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PULLMAN, Wash. -- The peach is known as 'the fruit of calmness' in Hungary. In China, it is a symbol of good luck and longevity.

The peach's reputation may be more accurate than anyone previously realized. A Washington State University researcher is exploring the cancer fighting potential of the fruit.

Her mother's breast cancer battle is one of the things that prompted food scientist Dr. Giuliana Noratto to look into the ways food might protect people's bodies. She found peaches are a shining example.

"Yes, I was surprised. Everybody was surprised, "said Noratto.

In a first-of-its kind study, Noratto and her colleagues gave mice peach extract. They found it essentially caused the most aggressive cancer cells to commit suicide.

"Just by giving the mice the peach extract, the tumor didn't grow," Noratto added.

It also inhibited the spread of the disease to other parts of the body.

The study showed peaches with the most red contain more cancer-fighting compounds. Those particular compounds are not stable when heated, so Noratto said canned peaches do not pack the same cancer-fighting punch as the fresh fruit.

According to Noratto, people can get the same dose as the mice by eating two to three peaches, plums or nectarines a day, or with a dietary supplement of peach polyphenol extract powder.

The doctor's research also gives good reason to be picky in the bread and pasta aisle.Noratto said white bread, for example, is not great for the heart.Working with obese mice, she changed the source of carbohydrates in their diet from refined to whole wheat, while keeping the calories the same.

The mice eating whole wheat reduced their body fat, including the dangerous fat found in their hearts.

While she is still analyzing the data, Dr. Noratto said it appears eating whole wheat reduces the markers of inflammation related to heart disease.

Through all her food research, she is convinced all of us should be filling at least half of our plates with fruits and vegetables to prevent disease.

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