Fun kiwi fact: Though the kiwi is about the size of an egg, it’s a type of berry — also known as Chinese gooseberry. And this fuzzy little fruit, originally from China, is a nutritional powerhouse.
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Like most fruit, kiwi is loaded with vitamins and minerals your body needs. But kiwi has some health-boosting properties that many other fruits can’t beat. And the natural compounds in kiwi could improve your gut health, too.
Registered dietitian Gillian Culbertson, RD, explains the benefits of kiwi and why it’s a great (green) addition to your plate.
1. Helps maintain gut health
Fiber, the indigestible part of plant foods, keeps your digestion running smoothly. Kiwi is an excellent source of fiber, with 5 grams in a 1-cup serving. Much of its fiber is in the skin, so just wash and cut — don’t peel — your kiwi. (Yep, it’s OK to eat the fuzzy brown parts!)
Kiwi could have gut benefits that you won’t find in many other foods. Research has shown that eating kiwi:
- Adds bulk to your stool so it can move through your colon more easily.
- Reduces bloating and digestive discomfort.
- Softens your stool, so it’s more comfortable to pass.
- Speeds up poop’s journey through your colon.
And there’s more — kiwi helps keep your gut in balance. Kiwi is high in prebiotics, which are necessary for probiotics, or friendly bacteria and yeasts, to grow in your gut.
“The right balance of probiotics is important for many body processes, including fighting off illnesses and regulating your hormones,” says Culbertson. “And we know that a balance of good bacteria can prevent digestive problems, certain infections and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Prebiotics are important because they are a food source for these healthy bacteria.”
2. High in vitamin C
Oranges get all the glory when it comes to vitamin C. But a single kiwi will deliver more of this nutrient than two oranges. Vitamin C:
- Boosts your immune system so it can fight off illnesses.
- Fights fatigue.
- Helps your body absorb iron, which you need to make red blood cells, so oxygen can travel to your organs and tissues.
- Makes collagen in your skin, which helps wounds heal and keeps your skin looking younger.
“Vitamin C deficiency is rare in the U.S. today, but many people still don’t get the optimal amount,” notes Culbertson. “And people with malabsorption conditions (who have trouble absorbing food and nutrients) may have lower levels of this nutrient. Eating kiwi — along with other vegetables and fruits — can help you get enough vitamin C each day.”
3. Provides vitamin E
But most Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin E in their diet. This vitamin is an important nutrient for your immune system and heart health. Vitamin E helps widen blood vessels, lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke. One kiwi contains 7% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin E.
“Kiwi is one of the few fruits that contain a good amount of vitamin E,” says Culbertson. “And studies show that the vitamin E in kiwi is very bioavailable, so your body can easily use it. To get your full recommended daily amount of vitamin E, add nuts, seeds or oils like wheat germ and safflower oil to your diet, too.”
4. Antioxidant power
Because it contains vitamin C and vitamin E, kiwi is also a great source of antioxidants. These nutrients fight cell damage caused by free radicals, which come from the sun’s rays, air pollution and daily living. Getting antioxidants in your diet can clean up some of that free radical damage and boost your health.
“Eating antioxidant-rich foods like kiwi can reduce your risk of diseases, including some cancers and heart conditions,” says Culbertson. “Get your antioxidants from whole fruits and vegetables, not supplements. We don’t have proof that supplements can prevent disease like natural antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can.”
Kiwi and other fruits and veggies could also help you feel better through the winter months. The antioxidants in kiwi can boost your immune system during cold and flu season and could help lift your mood.
5. Good source of potassium
Your heart, kidneys, muscles and nerves need potassium to function properly. And many people in the U.S. aren’t getting enough of this important electrolyte. But one kiwi delivers 215 milligrams of potassium, more than double the amount in a tablespoon of peanut butter or a cup of iceberg lettuce.
Getting potassium in your diet could lower your risk of:
- Cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure and stroke.
- Kidney stones.
- Type 2 diabetes.
“Potassium helps regulate chemical reactions and fluid levels in the body,” says Culbertson. “Many people get too much sodium in their diet, which lessens potassium levels and can lead to health issues. Eating potassium-rich foods and limiting your sodium can restore this balance.”
6. Rich in vitamin K
Vitamin K flies under the radar — it’s often not listed on the nutrition facts panel. But despite its stealth status, it’s an important nutrient. “Vitamin K helps keep bones strong and lowers your risk of osteoporosis,” says Culbertson. “Vitamin K may also help you prevent coronary artery disease, a leading cause of heart attack and heart failure.”
One kiwi has 31 micrograms of vitamin K, about 25% to 30% of the adequate intake for most adults. Other good sources of vitamin K include spinach, kale, broccoli and soybean oil.
Enjoy some kiwi — and other fruits and veggies
Kiwi packs a nutritional punch, but you need to eat plenty of other fruits and veggies if you want to improve your health. “No single food can give you all the vitamins and minerals you need,” states Culbertson. “Make your plate colorful — include red, green, purple, orange and yellow foods. Variety is key when it comes to following a healthy diet.”