August 30, 2007

Kiwi Fruits For Health

Packed with more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange, the bright green flesh of the kiwi fruit speckled with tiny black seeds adds a dramatic tropical flair to any fruit salad. California kiwi fruit is available November through May, while the New Zealand crop hits the market June through October making fresh kiwis available year round.

The kiwifruit is a small fruit approximately 3 inches long and weighing about four ounces. Its green flesh is almost creamy in consistency with an invigorating taste reminiscent of strawberries, melons and bananas, yet with its own unique sweet flavor.

Health Benefits

Kiwifruit can offer a great deal more than an exotic tropical flair in your fruit salad. These emerald delights contain numerous phytonutrients as well as well known vitamins and minerals that promote your health.


Kiwi's Phytonutrients Protect DNA

In the world of phytonutrient research, kiwifruit has fascinated researchers for its ability to protect DNA in the nucleus of human cells from oxygen-related damage. Researchers are not yet certain which compounds in kiwi give it this protective antioxidant capacity, but they are sure that this healing property is not limited to those nutrients most commonly associated with kiwifruit, including its vitamin C or beta-carotene content. Since kiwi contains a variety of flavonoids and carotenoids that have demonstrated antioxidant activity, these phytonutrients in kiwi may be responsible for this DNA protection.

The protective properties of kiwi have been demonstrated in a study with 6- and 7-year-old children in northern and central Italy. The more kiwi or citrus fruit these children consumed, the less likely they were to have respiratory-related health problems including wheezing, shortness of breath, or night coughing. These same antioxidant protective properties may have been involved in providing protection for these children.

Premier Antioxidant Protection

Kiwifruit emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin C. This nutrient is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, neutralizing free radicals that can cause damage to cells and lead to problems such as inflammation and cancer. In fact, adequate intake of vitamin C has been shown to be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma, and for preventing conditions such as colon cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetic heart disease. And since vitamin C is necessary for the healthy function of the immune system, it may be useful for preventing recurrent ear infections in people who suffer from them. Owing to the multitude of vitamin C's health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Kiwifruit is also a good source of the important fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E. This combination of both fat- and water-soluble antioxidants makes kiwi able to provide free radical protection on all fronts.

Fiber for Blood Sugar Control Plus Cardiovascular and Colon Health

Our food ranking system also qualified kiwifruit as a very good source of dietary fiber. The fiber in kiwifruit has also been shown to be useful for a number of conditions. Researchers have found that diets that contain plenty of fiber can reduce high cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Fiber is also good for binding and removing toxins from the colon, which is helpful for preventing colon cancer. In addition, fiber-rich foods, like kiwifruit, are good for keeping the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients under control.

Kiwifruit also passed our food ranking test as a good source of the minerals potassium, magnesium, copper and phosphorous.

Protection against Asthma

Eating vitamin C-rich fruit such as kiwi may confer a significant protective effect against respiratory symptoms associated with asthma such as wheezing.

A study published in Thorax that followed over 18,000 children aged 6-7 years living in Central and Northern Italy found that those eating the most citrus and kiwifruit (5-7 servings per week) had 44% less incidence of wheezing compared to children eating the least (less than once a week). Shortness of breath was reduced by 32%, severe wheeze by 41%, night time cough by 27%, chronic cough by 25%, and runny nose by 28%.

Children who had asthma when the study began appeared to benefit the most, and protective effects were evident even among children who ate fruit only once or twice a week.

Protection against Macular Degeneration

Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Opthamology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

In this study, which involved over 110,000 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men. While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARM, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but kiwifruit can help you reach this goal. Slice kiwi over your morning cereal, lunch time yogurt or green salads. For a more elegant meal, decorate any fish dish or fruit salad with kiwi slices.

A Delicious Way to Enjoy Cardiovascular Health

Enjoying just a couple of kiwifruit each day may significantly lower your risk for blood clots and reduce the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood, therefore helping to protect cardiovascular health.

Unlike aspirin, which also helps to reduce blood clotting but has side effects such as inflammation and bleeding in the intestinal tract, the effects of regular kiwi consumption are all beneficial. Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, and polyphenols, and a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and copper, all of which may function individually or in concert to protect the blood vessels and heart.

In one study, human volunteers who ate 2 to 3 kiwifruit per day for 28 days reduced their platelet aggregation response (potential for blood clot formation) by 18% compared to controls eating no kiwi. In addition, kiwi eaters' triglycerides (blood fats) dropped by 15% compared to controls.

Description

The kiwifruit is a little fruit holding great surprises. The most common species of kiwifruit is Actinidia deliciosa, commonly known as Hayward kiwi. Inside of this small, oval-shaped fruit featuring brown fuzzy skin resides a brilliant, semi-translucent emerald green flesh speckled with a few concentrically arranged white veins and small black seeds. Its flesh is almost creamy in consistency with an invigorating taste reminiscent of a mixture of strawberries and bananas, yet with its own unique sweet flavor.

