimulates keratin and makes it shiny.

✓ Kiwis strengthen the immune system

Always the vitamin C, of which this fruit is rich, protects from infections, stimulating the formation of antibodies and strengthening the immune system.

Kiwis: How to use and store them

First of all, remember that, as mentioned above, a portion of kiwi is given by the consumption of 2 medium-sized fruits. The kiwifruit is harvested when the fruit is slightly soft to the touch but still firm, avoiding bruised or damp spots. If the kiwi does not yield to light pressure, it indicates that the fruit is unripe.

If you have harvested or purchased unripe kiwis, you can help ripening by keeping them for a couple of days at room temperature, away from sources of heat or you can put them in a paper bag together with an apple or banana. The ripe kiwi can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks.

Here are some tips for adding kiwis to your diet:

  • Kiwis can be used for the preparation of jams and jellies, alone or in combination with other fruits;
  • You can add some kiwis to your fruit salads or as ingredients of fruit skewers; this is a ploy that will also allow your children to appreciate this fruit;
  • Smoothie: you can prepare an excellent winter smoothie by mixing 1 kiwi, 50g of spinach, ½ apple, ½ pear, a teaspoon of spirulina and 100ml of natural almond milk;

A fun way to consume kiwifruit is to cut it in half, leaving the skin and eating it with a teaspoon;

  • Add a few slices of kiwi to a spinach salad, walnuts, dried blueberries, pomegranate, a few slices of avocado and season everything with an orange vinaigrette.

The kiwi, as we have seen, it is also an ally for the beauty. To purify the skin (this fruit has sebum-regulating properties and is therefore suitable for any type of skin), it is possible to create a homemade mask by mixing kiwi smoothie with a few spoonful of yogurt. Spread on the skin of the face and keep it on for at least 15 minutes before rinsing.

The kiwi can also be used to make a hair mask: mix kiwi crushed with a fork, yogurt and honey in equal amount and deposit on the hair from root to tip. Wrap the head with plastic wrap and leave on for 20 minutes. After that switch to normal washing. Your hair will be shiny and easy to comb.

Kiwi: Contraindications and potential negative effects

The kiwis are generally well tolerated and have no major contraindications, however some people may be allergic or can cause them irritation of the mouth and stomach.

  • Allergy: among allergies with less severe symptoms, that with kiwi is often characterized by diarrhea, stomach pain, mild swelling and itching in the mouth; in rare cases it can cause anaphylactic shock which is a reaction more commonly present in children than in adults. Those allergic to latex and birch pollen are more likely to be allergic to kiwifruit because of allergic cross-reactivity;
  • Mouth Irritation: In some people, consuming kiwis can trigger mouth irritation, a condition caused by the presence of tiny needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate that can irritate the mucous membrane of the oral cavity by friction. Another fruit with kiwi-like properties is pineapple;
  • Diarrhea: being rich in fiber, kiwifruit is used as a natural remedy against constipation, but individuals most sensitive to the natural laxative effects of this fruit can experience diarrhea, especially after excessive consumption.

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