Many who know me are aware that at the beginning of July, I took part in a half Ironman triathlon in Norway, and where I had a performance I was reasonably happy with despite the cold / rainy weather and tough course.
(for those who don't know, a half Ironman consists of a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike and a 21.1km run).
Also, many who know me and follow my health and fitness writings are also aware that I haven't been sick in 2 years. That's right, nothing, not even a cold. I can't even remember the last time I took any sort of medication, including over-the-counter pain killers...
And believe me, I'm no genetic freak. I used to get sick all the time, just like most people. 2 or 3 bouts of flu per year were the norm for me. What changed was that I cracked the secret to maintaining a healthy and balanced body and mind through sound nutrition and training.
Why do I bring this up here? Well that's because 2 weeks before my race, I went on holiday, and for the first time in 2 years, I completely ignored my own advice on nutrition. The result: an itchy throat, achy body, and beginning of a flu, not only for the first time in 2 years, but 7 days before a big race!
I needed to get that fixed quickly: I needed to get my body back to normal and strong enough to endure the demands of a tough race like a half Ironman triathlon!
Now I won't get too "sciency" on you, but almost all forms of diseases are the result of inflammation. Your body knows how to fight inflammation very well, but just like any good soldier, it cannot fight well without weapons and ammunition.
There are many ways to help your body build more soldiers and more weapons (more on that in a separate blog at some point), but ammunition is even more critical to fight off inflammation.
The best ammunition for your body are things called "antioxidants". I wrote extensively about antioxidants in a previous blog, but suffice it to say that without them, your body is pretty much useless at fighting inflammation.
And as I mention in my blog about antioxidants, your own body is very good at producing its own antioxidants (such as Glutathione and Melatonin - that's right, your "sleep hormone" is a powerful antioxidant, which is why sleep is critical).
But there are a number of antioxidants your body is NOT capable of producing and needs to obtain them from food. These necessary antioxidants are Vitamins C, E and Beta-Carotene.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you parents would start giving you fizzy vitamin C supplements during the flu season? Well there's a reason for that: Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidant around.
HOWEVER, if you think popping Vitamin C supplements is going to do the job, you would be mistaken. Again, I won't go all nerdy on you, but you should know 2 things about Vitamin C supplements:
- Most VitC supplements (and ALL the ones I found in Dubai) don't even come from natural sources of Vitamin C. They are "chemically created" from a "base" of corn(!!) which has been altered over 30 times to closely replicate the chemical formula for Ascorbic Acid (VitC).
- Most supplements in general, including VitC, have a very low "bioavailability". In other words: if the pill you took says 1,000mg of VitC, only a very small portion of that 1,000mg actually gets absorbed and used by your body.
These are 2 of many reasons why I always advocate obtaining your vitamins and minerals from whole foods. First of all they are natural sources, and second: your body knows how to extract the micronutrients from them. This means that the absorption and utilization is MUCH higher when compared to most supplements.
Ok, that was a massive detour, but I'm finally getting to the topic of this blog: how this little furry fruit saved me a ton of money.
When people say VitC, the first image that comes to their minds is an orange. But get this: the orange isn't even in the top 5 of whole foods in terms of VitC concentration and availability! There are many others which trump the venerable orange every day!
And don't get me started on people who think drinking orange juice is a great way to get VitC :-)
Sorry I digress...
So one of these whole foods that trump the orange every day is.... the Kiwifruit, or as we usually refer to it, the Kiwi!
Even though it's currently classified as a "superfruit", I have to admit that I didn't know much about the Kiwi, nor was I that fond of the little green fruit. I grew up watching my dad eat it daily, and never really liked the taste of it as a kid.
And given that I wasn't a fan of it growing up, I never really bothered to look into its many many health benefits...
(As a side note: Zespri is the single largest producer and exporter of Kiwifruits in the world. Based out of New Zealand, they manage large plantations of Kiwifruits and supply high quality fruits all over the world).
