Benefits of Peaches, Cherries, and Other Stone Fruits

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans don’t consume the recommended two cups of fruit per day, according to the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines. And the fruit servings we are consuming often lean heavily toward bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes. There’s a lot of nutrition and flavor hiding out in one less-common yet easy-to-love family of fruits, though—and that is, stone fruits.

Stone fruits, a.k.a. “drupes,” are a category of fruits that have thin skin, tender flesh, and a tough stone (pit) in the center that contains the plant’s seed. Stone fruit season spans from late spring, when you’ll see cherries and apricots popping up at the farmers market, through mid- to late-summer and into the fall, when mangos, plums, peaches, and nectarines shine.

“All stone fruits are a good source of carbohydrates, which are the primary fuel source for cycling. Because the body is able to quickly digest the sugar found in fruit, all stone fruits are great to have 30-minutes before hopping on the bike,” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, plant-based sports dietitian with Greenletes in New York City and the author of Planted Performance.

 

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Need more convincing to consume more stone fruits and inspiration for how to do just that? Read on for the dish from research, Rizzo, and Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CSSD, certified sports dietitian based in Paoli, Pennsylvania.

What nutrients will you get from stone fruit?

“Each type of stone fruit has different nutritional benefits,” Robinson says. For example, cherries contain more flavonoids and natural sleep-promoting melatonin. Nectarines and mangos contain more immune-supporting vitamin C. Apricots, cherries, nectarines, mangos, and plums contain the most cramp-combatting potassium. Apricots, plums, peaches, and mangos are also good sources of immune-supporting carotenoids. The benefits of peaches, nectarines, and plums also include packing the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health. And peaches and nectarines also contain the lowest amounts of sugar.

While the nutritional value of stone fruit does differ slightly based on the type, each one delivers a whole host of health benefits. Ahead, the nutrition facts per 1-cup serving (without pits) of some of the most common raw stone fruits, according to the USDA.

Peach nutrition facts:

  • 65 calories
  • 1.5 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 15 g carbohydrates
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 13 g sugar
  • 6 mg vitamin C
  • 188 mg potassium
  • 345 µg beta carotene
  • 203 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Nectarine nutrition facts:

  • 56 calories
  • 1.5 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 13.5 g carbohydrates
  • 2 g fiber
  • 11 g sugar
  • 4 mg vitamin C
  • 187 mg potassium
  • 285 µg beta carotene
  • 186 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Cherry nutrition facts:

  • 97 calories
  • 1.5 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 24.5 g carbohydrates
  • 3 g fiber
  • 20 g sugar
  • 11 mg vitamin C
  • 342 mg potassium
  • 99 IU vitamin A
  • 59 µg beta carotene

Plum nutrition facts:

  • 76 calories
  • 1 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 19 g carbohydrates
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 16.5 g sugar
  • 16 mg vitamin C
  • 259 mg potassium
  • 314 µg beta carotene
  • 120 µg lutein + zeaxanthin

Apricot nutrition facts:

  • 79 calories
  • 2.5 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 18.5 g carbohydrates
  • 3.5 g fiber
  • 15 g sugar
  • 17 mg vitamin C
  • 427 mg potassium
  • 3,180 IU vitamin A
  • 1,800 µg beta carotene

Mango nutrition facts:

  • 99 calories
  • 1.5 g protein
  • 0.5 g total fat
  • 25 g carbohydrates
  • 2.5 g fiber
  • 22.5 g sugar
  • 277 mg potassium
  • 60 mg vitamin C
  • 1,780 IU vitamin A
  • 1,060 µg beta carotene

What are the health benefits of peaches, nectarines, mangos, and more stone fruits?

Robinson says all athletes can benefit from stone fruits. Here’s what you’ll gain:

A solid amount of energy

Stone fruits are a good source of natural sugars, which are essential for athletes to maintain energy during training and adequate muscle and liver glycogen stores which power your rides, Robinson says.

Stone fruit can also help boost energy before training and help with muscle recovery after training. There’s just one caveat for having them as your preride fuel: “Due to the varying dietary fiber content of stone fruit, it may impact gut health during exercise if consumed too close to training or during a ride, so you may want to test out which fruits work best to avoid any GI issues,” Robinson advises.

