Botanical name: Prunus persica
Not many fruits outshine peaches in luscious delectability. Historically rooted in China, the cultivation of peaches spread to the rest of the world fairly early in world history.
Because they contain a single, inedible pit at the center, peaches are considered a "drupe," and share characteristics of other fruits in its class, such as plums, nectarines, and – believe it or not – almonds.
The difference between peaches and nectarines is that peaches have fuzzy skin while the others do not. Either way, the skin is edible and delicious. Nectarines, which are slightly more susceptible to disease, are actually a variety of peach, nota cross between peaches and plums.
Peach trees are relatively small, at 25 feet or so. What makes it one of two varieties - "freestone" or "cling" – depends on whether the seed is firmly "stuck" to the flesh or can be easily removed.
It's possible, depending on where you live, to plant a peach or nectarine and get a tree in about three years, but probably producing fruit slightly different than the one planted. With more than 175 different varieties, California produces more than 50 percent of the peaches in the U.S. – about a quarter of the world's supply.
Health Benefits of Peaches
Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, peaches contain an impressive assortment of vitamins and minerals to make it a truly nutritious food. Other than the 17 percent daily recommended value in vitamin C per serving, all the other nutritive contents are low, but wait until you see how many there are and what they can do.
Like other vitamins, vitamin C does much more than fight infection, although that's a feat in itself. It's also an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals looking for a place to do damage in the cells and body, and is required for connective tissue synthesis. Its oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value is 1814 on the scale. But it's important to know that a can of store-bought peaches in heavy syrup gets an ORAC score of 436 – an indication that for all the antioxidants fresh peaches may have, they're practically obliterated in the canning/sugar-dousing process.
Vitamin A is another nutrient in peaches, offering B-carotenes that convert to retinol, essential for sharp eyesight. It also protects against lung and mouth cancers, and helps maintain healthy mucus membranes and elasticity in the skin due to its polyunsaturated fatty acid content. The darker the peach’s flesh, the more vitamin A it contains.
Minerals also are in abundance in peaches, such as.potassium, an enzyme component used to digest foods, help regulate the heart rate, and lower blood pressure. Potassium works with sodium to maintain the body's water balance.
The iron in peaches is required for red blood cell formation and to carry oxygen from our lungs and throughout our bodies. Another health benefit of peaches is the flavonoids, such as lycopene and lutein, which work together to help prevent macular degeneration, cancer, and heart disease. Zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin are two more flavonoids, all further protecting against free radicals that prematurely age the body and cause disease.
Other attributes of peaches definitely worth mentioning are vitamin E, vitamin K, niacin, and copper, and to a lesser but significant degree, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and phosphorus.
However, consume peaches in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Peaches are one food you want to try to buy organic. For more information, see: 5 Ways to Reduce Children's Pesticide Exposure
Peaches Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: One medium peach (about 150 grams)
Amt. Per Serving
Studies on Peaches
A study was conducted to evaluate the cancer-inhibiting ability of peach extracts (the Rich Lady variety, as well as plum extracts) and to identify the natural chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic compounds they contain. Scientists found that phenolic acids, procyanidins, anthocyanins and the flavonoid quercetin in peach extracts effectively inhibit (to varying degrees) the proliferation of certain breast cancer cell lines.1
Bioactive compounds in peaches, plums, and nectarines were found to have the ability to inhibit obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to other research. Studies showed that the anthocyanins, clorogenic acids, quercetin derivatives, and catechins from these fruits – working in combination with and by themselves – also have the ability to reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol, obesity, and the inflammation that comes from metabolic syndrome.2
Peach Healthy Recipes: Tomato Peach Salad with Basil
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, plus small leaves, for garnish
- 2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ripe but firm yellow peaches, cut into wedges
- 4 tomatoes, preferably a mix of large heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the basil to the boiling water and cook until just wilted and bright green( about 15 seconds). Transfer with a slotted spoon to a blender and puree until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
- Spread the basil puree on a serving platter. Arrange the peaches and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with the lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Garnish with whole basil leaves and serve.
This recipe makes six to eight servings.
Peaches Fun Facts
Peaches have been on a long journey through the ages. Native to China, they've been grown there since 1,000 B.C.E. Through the ancient Persian silk route, trees were carried for cultivation in Europe. The Romans called them “Persian apples” after the country that introduced them.
Spaniards introduced peaches to South America, and the French brought them to Louisiana. Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and third voyages, followed by colonists who took them from England to grow in their new American home.
Packed with flavor as well as nutritional value, peaches are one of the best-loved of all fruits. They're versatile, delicious, and among a handful of plant-based foods that travel tolerably well, making them a great lunchbox treat. Beyond the flavor and juicy goodness, peaches contain vitamins and minerals that keep the body in optimum health: vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, B-carotenes, and the flavonoids lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin.
With several other nutrients, peaches provide many health benefits, such as free radical scavenging, improved eyesight, protection against infection, lowered blood pressure, a healthy heart rate, and even lowered incidences of cancer and heart disease. So eat a peach – it’s good for you!