Among the many perks of being invited to such events, and in addition to learning some amazing ways to incorporate Sungold Kiwifruit into both sweet and savory dishes, the people from Zespri were generous enough to let me walk away with a gigantic basket of Kiwifruit - enough high quality concentrated bioavailable Vitamin C to last me for weeks!
But before I tell you more about how many Kiwifruit I actually consumed to fend off that flu before the race (it's a lot, a LOT), let me tell you a bit more about the numerous health benefits of the traditional Kiwifruit, as well as the newly released Sungold version.
A superfruit (or any "superfood" for that matter") should (in my book):
1. Be nutrient dense: highly concentrated in essential nutrients
2. Be easy to digest and allow your body to extract nutrients (bioavailability)
3. Taste good
4. Have a low Glycemic Load: doesn't raise Insulin much and cause fat gain (you can read more on that here)
So let's see how the Kiwifruit and the Kiwifruit stack up:
Nutrient Density and Bioavailability
We all know that oranges are rich in Vitamin C. We grew up knowing that: VitC supplements are colored orange, and if your VitC is low at a hospital, doctors will prescribe orange juice for a quick boost.
And that's true: 100g of orange (fruit) contains 89% of the amount of VitC recommended by the US FDA, not bad...
So how much does 100g of Kiwifruit contain? 142% of RDA!! Wait, that's not all, the Sungold version contains 269%!!
And get this: 1 fruit is almost 100g. In other words, a single Kiwifruit (green or Sungold) will provide you with more than 100% of your daily needs for Vitamin C (under normal living conditions).
And as I said earlier, this form of VitC is highly bioavailable and can be easily absorbed by your body - certainly much more so than store-bought supplements...
In fact, a study in the US compared antioxidant absorption among Kiwifruit, red grapes and strawberries (known to be rich in antioxidants). The study revealed that antioxidants in the Kiwifruit are the most easily metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream.
We all know that dietary fiber is important: it's critical to maintain a healthy digestive system, it reduces the amount of fat absorbed in your system, and helps maintain a health gall bladder too... Increased intake of fiber has been recommended by doctors and health practitioners for years to improve blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Once again, the Kiwifruit comes in with strong score: a single fruit will provide you with 12% of your daily fiber needs (RDA). So a couple of these little fruits will give you a quarter of your daily requirements. The orange? 9.6% of RDA.
How many fruits do you know which contain all 9 essential amino acids? I can't think of any. I can't think of any fruits which contain much protein to begin with.
Did you know that the Kiwifruit contains 2g of protein per fruit? That's twice as much as an orange, but that's not all: the quality of that protein is much higher. In fact, the Kiwifruit has almost all essential amino acids. The Kiwi has an Amino Acid Completeness Score of 105, compared to 58 for an orange.
Deficiencies in Vitamin K among humans are becoming increasingly prevalent. Why should we care? Vitamin K is involved in a large number of processes in our bodies, including blood coagulation/pressure and more importantly: bone metabolism.
I see people popping Vitamin D pills all the time, with doctors recommending VitD supplementation to increase Calcium absorption from food, for the sake of bone metabolism. However what most people (including some doctors) don't know / won't tell you, is that Vitamin K is essential to drive Calcium into the bones. Without it, the increased Calcium from VitD is just swirling around in your blood and increasing the risk of calcification in your arteries!
The richest sources of Vitamin K are typically animal products (especially organ meats - I get my VitK from liver). Fruits in general have virtually NO VitK whatsoever! But once again, the Kiwifruit bucks the trend: a single Kiwifruit will provide you with almost 50% of the RDA for Vitamin K!
Athletes know this, doctors and nutritionists know this, and you probably know this too: the "go to" fruit for Potassium is a banana. 100g of banana provide you with 10% of your RDA of Potassium, which is significant.
However once again, the Kiwifruit won't be undone. 100g of Kiwifruit will provides 9% of Potassium RDA.