With the growing interest in kiwifruit, other species are now becoming more widely available. These include the hardy kiwi and the silvervine kiwi, two smooth-skinned varieties that are the size of cherries and whose flesh has a golden yellow-green hue.

History

The kiwifruit is a fruit with a very interesting history and whose recent rise in popularity reflects a combination of an appreciation for its taste, nutritional value, unique appearance and, surprisingly, its changing name.

Native to China, kiwifruits were originally known as Yang Tao. They were brought to New Zealand from China by missionaries in the early 20th century with the first commercial plantings occurring several decades later. In 1960, they were renamed Chinese Gooseberries.

In 1961, Chinese Gooseberries made their first appearance at a restaurant in the United States and were subsequently "discovered" by an American produce distributor who felt that the U.S. market would be very receptive to this uniquely exotic fruit. She initiated the import of these fruits into the United States in 1962, but to meet what was felt to be burgeoning demand, changed its name from Chinese Gooseberry to kiwifruit, in honor of the native bird of New Zealand, the kiwi, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of this unique fruit. Currently, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of kiwifruit.

How to Select and Store

When selecting kiwifruits, hold them between your thumb and forefinger and gently apply pressure; those that have the sweetest taste will yield gently to pressure. Avoid those that are very soft, shriveled or have bruised or damp spots. As size is not related to the fruit's quality, choose a kiwifruit based upon your personal preference or recipe need. Kiwifruits are usually available throughout most of the year.

If kiwifruits do not yield when you gently apply pressure with your thumb and forefinger, they are not yet ready to be consumed since they will not have reached the peak of their sweetness. Kiwifruits can be left to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature, away from exposure to sunlight or heat. Placing the fruits in a paper bag with an apple, banana or pear will help to speed their ripening process. Ripe kiwifruits can be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Tips for Preparing Kiwifruit:

Kiwifruits are so delicious that they can be eaten as is. They can be peeled with a paring knife and then sliced or you can cut them in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. You can also enjoy the skins which are very thin like a Bosc pear and are full of nutrients and fiber; the peachlike fuzz can be rubbed off before eating. Kiwifruits should not be eaten too long after cutting since they contain enzymes (actinic and bromic acids) that act as a food tenderizer, with the ability to further tenderize the kiwifruit itself and make it overly soft. Consequently, if you are adding kiwifruit to fruit salad, you should do so at the last minute so as to prevent the other fruits from becoming too soggy.

While sliced kiwi fruit may soften other fruits when combined in fruit salad, a study published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that minimal processing of kiwi and other fruits-cutting, packaging and chilling-does not significantly affect their nutritional content even after 6, and up to 9, days.

Researchers cut up kiwi fruit, pineapples, mangoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, and strawberries. The freshly cut fruits were then rinsed in water, dried, packaged in clamshells (not gastight) and stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 6 days, losses in vitamin C were less than 5% in mango, strawberry, and watermelon pieces, 10% in pineapple pieces, 12% in kiwifruit slices, and 25% in cantaloupe cubes.

No losses in carotenoids were found in kiwifruit slices and watermelon cubes. Pineapples lost 25%, followed by 10-15% in cantaloupe, mango, and strawberry pieces.

No significant losses in phenolic phytonutrients were found in any of the fresh-cut fruit products.

"Contrary to expectations, it was clear that minimal processing had almost no effect on the main antioxidant constituents. The changes in nutrient antioxidants observed during nine days at five degrees Celsius would not significantly affect the nutrient quality of fresh cut fruit. In general, fresh-cut fruits visually spoil before any significant nutrient loss occurs," wrote lead researcher Maria Gil. In practical terms, this means that you can prepare a large bowl of fruit salad on the weekend, store it in the refrigerator, and enjoy it all week, receiving almost all the nutritional benefits of just prepared fruit salad. To ensure kiwi fruit does not "tenderize" the other fruits in your salad, store sliced kiwi in a separate air-tight container and add to the rest of the fruit salad just before serving.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Kiwifruit are so delicious, they can be eaten as is. One of our favorite ways to do so is to peel with a paring knife and slice.

Add kiwifruit to tossed green salads.

Serve sliced kiwifruit and strawberries, fruits whose flavors are naturally complementary, topped with yogurt.

Mix sliced kiwifruit, orange and pineapple together to make chutney that can be served as an accompaniment to chicken or fish.

Blend kiwifruit and cantaloupe in a food processor to make a chilled soup. For a creamier consistency, blend yogurt in with the fruit mixture.

Kiwifruit have a wonderful flavor and appearance for use in fruit tarts.

