The peach tree originated in Western China about 4,000 years ago. Peaches are a member of the rose family, which is why they are so aromatic. Genetically, nectarines differ from peaches by a single recessive gene, the one that makes peaches fuzzy.
Peaches and nectarines provide almost the same nutrients, with just a small variation. They are both a good source of Vitamin C, carotenoids and potassium. They also provide Vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, fiber, and some iron. Due to the high amount of vitamin C, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids, both peaches and nectarines have excellent antioxidant properties. Nectarines provide twice the amount of Vitamin A, and slightly more Vitamin C and potassium than peaches do.
The total content of phytochemicals and antioxidant activities in peaches and nectarines will vary based on a few things, including the stage of maturity, how they were handled post-harvesting, and their growing conditions. In fact, certain types of plums and red-fleshed peaches can have more phenolics and antioxidants than blueberries!
Beta-carotene is a pigment found in nectarines and peaches that helps reduce inflammation, improve immune function, protect DNA and control cell growth in ways that may reduce cancer risk. Diets high in fruits such as peaches are linked to a decreased risk of multiple cancers including prostate, colorectal, stomach, lung, and mouth. Foods containing Vitamin C are linked to a lower risk of esophageal cancer, and foods containing fiber may lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
When you shop for peaches and nectarines, look for the ones that are the most aromatic – the riper they are, the more aromatic they will be. Choose peaches and nectarines that give to gentle pressure and store them at room temperature in your pantry or on your counter to promote ripeness. If you want to ripen them more quickly, put them in a paper bag and then eat within a day or two. Once the fruit gives under gentle palm pressure, you can keep it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 5 days (make sure to put them in the coldest part of your refrigerator). This will slow down the ripening process. Peaches and nectarines taste best at room temperature.
Peaches and nectarines can be eaten plain, made into preserves and jam, and added to fruit salads, smoothies, and yogurt. You can also bake or grill them.
Recipe of the Week: Peach Crumble via Amy’s Healthy Banking
4 extra-large or 5 to 6 medium peaches
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
¾ c old fashioned oats (gluten-free if necessary)
¼ c whole wheat or millet flour
2 tbsp. agave
2 tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, melted
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 8” by 8” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, toss together the diced peaches, cornstarch, almond extract, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon until thoroughly combined.
In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, flour, and remaining cinnamon. Add in the agave and butter, mixing until completely incorporated.
Spread the peach mixture into the prepared pan, and evenly sprinkle the oat crumbs on top. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until the peach juice is bubbling and the oat mixture turns crunchy. Cool completely to room temperature. For best results, let the crumble rest for 2 hours after coming to room temperature before serving to allow the juices to thicken.
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Have a good weekend!
Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N