We’ve all heard about the benefits of so-called superfoods, like pomegranates and goji berries.
But, what about the humble kiwi? While they’re often overlooked and underappreciated, there are many important kiwi benefits for health.
They might even help you sleep!
In this post, we’ll show you why you should be eating kiwis regularly and the advantages that they offer.
Types of Kiwis
The term kiwi is an abbreviation for kiwifruit. It is also called a Chinese gooseberry. All three terms refer to the same fruit, which has a green-brown outer skin and a bright green or yellow interior.
- The flesh of a kiwi is soft and moist, while the skin tends to be tough. This can make the fruit a little difficult to eat.
- Kiwis also contain many small edible black seeds.
- Kiwis are sweet, with a unique flavor profile. This is partly why they are so popular.
There are various species of kiwi, all from the genus Actinidia. The fruit is grown commercially in New Zealand, China and Italy, along with a few other locations.
The main types of kiwis are the following:
Fuzzy Kiwis (Fuzzy Kiwifruit)
This is the most common type and there are multiple individual cultivars. These kiwis have fuzzy brown skin, along with bright green flesh.
Hayward is the most well-known version of this type. It is egg-shaped, with flesh that is soft and sweet.
Golden Kiwis (Golden Kiwifruit)
Golden kiwis have a smooth skin that is more bronze than brown. The shape is slightly different as well, while the flesh ranges from a lighter green to yellow. The flavor is sweeter and has some similarities to tropical fruits.
But, golden kiwis have a very short shelf life. This makes them difficult to export, although they are commonly found in countries that produce them.
Cultivars for this variety include
- EnzaRed, which has a ring of red in the flesh
- SunGold, which is slightly less sweet and has more tanginess
- Hort16A. This was the most common cultivar but is less widespread now due to disease
Kiwi berries have a similar taste to kiwis. But, they’re roughly the size of a grape and have a smooth green skin. They can be eaten whole, much like you would a grape.
While the flavor is similar, the benefits of kiwi berries may be different than regular kiwis. They’re often not considered kiwis, although they are produced by plants in the Actinidia genus.
Kiwi Nutrition Facts
Nutritional details will vary between each type of kiwi and the individual cultivars (1). But, for fuzzy kiwis, the basic nutritional profile looks like this:
Nutrition Facts: Kiwi, raw (1 cup)
164 mg (273% DV)
71.3 mcg (89% DV)
552 mg (16% DV)
0.2 mg (12% DV)
44.2 mcg (11% DV)
The vitamin C levels are through the roof! You actually get more vitamin C per hundred grams from kiwis than from oranges (2,3). This vitamin C is extremely important, as it is a significant antioxidant.
Kiwis are good sources of vitamin K, while containing some potassium and folate too.
Fiber in Kiwis
Kiwis are a surprisingly good source of fiber (as Catherine from The Huffington Post points out). With the skin removed, a single medium kiwi provides around 2.3 grams of fiber (5), which is a decent amount.
In fact, 100 grams of kiwis (skin included) gives you 3 grams of fiber, while a cup of sliced kiwis offers 5.3 grams of fiber (6). Most of that fiber comes from the small black seeds, not the skin.
Getting enough fiber is critical. It can help promote many health benefits, including improved digestion.
Golden Kiwi Nutrition
The plant-based compounds are likely to be different as well, so you’ll get the most benefit by including both in your diet.
But, they’re similar enough that you can just focus on whichever type you like best.
Kiwi Health Benefits
Kiwis don’t have an amazing nutritional profile. But, they’re still very powerful for health. They’ve been linked to many health benefits due to their levels of fiber, vitamin C and phytonutrients.
1. A Powerful Source of Antioxidants
Vitamin C and vitamin E are significant antioxidants and they’re both present in kiwis. Antioxidants help reduce free radical damage. By doing so, they protect the body and reduce disease risk.
Research even shows that regular consumption of kiwis can increase plasma vitamin C concentration and decrease damaging oxidation (10). The antioxidant effects are especially strong in golden kiwis and may also limit early lipid oxidation (11).
The antioxidants may help to promote the immune system as well. That’s why vitamin C is often associated with fighting colds (12).
2. Has Antimicrobial Properties
Kiwis help fight bacteria and fungi. These benefits mostly come from the seeds (13), which are consumed when you eat the fruit. Golden kiwis also contain the compound actinchinin, while green kiwis contain a thaumatin-like protein (14). Both of these have antifungal properties too.
The antioxidants present may offer similar benefits as well.
3. Can Improve Digestion
Adding kiwis to the diet can significantly improve bowel function and colon transit time for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (15,16). Digestion improvements may also apply to people without that condition, especially as kiwis can have a laxative-like impact (17).
These benefits are strongly related to the fiber and antioxidants found in kiwifruit. The potential digestion benefits are so strong that some fiber supplements use compounds isolated from kiwis.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Kiwis may promote heart health through various mechanisms.
- One key aspect is simply the antioxidants.
