Both peaches and nectarines are just as inviting to bite into their luscious sweet flesh without any calorie guilt.
Nectarines are a variety of peaches with smooth skin because of a genetic modification that occurred naturally. They have a nutritional profile similar to peaches but are a little sweeter and more prone to bruising.
Peaches originated in China, where they have been cultivated for about 4000 years in different climates from warm subtropical to cold and dry. Worldwide there are over 2000 varieties of peaches that can be classified, depending on how their flesh is coloured and attached to the stone, into:
- Yellow flesh
- White flesh
- Semi-free stone
The main difference between the first two types is that the yellow-flesh peaches are much juicier and acidic. The white flesh peaches are sweeter and firmer, plus they are available longer, typically until early fall.
I am a big fan of the bright yellow, almost orange flesh peaches that stimulate all the senses with their colour, fragrance, taste and juiciness. Their clingstone doesn’t bother me at all; on the contrary, I love the reddish, crunchy and tangy flesh next to the pit.
Healthy Nutrients in Peaches
→ Antioxidants – carotenoids and polyphenols.
→ Fibre – half of it is soluble, half is insoluble fibre.
→ Vitamin C – above 11% of the daily value per portion (1 cup slices = 154 g)
→ Vitamins B3, B5 and E
→ Natural sugars – 12-13 g per portion (1 cup slices = 154 g)
Although the amount of sugar in peaches is not negligible, they are low in calories and belong to the fruit group with a low glycemic index/load (GI/GL). In any situation, but particularly if concerned about your blood sugar levels, eat your peaches with the skin on.
Health Benefits of Peaches
1. Support healthy digestion since their fibre feeds the beneficial gut bacteria and provides bulk to the stools, thus helping some digestive problems such as constipation.
2. May offer some protection against cancer due to peaches’ content in antioxidants. Carotenoids can limit the growth of skin tumours that may be precursors of cancer. According to current research, the polyphenols in peaches could kill cancerous cells or prevent the growth and spreading of particular cancers. Specific polyphenols may lower the risk of breast cancer in some populations.
3. Help protect your body against ageing and age-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, inflammation, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Peaches are rich in vitamin C and polyphenols like quercetin and catechins, all having antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. For instance, vitamin C plays a role in preventing skin dryness and wrinkling, resulting in an overall firmer, better-looking skin.
When Are Peaches At Their Best?
Like with any fruit and vegetable, when in season and perfectly ripen, peaches have the highest content in phytochemicals. Ideally, we should eat them as soon as possible after being picked. Ripen peaches have slightly soft flesh and a sweet smell.
To prevent over-ripening, store them in the refrigerator, but give them time to regain their flavour by bringing them to room temperature before eating.
When picked under-ripen, peaches are firm and will continue ripening if kept in a paper bag on the counter or by a sunny window.
According to a PubMed article published under the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity section, “the degree of ripeness considerably affects the concentrations and proportions of various polyphenols.”
To preserve their nutrient content peaches should be picked and frozen at the peak of freshness.
The content of antioxidants significantly goes down when cooking the peaches. However, if you prefer to use them in baking, choose the white flesh variety since it holds its shape better.
Ways to Include Peaches in Your Diet
- Eat fresh as a quick snack.
- Flavour your refreshing summer drinks (i.e. iced tea, kombucha, water) with a few slices of peaches.
- Top your overnight oatmeal with peach chunks for added sweetness.
- Add frozen peaches to your smoothie. They pair well with pineapple or bananas.
- Make a quick, easy and healthy dessert by adding peach cubes to a bowl of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and walnuts, and enjoy!
Peaches are a good source of phytonutrients, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They taste the best and have the highest nutritional content when eaten fresh in season.
With a low glycemic index/load, having as little as 50 calories per portion, and several health benefits, peaches are a great addition to anyone’s diet.
3. Catarina Bento, Ana C. Gonçalves, Branca Silva & Luís R. Silva(2020) Peach (Prunus Persica): Phytochemicals and Health Benefits, Food Reviews International, DOI: 1080/87559129.2020.1837861
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