Eat for Health
Peaches and other Drupes
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Peaches are native to China from where they spread to the rest of the world via the ancient silk road. They belong to the genus: Prunus, family of Rosaceae. Scientific name: Prunus persica. (just for those master gardeners out there) Technically, the peach is a “drupe” having similar features of the other members of the family: Prunus including plums, nectarine, almonds, and damson.
Health benefits of Peaches and Plums
Peaches are low in calories (100 g just provide 39 calories) and contain no saturated fats. They are packed with health promoting compounds, minerals and vitamins.
The total measured anti-oxidant strength (ORAC value) of 100 g peach fruit is 1814 TE.
Fresh peaches are a moderate source of antioxidant, vitamin C. Vitamin-C has anti-oxidant effects and is required for connective tissue synthesis in the body. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents, and help scavenges harmful free radicals.
Fresh peaches are also moderate source of vitamin A and ß-carotene. ß-carotene is a pro-vitamin, which converts into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin A is known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Peaches are rich in the vital minerals potassium, fluoride, and iron. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Fluoride is a component of bones and teeth and is essential for prevention of dental caries. Fluoride in a natural form found in foods unlike what is in oral health products – does not have harmful side effects to the human body. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.
Peaches contain health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-cryptoxanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
Organic vs. Commercial
The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic — unless you relish the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail.
“The Dirty Dozen” list includes:
- domestic blueberries
- sweet bell peppers
- spinach, kale and collard greens
- imported grapes
All the produce on “The Clean 15” list bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:
- sweet corn
- sweet peas
- kiwi fruit
- sweet potatoes
- sweet onions
Why are some types of produce more prone to sucking up pesticides than others? If you are eating pineapple or sweet corn, they have a protection defense because of the outer layer of skin. Not the same for strawberries and berries.
The President’s Cancer Panel recommends washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues. Researchers however say – “You should do what you can, but the idea you are going to wash pesticides off is a fantasy. However you will reduce pesticide exposure which is better than the full exposure from unwashed foods.”
The lists of dirty and clean produce were compiled after the USDA washed the produce using high-power pressure water systems that many of us could only dream of having in our kitchens.
The full list contains 49 types of produce, rated on a scale of least to most pesticide residue. You can check out the full list at www.foodnews.org.
The food value from your local farmers market even if not listed as organic is still safer and fresher than the produce found in chain grocery stores who do not purchase from local farmers.
To Your Good Health!