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MEDICAL INSIGHTS: It's peach season

David Keisler

David Keisler

It's that time of year once again. Peaches are in season, and there are several health benefits from eating them.

Peaches contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They probably originated in China over 8,000 years ago and were first brought to North America by Spanish monks in the mid 1500s. Peaches are related to the other fruits that contain a stone or single seed also known as a dupe. This group includes cherries, nectarines, plums, apricots and of course peaches.

A single peach weighing around 150 grams has 68 calories, with two grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of protein as well as vitamins A, E, K, C and niacin, which is vitamin B3.

Also, peaches contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble form helps to stabilize your blood sugar and keep cholesterol levels favorable. Insoluble fiber aids in avoiding constipation.

Inflammation could be reduced because peaches contain micronutrients called polyphenols. Peaches are considered a prebiotic and therefore help to feed favorable intestinal bacteria. These bacteria as part of the enteric microflora then produce short chain fatty acids, which in turn feed the cells of your gastrointestinal tract and this helps to decrease intestinal inflammation.

The micronutrients of peaches have a favorable effect by reducing the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease, adult onset diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and some forms of cancer. Post menopausal women who ate two peaches per week had a reduced risk of certain types of breast cancer. Anti oxidants fight cellular damage and help to protect against several forms of diseases related to aging.

Firm peaches should be left to ripen and soften for a few days. Keeping them in the fridge is recommended to prolong their freshness. Peaches can be grilled, sautéed, baked and of course eaten raw. Be creative and put them in salads.

Fresh peaches are widely available this time of year. California produces the most peaches measured by the ton at 468,000 yearly. South Carolina is second in the nation at 76,500. South Carolina produces three times as many as our neighboring state Georgia.

A word of caution. The stones of these fruits contain the chemical amygdalin which can break down into hydrogen cyanide which is poisonous. However, humans can safely consume 703 grams of hydrogen cyanide without risk. Eating 30 raw peach pits contains only about 204 grams of the substance and 200 cherry pits contains only around 117 grams of hydrogen cyanide. Therefore Poison Control does not recommend eating the stone, but accidentally swallowing a few cherry pits should not be concerning or hazardous. Also, eating the fuzzy skin maximizes the fiber intake. Now that is peachy keen!