Botanical name: Actinidia chinensis
Known in ancient China as Yang Tao, the kiwi fruit earned its way in that culture not just for its flavor, but also its medicinal properties, which science has today substantiated in numerous areas.
Introduced by missionaries in New Zealand in the early 20th century, then in the US in the late 1960s, kiwi was first called “Chinese gooseberry,” although it’s doubtful that this moniker ever really stuck.
Luckily, kiwi got its new name – in honor of New Zealand’s native bird – from an enterprising food distributor, and its subsequent cultivation flew around the globe. Today, Italy, Chile, France, Japan, and the US are the highest producers of two varieties: green and gold. Kiwi is not only a scrumptious food, but is also used for its ability to tenderize meats, due to the compound actinidin.
Kiwi is a surprising little fruit, and is unlike any other. First, it’s small and light brown in color with a fuzzy skin surface. Inside, the fruit is not only lime green and studded with tiny black seeds in an oval pattern when sliced, but it’s also delicious, rather like the flavor of a strawberry. Peeled, sliced, and chilled, kiwi is an excellent addition to any fruit salad combination or by itself.
Health Benefits of Kiwi
What fruit provides 273% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in every one-cup serving – five times that of an orange, and is a natural immune booster that staves off colds and flu? It’s kiwi, of course! Its vitamin K amount is impressive, too – best known for its role in helping blood clot, or coagulation, properly and providing an 89% daily value.
Kiwis contain good amounts of vitamin A (great for skin, bone, and tooth development, and protected vision, including protection against macular degeneration), and vitamin E (twice the amount found in avocados, with nearly half the calories), along with potassium to balance the body’s electrolytes and limiting hypertension and high blood pressure. The copper in kiwi is especially good for children, supporting healthy development in infants, especially in the areas of bone growth and brain development, and also for the formation of healthy red blood cells and building immunity against disease.
Kiwi is also one of the few foods rich in vitamin B6, which supports the immune system. B6 is particularly important for healthy fetuses and pregnant or breastfeeding women. The folate in kiwi protects against birth defects, heart disease, and cancer; healthy amounts of fiber keep the system running smoothly, reducing the risk of diverticulitis and carcinogens in the body. Finally, the antioxidant power in kiwis delivers similar effects when it comes to neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells and cause inflammation and cancer.
However, consume kiwi in moderation because it contains fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Kiwi Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: One cup of sliced kiwi (177 grams)
Amt. Per Serving
Studies on Kiwi
Kiwi seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which, research shows may reduce coronary heart disease, the risk of stroke, and help in the prevention of ADHD, autism, and other developmental problems in children.
Research has also shown kiwi to have a notable protective effect against asthma and respiratory difficulties, such as wheezing. In fact, one report indicated that young children eating six to seven servings of kiwi and other vitamin C-rich foods per week had a 44% lower incidence of wheezing. Even those eating these foods only once or twice a week had fewer symptoms, in comparative studies.1
Rich in polyphenols, which are recognized for their antioxidant properties, both the green and gold varieties of kiwi fruit underwent research to compare their antioxidant strengths. Researchers found that not only were the kiwi antioxidants more potent than those in oranges and grapefruit, but the gold kiwi variety was also found to have more antioxidant strength.
The conclusion: kiwi consumption may be useful in preventing the development and deterioration of diseases caused by oxidative stress.2
Another study explored the effects of kiwi on patients with irritable bowel syndrome, with its symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and combinations of the above. The study involved 54 patients, 16 healthy individuals, kiwi consumption, and placebos in a 6-week study. Researchers found the colon transit time significantly decreased in the group consuming kiwi fruit, and concluded that eating kiwi improves bowel function in adults diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.3
Kiwi Healthy Recipes: Colorful Fruit Kebabs with Coconut Yogurt
- 1 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. flaked coconut
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. orange marmalade
- Cubed kiwi, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, banana, apple, pear, blackberries, strawberries, etc.
- Combine yogurt, coconut, and marmalade; cover and chill.
- Toss cut apples, pears, and bananas with lemon juice beforehand to prevent browning.
- Pierce the cut fruits alternately onto 14 wooden skewers and serve with coconut dip in a separate dish on the side. Colorful and delish! Serves 12-14.
Kiwi Fun Facts
Placing kiwis in a brown paper bag for four to six days will help them ripen. Keeping them in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or pear will speed up the ripening process even more.
Containing almost 20 vital nutrients, including five times the vitamin C of an orange in one serving, kiwis can legitimately be called a super fruit. This fuzzy brown powerhouse with the bright green flesh also is rich in vitamin A, K, E and B, potassium, copper, folate, and fiber. The health benefits kiwis provide translate into protection against several cancers, coronary heart disease and the risk of stroke, potential relief from diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome, and support for pregnant mothers, fetuses, and small children.
Originating in China, proliferated in New Zealand and now cultivated across the globe, kiwi is a sweet little fruit that expands the diversity of your fruit plate by its color, flavor, and health advantages.