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Best Exotic Fruits You Haven't Heard About

Top Exotic Fruits You Haven't Heard About

Trade in your usual staple of bananas and pineapples for more exciting exotic fruit! You may not have heard of the amla or the sweetsop, but with health benefits ranging from improved glucose metabolism to free radical fighting properties, there’s reason to get clued in. Other things you could add to your all-new global style grocery list are antioxidant rich, anti inflammatory, and nutrient packed fruit like bitter melon, pitaya, horned melon, mangosteen, and feijoa.

If you’re trying to get your daily five of fresh fruit and vegetables but are tired of apples and pears, why not experiment with something more exotic? And if eating healthy is important to you – you’ll love these fruits. Packed with nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, many of them also contain plenty of water to hydrate you. Thanks to speciality stores and supermarkets finding these on local shores doesn’t have to be too hard.

1. Indian Gooseberry Or Amla

The Indian gooseberry or Amla, is an exotic Indian berry with a distinctly tart flavor and sweet aftertaste. It is also mildly astringent and has a bitterness to it.

Health benefits: It is known to be a an antidiabetic agent that can help improve glucose metabolism in your body.1 It also has tremendous antimicrobial potential against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.2 It is packed with phenols, flavinols and other antioxidants that can fight free radical damage3 and may even have potential to fight cancer.4

How to use it: You could try making a juice that combines gooseberry with other sweeter fruit, for an antioxidant boost. Try pickling them with some Indian spices or preserving it in sugar syrup or making it into a jam or a relish to have as a condiment with meals.

2. Bitter Melon

The spiky green skinned balsam pear or bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd is a fairly polarizing fruit. Used in savory dishes in India and China, it is believed to have therapeutic benefits stemming from its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant content.5

Health benefits: The melon can help lower glucose levels in those with Type 2 diabetes.6 It also contains about a third of your daily reccomended intake of Vitamin A7 and a good amount of Vitamin K needed for improving bone density and warding off osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.8 It may even help cut fat accumulation.9 Chinese medicine views it as a good natural detox agent that can purge excess heat from the body, restoring balance.10

How to use it: Remove the seeds and pith from the bitter melon and parboil or boil it before using it in salads or stir fries.

3. Sugar Apple Or Sweetsop

Sugar apples or sweetsop were found originally in the West Indies and the tropical Americas but are popular in Asia as well. They have an almost custard like texture and flavor – which is why they’re sometimes referred to as custard apples. Sugar apples are rich in dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamin C and B vitamins including folate.11

Health benefits: The fruit is known to have free radical scavenging properties. It may also have benefits for the heart due to the cardiac glycosides in the fruits.12 Research indiciates that even its skin may have health benefits due to anti-inflammatory properties.13

How to use it: This fruit is best eaten as it is. Simply scoop out the flesh inside and discard the seeds and peel. The pulp also tastes great in juices and smoothies.

4. Pitaya Or Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit or Pitaya is distinctive in its bright pink exterior that conceals white or pink flesh flecked with black seeds on the interior.

Health benefits: The oligosaccharides or sugars in the fruit are believed to have prebiotic properties and could help stimulate the growth of gut friendly lactobacilli as well as bifidobacteria.14 These functional oligosaccharides could hep boost immunity, supress pathogens, and aid mineral absorption,among other things.15

How to use it: Consume it as you would a kiwi, discarding the peel. It makes a great addition to a fruit salad or can be eaten on its own. It also works a treat in a parfait, as a sauce for your pancakes, in chia pudding, or as a smoothie.

5. Horned Melon Or Kiwano

A yellowish orange fruit that originated in Africa, it also goes by African horned cucumber and even blowfish fruit due to its trademark spikes. People have variously described its flavor as being either mildly sweet and sour or faintly like a combination of a pineapple and banana.

Health benefits: The Kiwano is a watery fruit making it a great way to hydrate and fill up without packing on the pounds. Research has shown its possible use in improving blood parameters like hemoglobin levels and red blood cell counts. Animal studies have shown potential for its use as an antihyperglycemic agent. It may also have anti ulcer and antimicrobial properties. The zinc it contains is beneficial for improving sperm count and motility. The seeds contain oleic acid that can aid lowering of blood pressure, while the antioxidants γ-tocopherol and α- tocopherol(forms of Vitamin E) counter free radical damage and help with healthy development of your heart, body cells, skin, muscles, and nerves. The Vitamin A it contains is great for the eyes and improves night vision as well as skin health and the beta carotene of the pulp helps boost immunity.16

How to use it: Simply eat the fruit as it is by squeezing out the pulp and seeds and discarding the rind. The seeds are edible though an acquired taste. You can also use it in a fruit salad for a surprising twist, or as a garnish for meats, or in a tangy salsa.

6. Mangosteen

This tennis ball sized fruit from Southeast Asia conceals an antioxidant rich creamy white interior. Its seeds are soft and edible. Fiber rich and with with high water content, it can fill you up if you’re hungry or trying to knock off weight.

Health benefits: The fruit is said to have anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial for those at risk from inflammatory conditions like _.17 For instance, the juice has been found to help reduce inflammation in obese and overweight test subjects.18 The rich antioxidant content helps boost immunity.19 However, as some researchers caution, further studies need to be done to back up claims from smaller studies or animal and in vitro studies before you can consider mangosteen a mainstream treatment for health problems like cancer.20

How to use it: Mangosteen is delicious eaten as it is, or as a juice or in a fruit salad, but makes for a fresh sweet dessert ingredient too. Try your hand at some Asian style desserts or experiment with it in more familiar desserts.