- The potassium in kiwis helps as well. Potassium has various heart protective effects, such as decreasing blood pressure and relaxing the blood vessels.
- The fiber and vitamin K are also relevant for heart health, along with the various other nutrients present.
- Studies have also shown that kiwis can decrease triglyceride levels (18,19,20).
5. Helps Protect the Eyes
Kiwis contain the compound lutein. This is an antioxidant that offers important eye benefits. It is known to help prevent various eye diseases, including macular degeneration (21).
Dr. Axe also has a powerful guide that provides more details about lutein and how it can promote eye and skin health.
6. May Improve Respiratory Health
Vitamin C is often linked to better respiratory outcomes.
Livestrong also highlights vitamin C as a key nutrient that supports the respiratory system.
7. Kiwi Skin Benefits
Kiwis also have advantages for the skin. This impact is related to collagen, which plays a key role in skin appearance and health.
Research shows that kiwis significantly increase the production of collagen (26). This production normally decreases with age, so kiwis may help improve some of the skin symptoms of aging.
The antioxidants in kiwis may also improve skin health. The compound lutein is an especially relevant example. This provides some protection from UV light.
8. Protects the Bones
The vitamin K in kiwis help to protect your bones. While most people aren’t deficient in vitamin K, getting enough in your diet is still critical for health.
9. May Protect Against Cancer
Do Kiwis Help You Sleep?
There is one final advantage and it deserves a special mention – sleep.
Sleep is critical for health in many different ways. That includes your weight and even muscle loss. Yet, sleep problems are often difficult to resolve. A connection between kiwis and sleep might sound odd – but it’s true.
Kiwis contain serotonin, which plays a key role in your ability to sleep. The antioxidant properties could be helping with sleep as well.
Research even shows that regular kiwi consumption can help people get to sleep sooner and sleep for longer (29). Michael Breus from The Sleep Doctor has a great summary of this study and all of its findings. Psychology Today provides details about the underlying mechanisms.
How to Eat a Kiwi
The most common way to eat kiwis is to cut them in half and then scoop out the insides, as the video below shows.
You can also peel the kiwi and then cut it into pieces. This is perfect if you want to use the kiwi in a fruit salad or a recipe. You might even peel the kiwi, then eat it whole – although that would be a very messy process.
Some people cut a kiwi up with the skin intact. They then eat the kiwi in wedges, like an orange. This also makes it easy to avoid the skin.
And, of course, many recipes rely on kiwis.
- These mostly use kiwis raw, as enzymes in kiwis interact with milk proteins.
- But, you’ll often see kiwis as toppings for pavlovas, chia pudding and yogurt.
- They’re also common ingredients in fruit salads and smoothies
Can You Eat Kiwi Skins?
The skin on a kiwi is fuzzy and a bit tough – so, eating it sounds like an odd choice. But, the skin is entirely edible. It contains different compounds too. Some of those may help promote health.
If you want to eat the skin, you can simply bite into the kiwi, eating it much like an apple.
The video below shows doing this in practice. As it shows, you certainly can eat a kiwi this way, but the experience isn’t exactly pleasant. Doing this does have advantages though. For one, you’re getting the benefits from the skin. Plus, this is a much easier and less messy way to eat kiwis.
Washing the fruit first will help to remove some of the fuzz and makes the experience a little more pleasant. Alternatively, you can focus on golden kiwis. Their skin isn’t fuzzy, making them much easier to eat.
Kiwi Side Effects
Like most fruit, kiwis are considered safe. But, there are still some side effects, especially if you eat too much at a time.
Kiwis can sometimes promote an oral allergy syndrome, making the throat and mouth feel tingly and itchy. Rashes can also develop and some people do experience full-fledged allergic reactions (30).
- Some people will experience reactions from touching the fruit, while others will only have issues with ingestion
- The chance of a reaction is higher for anyone with a latex allergy. This is due to the compounds that are present
This risk doesn’t mean you should avoid kiwis. But, if you haven’t had one before, introduce yourself to the fruit slowly.
Diarrhea and Nausea
Kiwis can also lead to diarrhea, nausea and even vomiting. This mostly happens when people consume too much in a sitting.
To avoid the side effects, pay attention to how your body responds. If you start to feel ill, you should stop eating the fruit for a while.
Consistently eating large amounts of kiwis could theoretically lead to pancreatitis. This is due to the various vitamins and minerals present. But, the same is true for many other whole foods – and your consumption would need to be very high.
Don’t eat more than a few kiwis each day and you should be fine.
Medication and Supplement Interactions
Kiwis do have some anti-fungal impacts and may affect serotonin levels. These patterns could interact with medications, including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which are prescribed for depression.
As such, it’s worth talking to your doctor about kiwi consumption if you’re using medication.
Some people experience slower blood clotting with kiwis (31). This is another reason to be careful with medication – and means you should avoid kiwis before surgery.
Kiwis are sometimes considered exotic but this little fruit is surprisingly powerful.
It’s also a fantastic way to add a more unusual flavors into your diet. What's your favorite way to eat kiwis?
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