Fiber to support your gut and overall health

People who eat 30 or more different plants per week have healthier microbiomes than those who consume 10 or fewer, according to a study published in the journal mSystems in 2018. This is likely due to the fact that different fruits and vegetables come packed with varying types and amounts of fiber and nutrients that can help feed the good bacteria in our digestive systems. The stone fruit family includes several members so you can mix things up.

Plus, because stone fruits include a decent amount of fiber in one serving (at least 2 grams) they help you meet your daily recommended numbers—25 to 28 grams (for women) or 31 to 24 grams (for men)—and that’s particularly important, because many Americans don’t eat enough of this nutrient. Fiber helps support your gut health, as it moves foods through the digestive tract, and research shows it can positively alter your gut microbiome, improving your metabolic health.

Beyond your gut, a diet high in fiber also helps to stave off disease, cutting risk of early death, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2018, and can have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease in particular, according to other research published in 2016.

Immune system aid

About 70 percent of our immune system lives within our guts, according to research from 2008, so those gut health benefits overflow to your risk for colds and flu, too. But that’s just one way stone fruits can help feed your immunity.

The vitamin C found in most stone fruits also helps prevent cell damage and supports a healthy immune system as well, Robinson confirms.

Lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cramps

While bananas seem to get all the glory, a cup of cherries can go toe-to-toe with a small banana on that front, and a cup of apricots actually delivers even more potassium. This mineral has been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce the chances you’ll be sidelined by muscle cramps, among other wellness wins.

In addition to potassium, cherries in particular also have anthocyanins, which research shows may also aid in the blood pressure-lowering abilities of stone fruits.

Better rest

Struggling to snooze? Instead of taking a sleeping pill, pop some cherries. Research suggests that consuming cherries can help aid sleep. That’s because cherries are a great stone fruit source of melatonin, Robinson confirms. Melatonin is a hormone the body produces, and one that can be found in certain foods and supplements, which plays a role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle. For the largest dose of all-natural melatonin, turn to Montmorency cherries.

Reduced inflammation

Due to their antioxidants and flavonoids, consuming stone fruits may lead to less chronic inflammation, a reaction within the body that studies suggest plays a part in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases, lung disease, and beyond.

Flavonoids found in dark red, purple, and blue fruits, including cherries and plums—which have anti-inflammatory properties—have also been linked to lower risk for certain cancers and heart disease, Robinson says.

10 ways to add stone fruits to your diet

Beyond eating at their fresh, juicy best as-is or using dried stone fruit as midride fuel (instead of a gel, sports drink, or chews) for any training ride over 90 minutes, here are 10 more ideas for how to add stone fruit servings to your meal plan.

  1. Slice and toss peaches or nectarines into green- or grain-based salads or fruit salads
  2. Dice any stone fruit to use as a topping for oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt
  3. Blend fresh or frozen stone fruit into smoothies
  4. Thinly slice and use instead of jam as part of your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels, or toast
  5. Grill or roast peaches or nectarines and top with a scoop of Greek yogurt and a few sprigs of fresh mint
  6. Stir diced stone fruit into quick bread, muffins, or pancake batter
  7. Dice peaches, nectarines, cherries, or mangos and fold into guacamole or salsa for an appetizer dip or garnish for tacos, burrito bowls, chicken, steak, pork or any fish or seafood
  8. Blend frozen stone fruit with a frozen banana and a splash of milk, then freeze, for a nutrient-packed ice cream alternative
  9. Add dried cherries, prunes, or apricots to homemade energy bites, granola bars, or trail mix
  10. Use any chopped stone fruit as the base for a crumble, crisp, or pie

The bottom line about the health benefits of stone fruits

The benefits of peaches, nectarines, and other stone fruits include better gut health, supported immune system, blood pressure benefits, and reduced inflammation levels in the body, Rizzo summarizes. Plus, they’re naturally sweet, versatile, and downright delicious. For this reason, Robinson and Rizzo suggest adding one serving of stone fruit per day to your menu; fresh when they’re in season, and canned, frozen, or dried outside of prime time.

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