The Health Benefits of Peaches Are Truly Peachy Keen

With their sunset-like blend of red and orange hues, tantalizingly sweet scent, and ~sensual~ appearance, peaches are sure to catch your attention while you’re scoping out the farmers’ market, just like a soulmate you’re destined to meet.

But their perks aren’t just skin deep. “When you cut into a good peach, it’s like cutting into an avocado,” says registered dietitian Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., a Shape Brain Trust member. “There’s nothing like that perfect peach.” Bite into the ripe fruit, you’ll be met with an explosion of juice and buttery flesh that nearly melts in your mouth, not to mention a ton of good-for-you nutrients.

Here, all the peach nutrition info you need, from the health benefits of peaches that come with every single bite to the delicious and creative ways you can nosh on them.

A Quick Lesson on Peaches

Peaches have been around far longer than the peach emoji—more than 3,000 years longer, to be exact. The stone fruit was brought from China to the “New World” by Spanish missionaries in 1571, according to the Clemson University Cooperative Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC).

More than 100 peach varieties are grown in the U.S. and the peach flesh can be yellow, white, or, sometimes, red, according to the HGIC. That said, most found in the U.S. are yellow, and have a sweet flesh that’s balanced with a bit of acidity. White peaches, on the other hand, have low-acidity, taste nearly as sweet as honey, and lack the quintessential tang of the yellow variety.

Aside from their color and taste, peaches also vary when it comes to the pit, aka the stone. When the peach’s flesh is stuck to the stone, it’s called a clingstone peach. This peach variety is mostly used in the commercial canning industry, and the pits are mechanically removed. On the flip side, peaches that have flesh that is not attached to the stone is called a freestone peach. The pit in these peaches can easily be removed with a gentle twist, which is why most peaches you’ll find for home munching are this type, according to the HGIC. (BTW, this is exactly how you should store your produce once you bring it home from the market.)

The peaches you find in the supermarket will feel a little different from the ones you pick up from a roadside stand or farmers’ market. For starters, ones at commercial grocery stores are often mechanically brushed after harvest to remove that signature peach fuzz, while peaches from the small grower down the road are typically picked from the tree and delivered straight to the consumer, according to the HGIC.

The Health Benefits of Peaches

They’re Low-Calorie

When you need a light and filling snack that isn’t packed with calories, turn to a ripe peach. A medium peach comes in at just 59 calories—half the amount found in a medium banana, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here’s the rest of a peach’s nutrition facts, according to the USDA:

59 calories
1 gram protein
0 grams fat
14 grams carbohydrate
2 grams fiber
13 grams sugar
Plus, the energy peaches provide isn’t from empty calories; you’ll get plenty of nutrients with every bite, which leads to…

They’re a Quick and Easy Source of Fiber

You don’t need to force down a huge bowl of flavorless bran cereal to get your daily dose of fiber. By eating one medium peach, you’ll take in 2.25 grams of the macronutrient and be one step closer to meeting your daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of fiber, which is about 28 grams per day, according to the USDA. Of those few grams, about 60 percent is insoluble fiber—the kind that adds bulk to stool and helps food pass faster through the stomach—while the remainder is soluble fiber—the type that slows digestion, according to an article in the journal Nutrients.

Not only does fiber help with satiety and make you feel full faster, but it can also help regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, says Gans. So how does it work? Fiber—particularly soluble fiber—can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels, while insoluble fiber can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Plus, fiber may help manage high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And if those health benefits of peaches aren’t convincing enough, know that fiber can also help prevent constipation, says Gans. So if you’re spending so much time on the throne that you run out of posts to look at on Instagram, consider munching on a peach.

They Serve Up Some Vitamin C

Sorry, oranges, you aren’t the only fruit with vitamin C in the grove. Peaches contain nearly 10 milligrams of the vitamin, or about 13 percent of the RDA, according to the USDA. While you can’t hit your daily quota by wolfing down a single peach, you can still reap some of the vitamin’s health perks, including its antioxidant effects. “What’s so wonderful about antioxidants is their ability to fight free radicals in your body, and by doing that, they may also help boost your immune system,” says Gans. (P.S. Strawberries also have a ton of vitamin C.)

