“Custard apple,” “rambutan,” “golden berry,” or “jackfruit” – do you know what these names refer to? You won’t find these exotic fruits daily at your nearby market. Tropical fruits remain a mystery to many people. Hence the lesser interest and overlooking their magnificent properties. I want to introduce them to you and highlight their health benefits. I have selected a subjective top 10 tropical fruits, which, among other things, reduce blood pressure, have anticancer effects, and slow down aging processes. These are just a few of the numerous positive aspects of human health. Want to learn more? Stay a while and read the article about the least known fruits.
1. Cherimoya (Custard Apple)
Cherimoya comes from South America, specifically Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. It grows on a tree called the Peruvian custard apple tree. Cherimoya is a heart-shaped fruit with green skin. Due to the protrusions on the skin, they resemble dragon scales. The flesh is white with a custard-like consistency, containing inedible black seeds. Remember to remove the seeds thoroughly, as they have a toxic alkaloid! The size of cherimoya is comparable to a medium-sized apple. Its taste resembles a combination of banana, pineapple, and mango [1,2].
Cherimoya is a vitamin bomb. It is a source of vitamins from groups B, C, A, and E. It is rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. In 100g of the fruit, you will find 3g of fiber, which is responsible for maintaining proper sugar metabolism in the human body [1,2].
Cherimoya has health-promoting properties, such as the ability to lower blood pressure, thanks to the present potassium, which relaxes the tension of blood vessels. Antioxidants like phenolic compounds and vitamin E combat free radicals, accelerating aging. The presence of vitamin C strengthens the immune system. When buying the fruit, choosing underripe (green) and leaving it to ripen if necessary is better. Brown fruits, therefore already ripe, may not be suitable for consumption [1,2].
2. Durian (Forbidden Fruit)
This fruit originates from Southeast Asia, mainly Indonesia and Malaysia. It can weigh up to 5 kg. Due to its spiky shell, many people compare it to a gigantic chestnut. Inside is an edible pale yellow flesh with black seeds embedded in it. Durians are used in fried, baked, or boiled forms. They are added to ice creams, cakes, preserves, or savory dishes .
What distinguishes this exotic fruit is its specific “aroma.” It is often compared to onions, rotting flesh, or even vomit. For this reason, durians often end up on the blacklist of hotels or airports. If you want to try durian, you can buy it at markets, where it is sold whole or in parts. The taste is compared to a mixture of garlic, nuts, and a strongly scented cheese .
Durians are an excellent source of vitamins B, A, and C. Among the minerals contained in durian, one can distinguish manganese, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and iron. The fat content in 100g of the fruit is 5g, which gives the flesh a creamy consistency .
The fruit is an aphrodisiac, which rejuvenates the skin, all thanks to antioxidants that fight free radicals. The high water content in the fruit helps moisturize the skin, thus having a smoothing effect. The fiber content supports intestinal peristalsis, aiding digestive processes .
3. Rambutan (Rambutan Berry)
They are also known as Chinese plum. Malaysia and Indonesia are the Southeast Asian areas where rambutan grows. It resembles lychee in appearance — a fruit covered with numerous papillae from which hairs grow, creating a hairy effect. Inside is a pearlescent flesh with a sweet-sour taste [4,5].
It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C. Moreover, rambutan provides potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium, among others [4,5].
The fruit is a source of vitamin C, which aids the absorption of iron from food. Consuming 5-6 fruits throughout the day meets 50% of the daily vitamin C requirement. Due to its low-calorie content, it serves perfectly as a snack during weight reduction. The significant water content in this fruit supports kidney function [4,5].
This fruit comes from crops or grows wild in the territories of Malaysia. Similar in size to an apple, it houses six edible seeds of white flesh. It has a soft and delicate texture. Its flavor resembles a combination of strawberries and grapes. The mangosteen seeds are edible after being cooked or baked, giving a nutty flavor .
Mangosteen contains catechin tannins, calophony, and antioxidants that show antifungal properties. Due to its astringent action, the mangosteen rind treats skin diseases. A decoction made from leaves and bark with astringent properties treats urinary system diseases and eliminates yeast infections. When choosing mangosteen, opt for fruits with numerous external marks — they indicate many fleshy segments .
This exotic fruit originates from South America and is primarily found in the rainforests. The berry is filled with numerous seeds (up to 50) covered with flesh. Due to its consistency, the dense flesh is often referred to as white cocoa. The mass of cupuaçu can even reach up to 1.5 kg .
