First Peach Fossils Found – Why We Love This Ancient Fruit

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2.6 million year old peach fossils found in Kunming City in the Yunnan province of southwestern China.

Last week a team of scientists published an article in Scientific Reports with evidence that peaches existed before humans. The recently discovered peach fossils date back 2.6 million years and give new insight into the origins of this popular fruit. (Modern humans date back about 200,000 years.)

Here at AICR, we love peaches – along with other fruits – because they are part of a cancer-protective diet. They are also loved for their sweetness and versatility. But there is a lot more to know about the mighty peach.

Here are 5 fun facts about peaches.

They originated in China. According to the new research, fossils that date back to the late Pliocene Epoch were found in the southwestern region of China and are nearly identical to the peaches of today. It is thought that these early peaches would have been food for primates long before humans arrived. Farming practices such as selective breeding have led to larger and new varieties of peaches but for the most part peaches have not changed in millions of years.

They are part of a cancer protective diet. Diets high in fruit such as peaches are linked to decreased risk of multiple cancers including those of the stomach, lung, and mouth. And the fiber in these sweet gems is linked to lower risk of colorectal cancer. A cup of peaches has 17% of your daily vitamin C needs. Foods containing vitamin C link to lower risk of esophageal cancer.

Americans love them. Peaches were the 7th most consumed fruit in the US in 2013. According to the USDA, in this year Americans ate almost 7 pounds – about 20 medium peaches – per person. Nearly half of these were canned.

They can be enjoyed year-round. Although peaches are grown in warm weather, they can be enjoyed anytime. Canned and frozen peaches are readily available and can be as healthy as fresh. Frozen peaches usually do not have anything added to them and are a great choice especially for smoothies. When choosing canned peaches look for those canned in fruit juice or light syrup as opposed to heavy syrup which has lots of added sugar.

There are Clingstone and Freestone peaches. Clingstone peaches have flesh that “clings” to the stone pit. Freestone peach fruit separates easily from the pit making them ideal for slicing and eating. Unfortunately, there is no way to know from looking at a peach whether it is clingstone or freestone.

Find delicious and healthy recipes with peaches in AICR’s Healthy Recipes.

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Author: Samantha

Samantha Tryon MS, RD is a dietitian living in Washington, DC. Sam is a former high school teacher who is passionate about making science information accessible to the public and promoting healthy behaviors and a positive body image.

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