By Dr. Allen Mask, Health Team physician
Raleigh, N.C. — We already know that peaches are sweet and delicious -- but according to WRAL's Dr. Allen Mask, they're full of health benefits.
The State Farmers' Market in Raleigh is full of colorful, fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, and shoppers and vendors say the "big star" on produce stands this month are big, juicy peaches.
Skid Rowe, a frequent shopper, is a huge fan of heart healthy produce like peaches.
"I've had a heart transplant," he said. "Oh my goodness, you just crack that thing open and you just eat 'em -- and it's so good. I like to make smoothies out of 'em; add a little yogurt, some milk and some ice -- put those peaches in there. Oh, they're just so good!"
Even though peaches are sweet and taste like dessert, they are less than 60 calories with no saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium. They're also 85 percent water, making them the perfect healthy summer fruit.
Just one peach has up to 15 percent of the Vitamin C the body needs each day, which helps heal wounds and strengthens the immune system.
Peaches are also fiber rich and good for the digestive system.
Rex dietitian Shelly Wegman says their orange color is a sign of beta carotene, which is good for your vision. They are also rich in phytochemicals like lutein.
"That one is really good for helping fight free radicals or antioxidants," said Wegman. They help fight all the things that cause damage at the cellular level."
Wegman says the greatest benefit of locally grown produce -- like melons, berries and peaches -- is the freshness they offer.
"The fresher it is, the more nutritional value it's going to have," she said.
Sellers would rather you not squeeze the peaches, and they say to buy them while they are firm unless you plan to eat them right away.
"When they are fresh, they are so fabulous and juicy, but they also preserve really well, and you can do things like make pickled peaches or preserves," said Wegman. "But when they are fresh, they are just beautiful."
When peaches begin to go soft, put them in the refrigerator, because leaving them on the counter once they are ripe will lessen their Vitamin C content.
There are many great recipes for peach salsa, and, of course, they are famously delicious in ice cream and cobbler.
Want to stock up? Thursday is Peach Day at the State Farmers' Market.