Safety

Kiwifruit and Oxalates

Kiwifruit are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating kiwifruit. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits-including absorption of calcium-from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"

Kiwifruit and Latex Allergy

Like avocados and bananas, kiwifruit contain substances called compounds that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. There is strong evidence of the cross-reaction between latex and these foods. If you have a latex allergy, you may very likely be allergic to these foods as well. Processing the fruit with ethylene gas increases these enzymes; organic produce not treated with gas will have fewer allergy-causing compounds. In addition, cooking the food deactivates the enzymes. (whfoods.org)

August 22, 2007

Durian, King of the Fruits

By Rick Kump

The taste from heaven, the smell from hell, it's the durian! One of the highest respected fruits throughout Southeast Asia, the durian has earned the nickname "King of the Fruits." King or not, it's one of the most interesting fruits I've ever come across. To those who are used to apples and bananas, the "durian experience" is anything but ordinary.

For most Americans, the durian looks more like a weapon than a fruit. Durian means "thorny" in Thai, and it is well named. The durian fruit is covered in spikes, and a single fruit can be as heavy as a bowling ball. The fruits fall from the tree when ripe, and they have been known to kill people who are standing beneath them.

I had heard quite a bit about the durian before I actually got my hands on one, but none of it had prepared me for such a shock upon opening my first one. Almost immediately after sticking my knife into the tough skin, I was overwhelmed by an intense smell, something reminiscent of diesel fuel! I actually had to step away and catch my breath before digging back in. Halfway through the durian, my mom came through the door in a panic - she thought there was a gas leak! The smell of durian is so memorable, in fact, that I swore I could smell it as I was writing this article.

Inside the fruit, which ranges in color from green to brown, there are five sections of yellowish to white blobs, filled with big brown seeds. The appearance of this is a bit unappealing to the durian novice. It looks a bit like raw chicken; however, it is anything but animal! The durian is like no other fruit in more ways than one. All durians have a custard-like consistency and can taste sweet or even nutty. My first reaction to the taste was one of surprise more than pleasure. It tasted like sweet, garlic pudding!

The durian's health qualities also have a good reputation throughout Asia. The durian is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins. The durian is also said to have heating qualities, which keep its eaters warm at night. This may due to the amounts of sulfur, said to be a beautifying mineral, which can also give the durian its slightly garlic taste. Some Asian sellers claim that durian has sexual benefits as well. Whether this is a fact, a superstition, or a mere marketing scheme, I'm not so sure. I guess the eater will have to test it themselves!

After a while, the durian's smell will not even phase its eater, and it does not take long to get used to the taste. By the time I had consumed my first durian (all in one night), I was craving more. I always recommend the durian to people wanting to try something new. It never hurts to surprise your relatives by bringing a durian to Thanksgiving dinner, either!

I look forward to visiting Thailand and Malaysia one day to try all of the different varieties, but until then, durians can be found in Asian markets and grocery stores all over North America. They can sometimes be a bit costly, but the experience is well worth it!

Now I'm not much for monarchies, but I have to admit...the durian would make quite a "King of the Fruits!"

(vegetarianbaby.com)

August 16, 2007

Star Fruit: Great Taste, Looks To Kill And A Cinch To Prepare, This Fruit Really Is A Star

Looking for something sweet, juicy and different in the fruit department? Star fruit or carambola as it's also known is just the ticket. This tropical treat has been cultivated for hundreds of years throughout Southeast Asia. Now flourishing in the warm climates of Florida and Hawaii, it's enjoying a growing audience in even the United States' not-so-balmy locales.

The golden yellow fruit gets its name from the perfect five-pointed star shape that appears when it's cut crosswise. The edible skin is shiny, thin and waxy to the touch. Choose one that is firm, golden yellow and emits a fragrant aroma.

There are two main types of star fruit: sweet (think orange meets pineapple) and tart (think lemon). Tart varieties have thinner ribs and may be a paler shade of yellow. (The two can be hard to tell apart, so ask your grocer just to be sure,) You may also find some less common white varieties that are sweet.

Even though this fruit is exotic, that doesn't mean it's complicated lust wash, cut and eat. And when it comes to cooking, star fruit is surprisingly versatile. Slice and saute it as an easy side dish, or add star fruit to a standard stir-fry. While tart varieties work best for cooking, the sweeter ones are great mixed into fruit salads or used in preserves or desserts. Finally, the fruit's unique shape makes it a ready-made garnish. So put down the pastry bag, and throw a slice or two of star fruit on top of that cake. This star of the produce department is a wish come true.

Nutrition Facts:
  • Serving: 1 cup, cubed (137g)
  • Calories: 45
  • Fat Calories: less than 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 11g
  • Fiber: 3.4g
  •  AKA: Carambola, Chinese star fruit and five-angled fruit
  • Availability: Late fall to early winter
  • Bonus: Vitamin C (29mg and 40% RDA)
  • What You Won't Miss: Sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat
Storage: Place any green-tinged fruit in a paper bag at room temperature until ripened; once golden, star fruit will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

August 13, 2007

Guava And Health

Guavas are one of the most nutritious fruits compared to various types of fruits. It is higher in Vitamin C than citrus fruits (the edible rind contains a lot of it) and it contains appreciable amounts of Vitamin A as well. They are also a good source of iron and pectin, an enzyme used in making jams as well as promoting digestion.