7. Feijoa

The Feijoa, a fruit native to South America closely resembles a lime on the exterior. Open it however and you’ll find it is much more fleshy and has a tang and flavor more like a pineapple.

Health benefits: A single cup of the flesh of the Feijoa meets almost all your daily requirement(about 80 percent) of Vitamin C. Its potassium(a nutrient known to help with heart muscle strength and maintain electrical balance of the heart)21 and fiber content also make it a heart healthy choice.22 Feijoa has shown antioxidant as well as antibacterial properties in tests.23 The flavones in the fruit are being explored for their anti cancer potential.24

How to use it: Besides eating them plain, you could use your Feijoas as an exotic baking ingredient. It also lends itself to being made into jams and chutneys.

References   [ + ]

1. Mirunalini, S., and M. Krishnaveni. “Therapeutic potential of Phyllanthus emblica (amla): the ayurvedic wonder.” Journal of basic and clinical physiology and pharmacology 21, no. 1 (2010): 93-105.
2. Potdar, Shrudha, and Nagesh Lakshminarayan. “Antimicrobial Efficacy of Emblica Officinalis Fruit Extracts on S. Mutans, E. Faecalis and C. Albicans.” Advances In Human Biology 4, no. 1 (2014): 26-30.
3. Filipiak-Szok, Anna, Marzanna Kurzawa, and Edward Szłyk. “Determination of antioxidant capacity and content of phenols, phenolic acids, and flavonols in Indian and European gooseberry.” Chemical Papers 66, no. 4 (2012): 259-268.
4. Govind, Pandey. “Some important anticancer herbs: a review.” International Research Journal of Pharamacy 2 (2011): 45-53.
5. Kubola, Jittawan, and Sirithon Siriamornpun. “Phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.) leaf, stem and fruit fraction extracts in vitro.” Food chemistry 110, no. 4 (2008): 881-890.
6. Basch, Ethan, Steven Gabardi, and Catherine Ulbricht. “Bitter melon (Momordica charantia): a review of efficacy and safety.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 60, no. 4 (2003): 356-359.
7. Vitamin A. NIH.
8. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release. USDA.
9. Chen, Qixuan, and Edmund TS Li. “Reduced adiposity in bitter melon (Momordica charantia) fed rats is associated with lower tissue triglyceride and higher plasma catecholamines.” British Journal of Nutrition 93, no. 05 (2005): 747-754.
10. Weng, Weijian, and Junshi Chen. “The eastern perspective on functional foods based on traditional Chinese medicine.” Nutrition reviews 54, no. 11 (1996): S11.
11. Sugar-apples, (sweetsop), raw. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
12. Boakye, A. A., F. D. Wireko-Manu, J. K. Agbenorhevi, and I. Oduro. “Antioxidant activity, total phenols and phytochemical constituents of four underutilised tropical fruits.” International Food Research Journal 22, no. 1 (2015).
13. Wu, Ping, Min Wu, Liangxiong Xu, Haihui Xie, and Xiaoyi Wei. “Anti-inflammatory cyclopeptides from exocarps of sugar-apples.” Food chemistry 152 (2014): 23-28.
14. Wichienchot, S., M. Jatupornpipat, and R. A. Rastall. “Oligosaccharides of pitaya (dragon fruit) flesh and their prebiotic properties.” Food chemistry 120, no. 3 (2010): 850-857.
15. Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. “Functional oligosaccharides: production, properties and applications.” World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology 27, no. 5 (2011): 1119-1128.
16. Usman, J. G., O. A. Sodipo, A. Kwaghe, and U. K. Sandabe. “Uses of Cucumis metuliferus: A Review.” Cancer Biol 5 (2015): 24.
17. Chen, Lih-Geeng, Ling-Ling Yang, and Ching-Chiung Wang. “Anti-inflammatory activity of mangostins from Garcinia mangostana.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 46, no. 2 (2008): 688-693.
18. Udani, Jay K., Betsy B. Singh, Marilyn L. Barrett, and Vijay J. Singh. “Evaluation of Mangosteen juice blend on biomarkers of inflammation in obese subjects: a pilot, dose finding study.” Nutrition journal 8, no. 1 (2009): 48.
19. Tang, Yu-Ping, Peng-Gao Li, Miwako Kondo, Hong-Ping Ji, Yan Kou, and Boxin Ou. “Effect of a mangosteen dietary supplement on human immune function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of medicinal food 12, no. 4 (2009): 755-763.
20. Gutierrez-Orozco, Fabiola, and Mark L. Failla. “Biological activities and bioavailability of mangosteen xanthones: a critical review of the current evidence.” Nutrients 5, no. 8 (2013): 3163-3183.
21. Heart failure and potassium. Harvard Medical School.
22. Feijoa, raw. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
23. Vuotto, Maria Luisa, Adriana Basile, Vincenza Moscatiello, Pasquale De Sole, Rosa Castaldo-Cobianchi, Emanuela Laghi, and Maria Teresa Lucia Ielpo. “Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Feijoa sellowiana fruit.” International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 13, no. 3 (2000): 197-201.
24. Bontempo, Paola, Luigi Mita, Marco Miceli, Antonella Doto, Angela Nebbioso, Floriana De Bellis, Mariarosaria Conte et al. “Feijoa sellowiana derived natural Flavone exerts anti-cancer action displaying HDAC inhibitory activities.” The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology 39, no. 10 (2007): 1902-1914.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.