06/14/2017 01:41 EDT | Updated 06/14/2017 01:46 EDT

Nectarines Are Juicy, Sweet And Good For You

The differences between a peach and a nectarine can be a little fuzzy. After all, these two relatives of the almond taste very much alike. But fans of nectarines favour the stone fruit for its smooth skin and smaller pit. The cherry on top is that nectarines are nutritional powerhouses for older adults. Indeed, when we sink our teeth into a nectarine, we're getting plenty of vitamin C, beta-carotene and fiber. And that's not all.


Why Nectarines Are Good for Older Adults

1. Nectarines are a low in calories.

A small nectarine has fewer than 60 calories. If you crave something sweet, try dressing up plain yogurt with nectarine slices or other stone fruit, such as cherries or peaches.

2. Nectarines are good for your eyes.

Nectarines contain lutein, an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cataracts. Increasing the amount of lutein in our diets has also been associated with lower risks of age-related macular degeneration. One small nectarine contains about 150 micrograms of lutein.

3. Nectarines keep blood sugar in check.

Nectarines have a low glycemic index, in the low 40s. That means they won't cause a quick rise in blood sugar, which can lead to crashes and mood swings. As such, nectarines also curb our sugar cravings.

4. Nectarines keep us energized.

Credit the copper, not the calories, in nectarines for this benefit. A medium nectarine contains six to nine per cent of the recommended daily intake of copper. Copper is an essential mineral that helps our bodies absorb iron and prevent anemia. The potassium in nectarines also keeps us going. Low potassium levels can cause hypokalemia, a condition that can leave us feeling tired and weak.


5. Nectarines promote heart health.

Chalk it up to all that copper, which also helps with blood pressure control and heart function. The fruit's potassium also plays a role in heart health. A medium nectarine contains about 285 milligrams of potassium or roughly eight per cent of what we need every day. Upping potassium intake has been linked to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke.

6. Nectarines are good for the skin.

There are many nutrients in nectarines that promote healthy skin. One of them is vitamin E, which can act as an anti-inflammatory and also protects skin from free radical damage caused by ultraviolet light. A medium nectarine contains about five per cent of our daily vitamin E needs.

How to Add Nectarines to Your Diet

Nectarines are perfect for eating out of hand with little preparation required, save for a simple rinse under the tap. Nectarines are at their best when they yield slightly to the touch, have taut skin and are fragrant. To ripen nectarines leave them on the kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight, for two to three days before eating. After that, store them in the fridge.

The perk of being so closely related to the peach is that nectarines can be used in any recipe calling for its fuzzy cousin. Sliced nectarines are perfect as a topping on pancakes or waffles or simply drizzled with a little cream. Nectarines also pair beautifully with almonds, honey and soft cheeses, like unripened goat cheese or ricotta. A few minutes on a grill turns halved nectarines into a caramelized delicacy.

If you're in the mood for something savoury, try chopped nectarines in salsa to top tacos, hamburgers or grilled fish. Or slice them to dress up a chicken sandwich.

Tiffany Mayer is a journalist and author whose writing focuses on food and agriculture. Her work has appeared in local and national magazines and newspapers. Her first book, Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula's Bounty, was published in 2014.

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