Nectarine Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Nectarines annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Nectarines are nearly identical to peaches in both their genetic makeup and nutritional profile. The most obvious differences are their skin and flavor. Peaches are covered with fuzz, while nectarines have thin, smooth skin. Nectarines also have slightly firmer flesh and a more sweet-tart flavor. Although their flavors are distinctive, nectarines and peaches can often be interchanged in recipes.

In addition to being low in calories and rich in fiber, nectarines are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. These nutrients offer health benefits in terms of improved metabolism, digestion, and heart health. 

Nectarine Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one medium nectarine measuring about 2 1/2" diameter (142g).

  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 15g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Sugars: 11g
  • Protein: 1.5g

Carbs

One medium nectarine has 15 grams of carbohydrate, making it suitable for most low-carb diets. Many of the carbs in nectarines come from simple carbs, namely sugar. In nectarines, fructose accounts for more than a third of the simple sugars; the rest is made up of glucose and sucrose. As opposed to complex carbs that are gradually broken down into simple sugars, simple carbs are burned quickly and can potentially influence your blood sugar.

Despite the sugar content, nectarines have a relatively modest glycemic index (GI) of 43, more or less in line with a cup of unsweetened bran cereal or one slice of cracked wheat bread. (Anything below 55 is considered a low GI.) Nectarines also deliver 2.4 grams of fiber per serving.

Fat

Nectarines are a low-fat food, with less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving and no cholesterol. The small amount of fat in nectarines is comprised of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Protein

Nectarines are not an especially rich source of protein, delivering just 1.5 grams per serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Nectarines offer a moderate amount of essential vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA, nectarines provide a healthy proportion of the reference daily intake (RDI) of the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin A: 9.4% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 13% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 6% of the RDI
  • Copper: 4% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 4% of the RDI

Nectarines also offer a significant amount of the antioxidants beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and tryptophan (a precursor to niacin). Compared to peaches, nectarines have more plant-based polyphenols.

Health Benefits 

Nectarines are believed to have been cultivated as far back as 4,000 years ago. Like peaches, nectarines have long been used in folk remedies for colic and stomachaches or in Chinese traditional medicine to treat constipation and menstrual pain.

Lowers Risk of Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease

The antioxidants in nectarines are believed to offer health benefits by preventing or reducing the risk of these conditions (which are often associated with each other).

Nectarines contain potent polyphenol compounds that can potentially reverse symptoms of metabolic syndrome while simultaneously lowering blood sugar and reducing vascular inflammation associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). 

The research suggests that four polyphenolic groups—anthocyanins, chlorogenic acids, quercetin derivatives, and catechins—act on different cell lines, including fat cells, endothelial cells in blood vessels, and macrophage cells that participate in the inflammatory response. 

Working in complement, the polyphenol compounds are believed to moderate blood sugar level, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and prevent the accumulation of adipose cells around organs.

Slows Growth of Cancer Cells

The same team of researchers reported that these polyphenols also reduced the proliferation of estrogen-independent breast cancer cells in test tubes by 50%. This suggests that peach and nectarine polyphenols may offer a protective benefit against certain breast cancers.

Lowers Cholesterol

Vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and tryptophan have similar properties. These antioxidant compounds not only help lower vascular inflammation, improving circulation and blood pressure, but can also prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the type associated with atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

Despite these potential benefits, there have been few human studies investigating the direct dietary impact of nectarines on any of these conditions.

Allergies

true allergy to nectarine is not as common as with other foods. However, cross-reactive symptoms may develop soon after eating nectarines due to a phenomenon known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). This is when the immune system mistakes certain foods for tree or grass pollens that cause "true" allergies. 

The two pollens most commonly associated with nectarine and peach OAS are birch pollen (from the end of April to early July) and grass pollen (from May to early July).

Comparatively speaking, OAS symptoms tend to be less severe than true allergies, although this is not always the case. Symptoms may include:

  • An itchy or burning sensation in the mouth
  • Swollen or numb lips
  • A scratchy throat
  • A stuffy or runny nose

Because the symptoms usually subside once the fruit is swallowed, treatment is usually not needed. Call your doctor or seek urgent care if the symptoms persist or worsen. In rare instances, a potentially life-threatening, all-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis has been known to occur (most often, in older adults with a long history of peach or nectarine allergies).

You can avoid OAS symptoms by cooking nectarines, which breaks down the proteins to which the immune system reacts. OAS usually affects older children, teens, and young adults who have eaten nectarines before without a problem. It is only after developing perennial allergic rhinitis (hay fever) that OAS symptoms will begin to appear.

Adverse Effects

There are no known drug interactions to nectarines. However, people on potassium-restricted diets, especially those on Aldactone (spironolactone), a potassium-sparing diuretic, may need to avoid nectarines.

Potassium-restricted diets are often prescribed for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Eating potassium-rich foods like nectarines with Aldactone may cause a potentially serious accumulation of potassium (known as hyperkalemia) in people with CKD.

Varieties

Nectarines are either freestone or clingstone. Freestone nectarines have pits that are easily removed, and the fruit is commonly eaten out of hand. Clingstone nectarines have pits that are harder to remove. These nectarines are better used for cooking and canning since they hold their shape better.

Like peaches, nectarines are on the so-called "dirty dozen" list. This is the list of produce that tends to have higher pesticide residue. When possible, buy organic nectarines. Beyond safety, organic fruits are generally allowed to ripen longer on the tree or vine, increasing their sugar concentration. If cost is an issue, non-organic nectarines are fine; just make sure to wash them thoroughly.

When They're Best

Nectarines are at their peak in July and August. When shopping, choose those that have a good aroma and are free of blemishes, bruises, soft spots, and wrinkles. The skin should be a creamy yellow to an orange-yellow and have a matte sheen.

Contrary to what most people believe, red patches do not indicate ripeness. However, if you find a green-skinned nectarine, that means it was picked too early and will not ripen any further. Nectarines will soften over time, but once they are picked, they will not become sweeter.

Nectarines picked at their prime will continue to ripen at room temperature. You can speed the process by putting them in a paper bag. A hormone known as ethylene will be emitted as the fruit ripens, and it acts as a ripening agent when confined to a small container.

Canned and frozen nectarines are available all year long. Frozen nectarines usually maintain most of their nutritional value. If purchasing canned nectarines, choose those that are packed in water or their own juices so they do not have any added sugar.

Storage and Food Safety

You can store nectarines in the refrigerator to keep them from getting overly ripe, but they're tastiest and juiciest if eaten at room temperature. If you aren't able to eat your nectarines before they over-ripen, wash them, remove the pit, cut them into slices, and freeze in a freezer bag.

How to Prepare

Clingstone nectarines have a large pit (stone) in the center that is hard to remove. To extract the stone easily, wash the nectarine and dry it with a paper towel. Place the nectarine on a cutting board, making a deep cut along the center seam of the fruit and continuing all around the stone. Next, twist the nectarine along the cut in opposite directions so that you have two halves.

If this doesn't work, make another cut from stem to tip so that you have four equal, quartered portions. Shimmy the knife in the stone to gradually loosen each quarter. If a section is not easily removed, work a small paring knife or spoon around the stone until the fruit is free.

Nectarines are great eaten by themselves or paired with a handful of nuts or seeds. They are also a wonderful addition to salads, pancakes, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, and hot cereals.

You can dice them finely and mix them with cilantro, lime juice, diced red onion, and sweet chili sauce for delicious fruity salsa. Try adding chopped nectarines to smoothies, or gently cook and purée for a no-sugar-added dessert topping. 

Recipes

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Article Sources
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