It wouldn’t be summer without peaches! These stone fruits are sweet, juicy, and delicious. You can bite into a fresh peach, bake into peach pie, or pair it with homemade cream. There is nothing better than peaches and cream—and everything in between!
The peach (Prunus persica) is native to China. The specific name persica comes from Persia (modern-day Iran), where peaches were widely cultivated. From there, peaches were transplanted to Europe, and eventually to the United States in the early 17th century. Today, they are cultivated namely in California, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey. Although California produces the most peaches, the peach is Georgia’s state fruit, which is why it’s sweetly dubbed the Georgia peach.
Peaches belong to the rose family, which includes apricots, plums, cherries, and almonds. Together with almonds, peaches distinguish themselves from the other fruits of the genus because of their wrinkly skin.
Besides their heavenly taste, peaches are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants such as carotenoids. Peaches are rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Peach vitamins also include vitamin E, vitamin K, B vitamins, and folate. Peaches contain minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, and zinc. Low in calories and a good source of fiber, peaches are a sweet alternative to packaged desserts that are loaded with sugar and fat.
Peach Health Benefits
This low-calorie sweet snack (peach calories are just 59 in a medium-sized variety!) is the perfect indulgence for dieters. In addition to their refreshing and sweet taste, peaches can offer several health benefits thanks to the great variety of nutrients they contain.
Boosts Immunity and Lowers Inflammation
Peaches contain powerful antioxidants that can fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress. A study found that squeezed peach juice can start to reduce oxidative stress in just 30 minutes after intake.
Peach benefits also depend on the parts of it that you eat. A study conducted in China found that the presence of antioxidants is higher on the skin. So, put those peach peelers away!
Peach nutrition includes vitamin C and zinc, which contribute to boosting the immune system. Research shows that vitamin C and zinc reduce symptoms of respiratory infections and shorten the duration of the common cold. These nutrients may also decrease the incidence of health conditions such as pneumonia and malaria in developing countries.
Peaches may also help to reduce inflammation. A team of researchers found that the phenolic compounds in the peach may inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines to help keep inflammation in check.
May Inhibit Cancer Growth
Peaches are among the best cancer-fighting foods. A study conducted on breast cancer cells in vivo found that the polyphenols in peaches inhibited the growth of some cancerous cells. Polyphenols can kill cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. Researchers recommend that breast cancer patients eat at least 2 peaches a day to get the benefits.
Another study found that caffeic acid, an antioxidant found in peaches, can inhibit the growth of a type of tumor in fibrous connective tissue. And a team of researchers in Japan discovered that some compounds in peach seeds may reduce the growth of tumors on the skin and slow the process that transforms benign tumors into cancer.
May Prevent Heart Disease
Peaches, like many other fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis found that the intake of fruit and vegetables may be inversely associated with the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome refers to conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, such as obesity and diabetes.
Another team of researchers investigated the relationship between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and lipid profiles in Chinese adults. Scientists found that women who consumed these dietary flavonoids benefitted from a significantly improved lipid profile and potentially decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Additional studies conducted on rats showed that replacing drinks high in sugar content with fruit juice rich in polyphenols may protect against heart disease.
Promotes Digestive Health
Peach flowers, from the same peach tree as the juicy fruit, have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat digestive issues connected to motility. Motility refers to the contraction of the muscles within the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of motility disorders include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diarrhea, and constipation. Studies conducted in China found that peach flower extract can increase the frequency and strength of muscle contraction. Peaches can also promote digestive health thanks to their alkaline content and fiber. Fiber helps to prevent motility disorders and eliminate toxic waste from the intestines.
Supports the Nervous System
The magnesium found in peaches helps support the nervous system. A deficiency of magnesium can increase the activity of nerve signals, leading to stress and anxiety. A study revealed that the intake of foods rich in magnesium may help to treat central nervous system hyperexcitability in children.
Another study showed that magnesium may be effective in the treatment of depression caused by intraneuronal magnesium deficits. Case histories showed rapid recovery (fewer than 7 days) using 125-300 milligrams of magnesium taken with each meal and at bedtime.
Protect Eyes and Skin
Peaches contain carotenoids, which lower the risk of eye diseases. The most studied carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids have antioxidant properties, and they help prevent macular degeneration, an age-related cause of vision loss. Lutein and zeaxanthin may protect the eyes by absorbing damaging blue light that enters the eye. Additional studies found that lutein and zeaxanthin may also protect the skin against light-induced damage, especially from ultraviolet wavelengths.
Other Health Benefits
Peaches are also an excellent fruit to eat during pregnancy because they contain essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C promotes healthy growth of bones, teeth, skin, and muscles. The folate in peaches may inhibit the development of neural tube defects. Potassium in peaches may also help to reduce muscle cramps and fatigue, two common issues during pregnancy.
Research also shows that peaches help to reduce the symptoms caused by candida, the most common yeast infection. This fruit is able to fight candida fungus thanks to its combination of polyphenols, flavonoids, and condensed tannins.
Peaches contain zinc, which is crucial during the aging process because zinc deficiency is common in the elderly and has adverse consequences similar to those of low-grade inflammation. For this reason, researchers recommend that the elderly consume foods that contain zinc.
What’s the Difference Between Peaches and Nectarines?
Nectarines are actually a type of peach, but rather than sporting a fuzzy coat, nectarine flesh is smooth and thinner. It’s really just a matter of one recessive gene.
Both peaches and nectarines can be freestone, with a pit that is easily removed from the flesh, or clingstone, with a pit that likes to stick with the flesh. And nectarine and peach varieties come in yellow flesh and white flesh.
How to Use Peaches
Organic ripe peaches are perfect for summer fruit for breakfast, but they can be used in so many other appetizing ways. You can make refreshing juices or smoothies, like our Tropical Peach Mint Smoothie. And what about a mango-peach sangria to entertain your family and friends? You can also grill peaches and add them to a salad, or serve sweet peaches for dessert with ice cream. If you are looking for more creative peach recipes, try your hand at a peach tart, or make a peach chutney and pair it with cheese and crackers.
Oh, don’t worry, we didn’t forget about your favorite peach dessert—peach cobbler. We’re recommending this Healthy Peach Cobbler Recipe from Wellness Mama. Peach out!