If you’re curious about the science of it all, here’s the scoop: When free radicals are produced in excess—such as by exposure to tobacco smoke, pollution, or radiation—and cells aren’t destroying them quickly enough, a phenomenon called oxidative stress occurs. During this process, cell membranes, proteins, lipids, and DNA can be altered in harmful ways, potentially leading to chronic and degenerative diseases (think: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others) and aging. To counteract these attacks, antioxidants like vitamin C swoop in to stabilize the free radical and block the damage it creates, according to an article in the International Journal of Biomedical Science.

But that’s not the only way the antioxidant found in peaches can keep you illness-free: Vitamin C stimulates the production and improves the function of white blood cells, including the specific cells that attack foreign bacteria and viruses, according to research.

Plus, this health benefit of peaches could make you look as plump and smooth as the fruit itself. Vitamin C plays a key role in helping your body produce collagen–a protein that’s essential to keeping your skin smooth, firm, and strong, says Gans. The nutrient helps stabilize the collagen molecule structure, stimulates messenger RNA molecules, and tells the skin’s fibroblasts (the cells in your connective tissue) to create collagen, according to an article in the journal Nutrients.

They Can Help Manage Blood Pressure

One medium peach packs in 6 percent of the RDA for potassium, according to the USDA, which means peaches can aid in regulating blood pressure, says Gans. High sodium intake is linked with high blood pressure, meaning the heart pumps more blood and the arteries are narrower than normal. And when you combine that sodium intake with low-potassium consumption, you may have an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC.

So how does it all work? When you consume potassium, your blood vessels widen and you excrete more sodium through urine—a process that reduces the force of blood against the arteries and the size of plasma (which carries salt, water, and enzymes) in the blood, ultimately lowering blood pressure, according to the NIH.

While you won’t be consuming as much of the heart-healthy nutrient with a peach as you would by noshing on a banana—which has three times the amount of potassium—every little bit counts.

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They Contribute to Healthy Vision

One of the biggest health benefits of peaches? The stone fruit’s impact on eye health. Each medium peach contains 24 micrograms of vitamin A—a nutrient that can help improve your vision, in certain cases. “If you’re not deficient in vitamin A, and you eat a lot of foods with vitamin A, your vision is not going to get better,” says Gans. “But if you’re deficient in vitamin A and that is affecting your vision, which it may possibly do, eating vitamin A foods can improve your vision.”

Although peaches offer just 3 percent of the RDA, they also contain 243 micrograms of beta carotene, a type of carotenoid that’s found in plant-based foods and can turn into an active form of vitamin A, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Do a little math wizardry (one microgram of vitamin A equates to 12 micrograms of beta-carotene from food), and that comes out to an extra 20.25 micrograms of vitamin A.

Rounding out the eye health benefits of peaches is the fruit’s lutein content. This carotenoid can’t be converted into vitamin A, but it’s naturally found in the central area of your eye’s retina, where it absorbs blue light and prevents it from reaching the underlying structures involved in vision. Plus, lutein can help protect the eye from light-induced free radical damage that may lead to age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes a loss of central vision, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Some studies have found a specific link between the carotenoid and the disease: Higher intakes of lutein are associated with lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, according to the University.

How to Reap All the Health Benefits of Peaches

While peaches may not be the be-all and end-all of nutrition (they only contain a small portion of the RDA for some essential nutrients, after all), they can still have a spot on your plate if your heart so desires. Slice ’em up and eat them raw, drip them into yogurt or cottage cheese, pop them on the grill for a slightly charred, caramelized flavor, or transform them into homemade peach salsa, suggests Gans.

If the peaches available to you aren’t up to your standards, don’t be afraid to use frozen slices or canned peaches, which are just as nutritious when packaged in their natural juices, says Gans. And no matter which way you’re buying your peaches, turning them into a creamy peach smoothie or boozy drink is sure to satisfy. “You can definitely make a peach daiquiri or peach margarita,” says Gans. “Add the extra salt, please.”

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