Savor the guava, especially in terms of mineral content of Guava fruit has vitamin A and B. It has five times the vitamin C content compared to orange fruit. Besides this fruit also contains calcium, nicotinic ASID, forforus, potassium, iron, folic ASID and fiber (fiber having a solid content and the best source of fiber for the fruit category). Guava is also rich in stone fruit carbohydrates, niacin, protein and calories for the body.

Guava fruit so great for those of you who experience menstrual irregularities in the long run, for your high blood pressure and improve blood drainage in the body. It is also great for those of you who have health problems with the lungs - the lungs, asthma, skurvi (by taking vitamin C), acidosis (excessive blood acid levels), catarrh (due to catarrh, mucous membranes) and obesity.

The leaves and bark of the guava tree have a long history of use for medicinal purposes which are still employed today. Tea made from the leaves and/or bark have been used by many tribes to treat diarrhoea and dysentery and some tribes employ it for stomach upsets, vertigo and to regulate menstrual periods. In traditional medicine today, guava is still employed as a natural medicine.

August 6, 2007

Pineapples: Nature's Healing Fruit

Want to give your body a boost in health and healing? Then you may want to add some fresh pineapple and pineapple juice to your diet. Pineapples are nutritionally packed members of the bromeliad family. This delightful tropical fruit is high in the enzyme bromelain and the antioxidant vitamin C, both of which plays a major role in the body's healing process. Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory that has many health benefits and encourages healing. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, bromelain is very effective in treating bruises, sprains and strains by reducing swelling, tenderness and pain. This powerful anti-inflammatory effect can also help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduce postoperative swelling. Additionally, the bromelain contained in fresh pineapple can relieve indigestion. This enzyme helps break down the amino acid bonds in proteins, which promotes good digestion.


Pineapples provide an ample supply of vitamin C too, a commonly known antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage and boosts the immune system. Vitamin C helps build and repair bodily tissue and promotes wound healing. The body uses vitamin C to help metabolize fats and cholesterol, absorb iron, and synthesize amino acids and collagen. Collagen is one of the primary building blocks of skin, cartilage and bones. Vitamin C also decreases the severity of colds and infections.

Furthermore, due to its high vitamin C content, pineapples are good for your oral health as well. A study conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that vitamin C can reduce your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Besides increasing the ability of connective tissue to repair itself, vitamin C also increases the body's ability to fight invading bacteria and other toxins that contribute to gum disease. Periodontal disease, which destroys gum tissue and underlying jaw bones, has been linked to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.



So if you want a natural way to enhance your body's healing mechanisms, promote overall good health and tantalize your taste buds, pineapples are the way to go. Choose the fresh fruit because it has the most healing properties. Unfortunately, most of the bromelain in canned pineapple is destroyed due to the heat used in the canning process.

When choosing a fresh pineapple, do not judge ripeness solely based upon color. There are several varieties on the market that range from green to golden yellow. The most important factor in determining ripeness is smell, let your nose help you decide. Ripe pineapples give off a sweet, fresh tropical smell. Avoid pineapples that give off an unpleasant odor or have any soft spots or areas of dark discoloration. Once home, let the pineapple sit on your counter at room temperature until ready to use. This will preserve its sweet and tangy flavor.

To prepare pineapple, you need to peel it, remove the eyes (the thorny protrusions within the puffy squares of the skin) and the fibrous center. First, cut off the top and bottom of the pineapple with a sharp knife. Place the pineapple upright on a cutting board and carefully slice off the outer skin. With a sharp paring knife or the end if a vegetable peeler, remove the eyes. Don't cut too deep, just enough to lift out the section that contains the eye. Then, remove the fibrous core. One way to do this is to cut the pineapple lengthwise into 4 wedges (quarter it) and cut around the fibrous center core. Another popular way is to slice the pineapple crosswise and remove the cores individually with a cookie cutter. Once the fruit is prepared, it can be diced and eaten fresh, added to salads and entrees for an exotic flavor, or made into tasty tropical drinks.




Here is a delicious, nutritious, cholesterol-free smoothie recipe high in bromelain, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), iron, fiber and isoflavones.
Tropical Fruit Smoothie
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1 frozen banana
1 cup fresh pineapple
3/4 cup soymilk
1 tablespoon honey or sugar (optional)
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Blend all of the above ingredients in a food processor or blender for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
Makes about 2-3/4 cups (2 servings)

(all-creatures.org/Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc.)