Why You Should Be Eating More Kiwis, Skin and All

For a tiny fruit, kiwis pack a ton of heart-helping, immune-boosting nutrients into a fuzzy skin-covered package. Here, the many kiwi health benefits, nutrition facts, and more. 

If kiwi had a motto, it would be "tiny, but mighty" because this small fruit backs a pack a big nutritious punch. "Kiwi has some amazing health benefits, but more than that, it's a great way to add diversity and variety to our diet," says Tamar Samuels, R.D., C.D.N., certified health and wellness coach and co-founder of Culina Health. "Most Americans consume the same typical fruits (apples, oranges, berries, bananas), and adding kiwi into the mix gives us the opportunity to experience different flavors, textures, and nutrients."

Ahead, the kiwi nutrition facts you need to know (hint: these guys have a ton of vitamin C), plus the many kiwi health benefits that prove this pocket-sized produce is worth the slightly extra effort required for peeling and cutting (more on that below, too).

What Is Kiwifruit?

Originally from China, this furry fruit made its way over to New Zealand in the early 20th century when a woman named Mary Isabel Fraser returned to her home island with Chinese gooseberry seeds, according to New Zealand's official history website. Fraser shared her souvenirs with a local farmer and, violá, the country took its first step toward ultimately becoming the third-largest kiwi producer in the world, ranking just behind Italy (#2) and China (#1) today. There are two key lessons here: 1) the Chinese gooseberry and kiwi are the same and 2) women 👏🏻 fricken' 👏🏻rock 👏🏻. Anyway, some 50 years post-Fraser's fateful trip to Asia, a New Zealand exporter rebranded the Chinese gooseberry as "kiwifruit" after the national bird of the same name, whose brown fur mimics the fuzzy exterior of the fruit.

Upon hearing the word "kiwifruit" you probably picture a small, ovular fruit with a bright green interior that you can easily snag at any local market. While most people are familiar with this type of kiwi (grown from the Actinidia deliciosa vine), many would be surprised to learn that there is also a yellow-fleshed option out there. Known as golden or gold kiwifruit, this sunny-hued fruit hails from the Actinidia chinensis vine and has a furless golden-brown peel on the outside and smaller clusters of seeds on the inside. "Gold kiwis have a yellow flesh that's sweeter than green kiwis and tastes like a cross between a mango and a strawberry," says Marisa Moore, M.B.A., RDN., an Atlanta-based culinary and integrative dietitian and nutrition partner of Zespri, one of the world's largest marketers of kiwifruit.

"The trouble with kiwi is that it's not local to most climates in the U.S., so we do have to factor in the carbon footprint and potential nutrient losses associated with having our food travel internationally," says Samuels. "Although, you may be able to find kiwis grown domestically in some of the warmer states in the country."

Kiwis need a frost-free season of about 225-240 days because the vines begin to leaf in March, bloom in May, and are harvested between October and November, according to the University of California Davis' Small Farm Program. The vines are susceptible to cold and need frequent and consistent rainfall or irrigation, so states such as California (i.e. Sun Pacific) and Alabama (i.e. Southeast Kiwi Farming Cooperative) are the nation's prominent producers of kiwi. While many retailers sell both local and imported varieties, it entirely depends on the season and the region where the stores are located. Now you're well-versed in all things kiwi, but why should you eat them?

Kiwi Nutrition Facts

Even the smallest bite of kiwi is instantly refreshing—and that's because one kiwifruit (~2-inch diameter, 69 grams) holds almost 60 grams of water, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Beyond hydration, this juicy bad boy serves up a full menu of nutrition and health benefits due to its high concentration of key vitamins and nutrients. Here's the rest of a kiwi's nutrition facts, according to the USDA:

  • 42 calories
  • < 1 gram protein
  • < 0.5 gram fat
  • 10 grams carbohydrate
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 6 grams sugar

Kiwis stand out for their high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, calcium, and potassium—all of which play essential roles in your physical health and contribute to kiwi's many benefits, says Alice Figueroa, M.P.H., R.D.N, a nutrition researcher based in New Orleans and founder of Alice in Foodieland. "Vitamin K is important for heart, bone, and metabolic health," she says. "Vitamin C promotes healthy maintenance of collagen and aids in the production of certain proteins, which is important for luscious and radiant skin and hair, and strong joints, ligaments, and blood vessels." Yup, you read that right: one of kiwi's (many) benefits is its ~beautifying~ power, which many brands have harnessed in their kiwi-infused beauty products. Try: Drunk Elephant Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser (Buy It, $34, sephora.com) or Arcona Kiwi Cream Bar (Buy It, $40, dermstore.com).

Kiwi Health Benefits

Promotes Digestion

You may already know that most fruits, given they contain dietary fiber, are excellent for digestion. Kiwis are no exception. "Research shows that the fiber and enzymes in kiwi aid in improving the consistency of stool movements, reduce abdominal discomfort, and help decrease the amount of time that food takes to move through the digestive system," says Figueroa. Moore adds that you can double your fiber intake if you eat golden kiwifruit like an apple because the hairless peel holds just as much fiber as the flesh. And the same is true for eating the green variety in-full—but there's no denying that its fuzz factor can make snacking on the skin a whole lot less appetizing.

"Both green and gold kiwis are low-FODMAP foods, which means they may be a good choice for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)," she says. In fact, a study of 54 IBS patients and 16 healthy adults found that eating two kiwis per day for a period of four weeks shortened colon transit time and increased defecation frequency in those with IBS.