But there's another angle: 100g of banana is close to 100Kcal, while 100g of Kiwifruit is 60Kcal...
Copper is another trace mineral in which many people are deficient. It is essential for electron and oxygen transport in the human body.
1 single Kiwifruit provides up to 10% of Copper RDA.
Another big one! Folate deficiencies in expecting mothers are commonly linked to birth defects. In fact, most doctors put expecting mothers on Folic Acid supplements before and during pregnancy.
However, what most people (including doctors) are not aware of is that a significant portion of the population does not have the enzymes to convert Folic Acid to Folate (the necessary element).
Once again, the Kiwifruit scores high: a single fruit will provide you with 10% of your daily Folate RDA.
Ok, so we've established that the Kiwifruit (including the Sungold version) are nutrient dense, easy to digest with a high level of bioavailability. What about taste and the Glycemic Load (GL)?
I'll come back to taste in a minute... Let's talk about the GL.
The Glycemic Load
As I mentioned earlier, I talked extensively about the importance of the Glyemic Load in an earlier blog.
But to save you the trouble or reading through another write-up, I'll summarize my thoughts here:
- Consuming carbohydrates leads to an increase in Insulin, a hormone secreted by the Pancreas and which is responsible for controlling the amount of sugar (glucose) floating around in your blood.
- When Insulin goes up, fat-burning is shut down, and some - and in many cases most - of the sugar in your blood gets converted to Triglycerides and deposited as Fat.
So whenever you're planning to eat carbs, you should chose those with the lowest Glycemic Load: those which cause the lowest spike in Insulin.
To give you some perspective, here are the GLs for some common foods:
- Pasta: 20-25
- Banana: 12
- Orange juice: 12
- Slice of white bread: 9
- Corn: 9
- Kiwifruit: 4
So there you have it, the Kiwifruit is nutrient dense, with bioavailable nutrients, and has a low Glycemic Index.
Ok but all this would be futile if it tasted horrible wouldn't it?
So as I mentioned earlier, I wasn't that fond of the taste of Kiwis as a kid. They often tasted sour and certainly not like my idea of what a fruit should taste like. Of course at the time, I didn't know that the Kiwis my father ate were not yet ripened and of questionable origin.
The Kiwis available to us today are far from either of these two things: pick up a green Zespri Kiwifruit and you will experience the wonderful flavor and texture of a well ripened kiwifruit from New Zealand. The texture is creamy and refreshing, with a wonderful flavor blending a bit of citrus with just the right amount of sweetness to balance it out, making you reach for more...
In fact, Zespri has a "taste management program" designed to naturally enhance the flavor of each piece of fruit.
But wait, that's not all!!!
Zespri's Sungold Kiwifruit takes flavors and texture to a whole new level.
Grab one, cut it in half, grab a small spoon and scoop out creamy refreshing sweet kiwifruit. Or if you're like me, put them in the fridge, let them become cold, grab FOUR, cut scoop and enjoy ;-). That certainly beats popping Vitamin C pills wouldn't you say?
As I mentioned, I was introduced to the Sungold Kiwifruit at a Zespri event in Dubai. At the event, we got to taste the fruit of course, but more importantly, we got to experience that various ways we can incorporate Kiwifruit into both sweet and savory dishes. We saw Kiwifruit cheescake, veggie sliders, Thai shrimp wraps, etc. We even made our own smoothies!
Here are some pics from the event:
You can find many more amazing recipes incorporating Kiwifruit here.
Oh, I almost forgot: it was 8-10 per day! THAT is how many Sungold Kiwifruits I was eating to make sure I was fully recovered and ready to jump on a long flight full of people coughing and sneezing, land in a country with a 30C temperature difference vs. Dubai, and race a long, hilly and cold half Ironman triathlon.
And about the title of this post? Well I had already paid for my race registration, flights and hotel, and NONE of these were refundable... so that's how this little fruit saved me $3,000!
You can find more information about the numerous health benefits of the Kiwifruit here.