While kiwi today is most commonly associated with New Zealand, the fruit actually originates from northern and eastern regions of China. (It's called mihoutao or yang tao in Chinese; English speakers initially referred to it as "Chinese gooseberry" because it had a similar taste to gooseberries.) The fruit was reportedly introduced to New Zealand in 1904 by a girls' school teacher who had been visiting China; she shared the seeds with a gardener who was able to successfully grow them. However, in the '50s, produce companies wanting to export struggled to get U.S. consumers interested in the fruit because of its name. So in 1959, produce company Turners and Growers officially renamed the fruit as "kiwifruit," in honor of New Zealand's national bird—which is also brown and fuzzy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Kiwi is delicious thanks to its unique, sweet-tart flavor, and its health benefits are worth being mindful of year-round. Here's a full run-down of the nutritional benefits of one serving (one fruit), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- Water: 63 grams
- Calories: 44 kcals
- Protein: 1 gram
- Total fat: 0.3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 11 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Calcium: 26 micrograms
- Iron: 0.2 micrograms
- Magnesium: 12 micrograms
- Phosphorous: 26 grams
- Potassium: 148 milligrams
- Zinc: 0.1 micrograms
- Copper: 0.1 micrograms
- Selenium: 0.2 micrograms
- Vitamin C: 56 milligrams
- Folate: 20 micrograms
- Beta-carotene: 39 micrograms
- Vitamin A: 3 micrograms
- Lutein: 92 micrograms
- Vitamin K: 30 micrograms
Below, registered dietitian Erica Ingraham, RD, explains how kiwi's nutritional profile translates to actually being beneficial for your body. Plus, get ideas on how to work the fruit into your diet more.
6 kiwi health benefits, according to a registered dietitian
1. Kiwi is hydrating
The first of the kiwi health benefits Ingraham points out is that it's hydrating. "Kiwis are about 90 percent water," she says. "This makes it a helpful fruit for people who are trying to meet their hydration needs." While kiwi is high in water, it's worth noting that it's not a replacement for H20. You still need to drink water throughout the day; the average person needs nine cups of water a day, and if you're working out you need even more. Think of kiwi as a hydration source that will score you extra points.
2. Eating kiwi could help with constipation
Another benefit of eating kiwi is that, like all fruit, it has fiber. "The fiber in kiwi means that it can help the body maintain good digestion," Ingraham says. "One study in particular linked eating kiwi to helping with constipation." If you're eating kiwi with this benefit in mind, it's best to eat the fruit in its whole form and not as a juice, as juicing can break down fiber.
3. It helps support the immune system
"Kiwi is rich in vitamin C, which means it plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system," Ingraham says. Often, people tend to think of oranges as the big immunity-boosting fruit—and while oranges do also contain vitamin C, kiwi is another great source. A good goal is to aim to get 75 milligrams of vitamin C a day and one kiwi has 56 milligrams, almost the full day's worth.
"Besides benefitting the immune system, vitamin C is important for iron absorption and also plays a role in helping wounds heal," Ingraham says.
4. Consuming kiwi is good for your eyes
One of the kiwi health benefits that really sets this fruit apart is that it's a good source of lutein, which is important for eye health. If you spend a lot of time staring a screen (um, everyone), that's even more reason to add kiwi to your diet. Research shows that consuming six to 10 mg of lutein a day can help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Kiwi is a small source that can help you hit that target.
5. Kiwi is good for your heart
Because kiwi has potassium, it means that it's a food that helps support the cardiovascular system. Scientific evidence links regular potassium consumption with a reduced risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. You want to aim to get 2,300 milligrams of potassium a day and while it would take quite a lot of kiwi to get you there (one has 148 milligrams), every little bit helps!
6. Eating kiwi can help reduce inflammation
Ingraham also points out that, like all fruit, kiwi is a good source of antioxidants. This means that eating kiwi regularly can help reduce inflammation, which can cause cognitive decline, disease, and cancer if prolonged.
Watch the video below for more tips on what to eat to prevent chronic inflammation:
In terms of any risks to be aware of, Ingraham says consuming kiwi comes with very minimal risk, although there is always the chance of being allergic if you've never had it before. "Some studies have also shown that blood clotting may slow with eating a lot of kiwi, so that is also something to be aware of," she says. As with any food, Ingraham recommends checking with your doctor before eating kiwi if you're taking any medications or have any underlying health conditions.
How to work kiwi into your diet more
Are you craving some juicy kiwi yet? The fruit can be eaten as-is, but if you're looking for a few more creative ways to get your fill, check out the ideas below. And in case you're curious, it's 100 percent okay to eat the seeds!
1. Have kiwi for breakfast by adding it to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal
This is one of the easiest ways to add more kiwi to your life. Kiwi can be a great alternative to sugar for sweetening up your morning oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie. Looking for a recipe to get you started? Try this kiwi and kale smoothie, made with almond milk and banana.
2. Blend it into homemade ice cream and enjoy it for dessert
Kiwi's natural sweetness makes it the perfect ingredient to add to ice cream. Check out this recipe to see how to make your own kiwi ice cream at home. If you don't eat dairy, check out this banana-based kiwi "nice cream" recipe, which also includes maca and cinnamon.
3. Use it to brighten up savory dishes
It's 100 percent safe to cook with kiwi and doing so can add an unexpected tartness to a dish. This recipe incorporates kiwi into a chicken soba noodle entree. Typically, any savory dishes you would consider using pineapple in, kiwi will likely work just as well—just bringing a bit more tartiness. You can also dice kiwi and incorporate it into salsas, too.
Clearly, kiwi can go way beyond the breakfast platter, and getting creative in the kitchen with the fruit will certainly do your body good. Besides, who could turn down kiwi ice cream?
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