Kiwi – Healthy or Dangerous?

By Heather Legg

I’ve noticed over the years one food that makes my mouth itch – kiwi. This one makes my husband’s mouth itch, too, but so do other fruits like peaches and plums. Whereas we’ve always contributed it to oral allergy syndrome, especially with him because of seasonal allergies, research shows that kiwis are pretty high allergy inducing foods.

In fact, in an article on moneycontrol.com, it is stated that the kiwi is now one of the top 10 sources of food allergies in Sweden, France and Finland. I remember back when kiwis first became popular in the United States; they were very exotic. Now we are all familiar with the green fruit with the black seeds and fuzzy brown skin, the one that makes our mouths itch. But research shows that it is the green kiwi, known as the Hayward kiwi, that causes the allergic symptoms and reactions.

Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber at the Medical University of Vienna led the study reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The researchers found that the “gold” varieties tend to be less allergenic than the more common green one. The protein in the fruit that causes the allergic reaction, similar to that found in nuts, is 50 times higher in the Hayward green kiwi than in the lighter, golden varieties.

As with many studies, it is just the beginning. I have begun to see different varieties of kiwi at the markets, including golden kiwi and baby kiwi. Some other varieties won’t be available commercially for 10 to 20 years.

As kiwi has many health benefits, it is a good choice of snack or to include in a fruit salad, unless of course, you are allergic. With its high amounts of vitamins, flavonoids and minerals, it is great for fighting off colds and staying healthy. It is high in potassium, like cucumbers and bananas which is good to have after exercising or losing water through sweating. Antioxidants have been shown to be helpful in fighting certain kinds of cancer. A kiwi has more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of oranges!

This being said, the benefits aren’t worth it if dangerous allergic reactions occur when eaten. Because it is being shown that the reaction is actually due to a food allergy rather than oral allergy syndrome, it may be wise for those (like me) to stay away from kiwi, at least the common green ones. I may try to seek those golden ones out next time I am grocery shopping…

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