The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree native to the region of Northwest China between the Tarim Basin and the north slopes of the Kunlun mountains, where it was first domesticated and cultivated.
It bears edible juicy fruits with various characteristics, most called peaches and others (the glossy-skinned varieties), nectarines.
The specific name Persica refers to its widespread cultivation in Persia (modern-day Iran), from where it was transplanted to Europe. It belongs to the genus Prunus,which includes the cherry, apricot, almond and plum, in the rose family.
The peach is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. Due to their close relatedness, the inside of a peach stone tastes remarkably similar to almond, and peach stones are often used to make a cheap version of marzipan known as persipan.
They can be eaten on their own or added to a variety of dishes. What’s more, peaches are nutritious and may offer an array of health benefits, including improved digestion, smoother skin, allergy relief.
HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF PEACHES
■ PACKED WITH NUTRIENTS AND ANTIOXIDANTS
Peaches are rich in many vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds.
One medium-sized peach (5.4 ounces or 150 grams) provides approximately:
● Calories: 58
● Proteins: 1 gram
● Fat: less than 1 gram
● Fiber: 2 grams
● Vitamin C: 17% of the Daily Value (DV)
●Vitamin A: 10% of the DV
● Potassium: 8% of the DV
● Niacin: 6% of the DV
● Vitamin E: 5% of the DV
● Vitamin K: 5% of the DV
● Copper: 5% of the DV
● Manganese: 5% of the DV
Peaches also offer smaller amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and some B vitamins.
In addition, they’re packed with antioxidants – beneficial plant compounds that combat oxidative damage and help protect your body against and disease. The fresher and riper the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains.
In one study, juice from fresh peaches demonstrated antioxidant actions in healthy men within 30 minutes of consumption.
Fresh and canned peaches seem to have similar amounts of vitamins and minerals – as long as canned varieties are unpeeled.
However, fresh peaches have higher levels of antioxidants and appear to be more effective at protecting against oxidative damage than canned ones.
Peaches are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also also contain beneficial plant compounds like antioxidants, which can help protect your body from aging and disease.
■ MAY AID DIGESTION
Peaches may contribute to healthy digestion.
One medium-sized fruit provides about 2 grams of fiber – half of which is soluble fiber, while the other half is insoluble.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and helps move food through your gut, reducing the likelihood of constipation.
On the other hand, soluble fiber provides food for beneficial bacteria in your intestines. In turn, these bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids – such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate – which feed the cells of your gut.
Short-chain fatty acids in your gut may also reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis.
Peach flowers are another part of the fruit that may benefit digestion. They’re commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat disorders.
Animal research shows that compounds found in the flowers may effectively increase the strength and frequency of gut contractions, which helps maintain the proper rhythm to push food along smoothly.
While studies often use peach flowers extract, an herbal tea made from the flowers is commonly consumed in Korea.
Peaches contain fiber, which contributes to smooth digestion and a lower risk of gut disorders. Peach flowers also provide certain compounds that appear to support a healthy gut.
■ MAY IMPROVE HEART HEALTH
Regularly eating fruit – including peaches – may promote heart health.
Peaches may lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
What’s more, test-tubes studies show that peaches may bind to bile acids – compounds produced by your liver from cholesterol.
The bound bile acids – together with the cholesterol they contain – are eventually excreted through your faces, which may help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Additional test-tube and animal studies found that peaches may reduce total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure and triglycerides levels.
Research in obese rats further reported that peach juice may lower levels of the hormone angiotensin all that raises blood pressure.
Peaches contain compounds that may help reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, as well as triglycerides and cholesterol levels. However, more studies in humans are needed.
■ MAY PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Peaches may have protective effects that help keep your skin healthy.
Test-tube studies indicate that compounds found in peaches may improve your skin’s ability to retain moisture – thus improving skin texture.
What’s more, both test-tube and animal studies show that extracts made from peach flowers or flesh applied directly to the skin may help prevent UV damage.
Peach flowers extract were also found to delay the development of skin tumors in mice.
Compounds in peaches and peach flowers may help keep your skin healthy by maintaining moisture and protecting against sun damage.
■ MAY PREVENT CERTAIN TYPES OF CANCER
Like most fruits, peaches provides beneficial plant compounds that may offer some protection against various cancers.
Specifically, peach skin and flesh are rich in carotenoids and caffeic acid – two types of antioxidants found to have anticancer properties.
Test-tube and animal research has also shown that compounds in peach seeds may limit the growth of non-cancerous skin tumors and prevent them from turning into cancerous ones.
Not to mention, peaches are full of polyphenols – a category of antioxidants shown to reduce the growth and limit the spreading of cancer cells in test-tube studies.
Peach polyphenols may have the ability to kill cancerous cells as well, without causing any damage to healthy ones.
In one animal study, these polyphenols were particularly effective at preventing specific types of breast cancer from growing and spreading.
Researchers reported that a person would need to eat about two to three peaches a day to consume an amount of polyphenols equivalent to that used in the study.
In another study, postmenopausal women who consumed at least 2 peaches or nectarines each day had a 41% lower risk of breast cancer over 24 years.
Compounds found in peaches may offer some protection against cancer by limiting the formation, growth, and spread of cancerous cells. However, more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
■ MAY REDUCE ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
Peaches may reduce allergy symptoms.
When your body is exposed to an allergen, it releases histamine, or chemical made by your immune system to help rid your body of the allergen.
Histamine are part of your body’s defense system and trigger allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, or coughing.
Research shows that peaches may help reduce allergy symptoms by preventing the release of histamines in the body.
Moreover, test-tube studies report that peach extracts may be effective as well and limit the inflammation commonly seen in allergic reactions.
Peaches may help lower your immune system’s response to allergens, thus reducing allergy symptoms. However, more studies – particularly in humans – are needed.
OTHER POTENTIAL BENEFITS
Peaches may offer several other health benefits. The most well-researched include:
● May boost immunity: Peaches are rich in immune-boosting nutrients and antioxidants. Test-tube studies report that they may also fight certain types of bacteria.
● May protect against certain toxins: In one study, peach extracts given to smokers increased the removal of nicotine through the urine.
● May reduce blood sugar levels: Studies show that compounds found in peaches may help prevent high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in obese rats
That said, these studies were small, and most of these benefits have not been observed in humans.
Peaches may boost immunity, rid the body of toxins, and reduce blood sugar levels. However, research in these areas is limited
Peaches are widely available and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Enjoy them on their own or easily incorporate them into main dishes, sides, smoothies, or desserts.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Peaches are rich in many vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds.
They’re easily incorporated into a variety of dishes and may offer impressive health benefits, including healthier skin, fewer allergy symptoms, and improved digestion and heart health.
Peaches also appear to be linked to a lower risk of certain cancers and may boost immunity, protect against toxins, and lower blood sugar levels.
All in all, it’s a fruit well worth adding to your diet.