Boosts Immunity and Prevents Disease

For a tiny fruit, kiwis pack a ton of illness-fighting vitamin C into a small, skin-covered package. Seriously—there is 64mg of vitamin C in just one kiwi, which is around 85 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). (FWIW, the RDA of vitamin C for non-pregnant women 19+-years-old is 75 mg, according to the National Institutes of Health or NIH.) "It's the highest vitamin C content in commonly eaten fruit [like oranges and lemons]," says Moore.

In addition to vitamin C, these furry fruits also have lots of vitamin E—both of which are "antioxidants that promote immune health by repairing the damage caused by free radicals," says Figueroa. "Free radicals are responsible for damaging our cells and DNA. Antioxidant-rich diets may help to fight free radicals, which seems to play a role in the development of cancer, inflammatory diseases, and heart disease."

Helps Treat Asthma

"Research has found that adequate vitamin C intake is associated with decreased severity/symptomology of several medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma," says Samuels, who cites a 2000 study that suggests regularly eating vitamin C-rich fresh fruit including kiwis can reduce wheezing in susceptible children. But Figueroa emphasizes that this is just one study and that more research needs to be done on kiwis and asthma. Still, "vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds, and colds are triggers for asthma flare-ups. Therefore, eating fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C is important for lung function and the management of asthma."

Manages Blood Pressure

"One study analyzing the effects of kiwi consumption on people with elevated blood pressure found that consuming three kiwis per day was associated with lower blood pressure," says Figueroa. "The study also suggested that kiwis may contain nutrients that help promote the health of endothelial cells, which are found in blood vessels." Endothelial cells play an important role in blood flow, so the stronger and healthier they are, the better. As for kiwis' other health benefit of lowering blood pressure? This can help reduce your risk of conditions, such as heart disease or stroke. (Speaking of which, did you know that more young people are having strokes?!)

Reduces Blood Clots

Kiwis' health benefits for blood don't stop there. In addition to lowering blood pressure, kiwi has the power to lower the risk of blood clots as well. "In particular, one study found that people who ate two to three kiwis per day for 28 days reduced their potential for blood clot formation and triglycerides [fats]." Blood clots, which can partly or completely block blood through veins, and fats can both lead to larger heart-related complications (i.e. heart attack). That said, Samuels notes that more research still needs to be done on the topic. Meaning: don't rely solely on kiwi consumption to keep your blood healthy.

Supports Fetal Development

If you're trying to conceive or are already pregnant, you probably know that folate (which is in many prenatal vitamins) is essential for preventing neural birth defects. Don't have a bun in the oven? Folate is important for you, too, as your body needs it to make DNA and other genetic material, according to the NIH. "Folate also helps reduce high levels of homocysteine protein, which is linked to arterial damage and risk of strokes," says Figueroa. Good news: with around 17mcg of folate per serving, kiwis are sure to help.

Helps Sleep Disorders

If you find catching zzz's every night to be a challenge, you should be first in line to buy kiwifruit. "Kiwi contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in managing mood and the sleep-wake cycle and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep," says Figueroa. "Balanced levels of serotonin help you feel happier and calmer, and it's also the precursor to the production of melatonin, a crucial hormone in sleep regulation." Sound too good to be true? Just take it from science: a study of 24 adult subjects found that eating two kiwifruits 1 hour before bed nightly for four weeks improved sleep onset, duration, and efficiency (read: fewer sleep disturbances). "The study did not specifically look at narcolepsy or other serious conditions, and it is important to note that these kinds of studies are small and more research is needed to truly understand how kiwi may affect serotonin levels," says Figueroa.

Protects Vision Health

Rounding out kiwi's health benefits is the fruit's lutein and zeaxanthin content. "These antioxidants are beneficial to eye health and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration," she says.

How to Cut and Eat Kiwi

Kiwi nutrition facts? ✔️ Kiwi health benefits? ✔️ Kiwi slicing and dicing? As one Miss Shania Twain once said, "let's go girls."

ICYMI earlier, the skin is in fact edible (and can add even more bullet points to the list of kiwi health benefits) but "you might find it more palatable to peel them," says Samuels. So if you're a fan of fuzz-free snacking, your first step is to peel the whole kiwi with either a sharp knife or a peeler, such as OXO Softworks Y Peeler (Buy It, $9, target.com).

"Then I would chop it in half (not lengthwise, but horizontally) and then slice it so you have these round disks of beautiful kiwi where you can see the seeds in the center," explains Samuels. "You can totally chop it in half with the skin on and scoop it with a spoon, too." Either way, "don't be afraid of the seeds, those are totally edible and another great source of fiber," she adds.

Now, there are plenty (and I mean plenty) of ways to eat and use kiwi: eaten solo as a grab-and-go snack (just don't forget your spoon!), layered in a fruit salad, blended in a breakfast smoothie, sprinkled with seeds on a salad. In fact, one of Figueroa's top ways to use the versatile fruit is in a "savory green salad" with almonds or sunflower seeds for some healthy fats, lean protein, and iron. Wait, iron? Yup, nuts and seeds are great sources of the nutrient, and vitamin C-rich foods, such as kiwi, help the body absorb iron more efficiently, explains Figueroa. "It is always a good idea to pair up iron-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and leafy greens with foods that contain high levels of vitamin C like kiwi."

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