Among the riches of this tropical delicacy is primarily the presence of unsaturated fatty acids. Also notable are the tocopherols and vitamin E, which perform antioxidant functions .
It is one of the few fruits used in the cosmetic industry. Cupuaçu butter, due to its contained fatty acids, hydrates the skin well, maintaining its firmness .
6. Physalis (Golden Berry)
Physalis originates from South America, but it can also be found in gardens in Poland. It looks like orange cherry tomatoes but slightly smaller. The fruit is wrapped in a papery husk, which we remove before consumption. In terms of taste, it is a cross between mango and pineapple. Physalis is added to salads fruit preserves or consumed as a fresh snack. It also tastes delicious when dried .
Goldenberry is an excellent source of niacin, vitamin C, and fiber. 100g of the fruit contains as much as 6g of fiber, which provides a more prolonged feeling of fullness .
Physalis’ health-promoting actions include inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and protecting the skin against aging, all thanks to the present antioxidants and phenolic compounds. It is estimated that this fruit harbors as many as 34 unique compounds with health benefits for humans .
These fruits come from South and Central Africa. They have also already dominated the United States and New Zealand markets. Kiwano, due to its oval shape, spiky green skin, and flesh filled with seeds, resembles our cucumber. Ripe fruits adopt an orange-yellow coloration. What might surprise you is that this fruit belongs to the gourd family .
It is a low-calorie snack since 100g of the fruit supplies 44 kcal. Kiwano is a source of vitamin C and magnesium. It’s magnesium that participates in bone mineralization and lowers blood pressure. Deficiencies of this element can lead to premature heart disease. The kiwano fruit contains a higher concentration of vitamin C than a lemon .
The jackfruit is originally from Malaysia and India. It can be found in Asia, Africa, and America. The fruit is covered with a thick, spiky skin, and its weight can vary between 2 and 20 kg. Not without reason, they are considered dangerous fruits; due to their size, if they fall from a great height onto a person collecting them, they can cause injury. The jackfruit has an oval shape and a layered structure. Its color changes from green to yellow. The flesh constitutes about 30% of the jackfruit’s weight. Its taste resembles a blend of banana with pineapple/mango. Jackfruit is eaten raw as a snack but is also delicious as dried chips or nutritious juice. It is also used as a base for making candies, marmalades, or liqueurs .
It has a very favorable calcium, iron, and thiamine content compared to other fruits. Due to the flavonoids and carotenoids present in it, it has bactericidal, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. It leads to preventing atherosclerosis and diabetes .
9. Noni (Indian Mulberry)
The Indian mulberry originates from the equatorial zone, extending from Indonesia to Australia. Interestingly, every part of this fruit is edible. As the ripening progresses, the green oval fruits change to an intense yellow color. They are filled with juicy flesh and dark seeds. Noni fruits are used to make juice, which is very popular among people with lipid disorders, as it lowers the level of triglycerides in the blood .
Noni fruits contain selenium, which supports heart function. The antioxidants found in Indian mulberries prevent the development of many diseases, including oxidative stress .
This citrus was first discovered in Jamaica. It is a cross between a tangerine/orange and a grapefruit. As the name “ugli” suggests, this fruit doesn’t impress with its appearance. It is a round, irregular-shaped fruit with green skin. Underneath the ugly layer is a light-yellow flesh divided into segments, which befits a citrus fruit. The flesh tastes sweet, offset by a sour note. It is most often eaten alone or in fruit salads .
The ugli fruit has a high fiber content, which supports the functioning of the intestines. Its low glycemic index causes a slower increase in blood glucose levels, making it a good treat for people with diabetes. It contains a wealth of flavonoids and polyphenols with antioxidant properties, preventing tumor development .
The examples described above are, of course, not all the strangest fruits in the world. There are many more, and each of them offers health benefits. I am curious about what intrigued you the most and if any of them were unfamiliar. Or have you encountered another fruit not mentioned in the article? I would love to hear about them; please write about it.
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A graduate of the 1st-degree Food Technology and Human Nutrition program at the Hugo Kołłątaj University of Agriculture in Kraków, currently a 2nd-degree student of Dietetics. I am interested in the subject of eating disorders and constantly delve into this topic. In my spare time, I practice yoga, read books, or travel.