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Kiwi Benefits for Health – An Uncommonly Powerful Fruit

Kiwi benefits for health

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.

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Types of Kiwis

Gold and green kiwifruit

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)

Green kiwis

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

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

Kiwi berries

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.

Fuzzy kiwis are the most common type of kiwi, while golden kiwis and kiwi berries are alternatives. Each type includes multiple cultivars.

Kiwi Nutrition Facts

Selection of kiwifruit

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)

Amount

Calories

108

Total Fat

0.9 g

Carbs

25.9 g

Sugar

15.9 g

Fiber

5.3 g

Protein

2.0 g

Vitamin C

164 mg (273% DV)

Vitamin K

71.3 mcg (89% DV)

Potassium

552 mg (16% DV)

Copper

0.2 mg (12% DV)

Folate

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.

Kiwis also contain many phytonutrients, including polyphenols (4). These also help to promote health through various mechanisms.

Kiwis are an amazing source of vitamin C. They contain various phytonutrients too.

Fiber in Kiwis

Sliced kiwifruit

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.

Even without the skin, kiwis are a great way to get your fiber

Golden Kiwi Nutrition

The nutrition profile of golden kiwis is very similar. The fruits tend to contain a little more vitamin C but their fiber content is lower (7,8,9).

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.

Golden kiwis have less fiber and more vitamin C per fruit.

Kiwi Health Benefits

Kiwis in a bowl

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).
Kiwifruit smoothie

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).

Kiwis are an especially powerful source of lutein, with one large kiwi providing 171 mg of the compound (22,23).

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.

Studies on kiwis show that the fruit can significantly increase vitamin C concentrations, while promoting health. Benefits include decreased wheezing and less head congestion (24,25)

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

Cancer research is always challenging – but compounds in kiwis can inhibit the growth of colon, liver and lung cancer (27,28).

Kiwis offer many different health benefits due to their nutrients and plant-based compounds.

Do Kiwis Help You Sleep?

Sleeping in a bedroom

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.

If kiwis aren’t enough on their own, magnesium, vitamin D and melatonin are all other areas to consider.

Kiwis are surprisingly powerful as a way to promote sleep.

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.

You can eat kiwis whole, cut them in half or peel them. They make a great topping on many foods as well.

Kiwi Side Effects

Sliced kiwis

Like most fruit, kiwis are considered safe. But, there are still some side effects, especially if you eat too much at a time.

Allergic Reactions

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.

Kiwis on a board

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.

Pancreatitis

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.

Blood Clotting

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 can cause allergic reactions and some other side effects. But, the risk of side effects is low, unless you’re consuming an extremely large amount of kiwi every day

Final Thoughts

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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