They say variety is the spice of life and when it comes to fruit, there’s more than just apples, oranges and bananas. Dragon fruit, Cactus Fig and Physalis are just a few examples of exotic fruit that can bring more gusto and nutritional value into your everyday choices. By “eating outside the box” we can experience more of what this food group has to offer.
Exotic Fruits to try
1. Lulo – Resembling an orange and also known as “Naranjilla” or “little orange”, this fruit tastes between a pineapple and a lemon but looks like a green tomato on the inside. It’s native to Colombia and to the Andes mountains in South America and can be eaten rawor cooked. Lulo fruit is loaded with vitamins C, B, and A along with iron, phosphorus, beta carotene, magnesium and calcium. Use it alone or add to pies, jams, jelly or turn into juice or fruit wine.
2. Cactus Fig – You may think you just picked up an avocado due to its shape but it’s bright green exterior and creamy yellow interior will give it away. Low in calories (only 40!), sodium and cholesterol free, this exotic fruit has been studied for possibly helping to control blood sugar and symptoms associated with hangovers. Historically, the cactus fig was used by the Spanish to treat sailors with scurvy due to its high vitamin C content. Originating from Colombia, the juice of the cactus fig has been made into alcoholic beverages in Mexico and Malta.
3. Cherimoya – Here is another tropical fruit from the forests of the Central Andean Mountains. A small tree called Annona produces this irregularly shaped oval fruit with a leathery dark-green exterior. This sweet tasting fruit offers a host of nutritional gems. It contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, has 3 grams of fiber and boasts anitoxidants that may have anti-cancer properties. It’s high in vitamin C and is a good source of B-complex vitamins, potassium and is low in sodium.
4. Physalis – Like tomatoes, physalis are from the nightshade family with many species called groundcherries. They have a flavor similar to strawberries or pineapple but the texture is like a firm tomato. Native to subtropical regions of the world, this fruit is predominately found in Mexico. Physalis are abundant in Vitamin C having two times the amount as lemons and vitamin A important for a strong immune system, healthy eyes and skin. The fiber content will provide a full feeling helping to satisfy hunger. Physalis can be eaten raw, used in salads, made into fruit preserves or dried.
5. Jaboticaba – This unusual fruit grows directly on the trunk of the Brazilian Grape tree –large clusters of purple colored grape-like looking fruit. Native to South America, this fruit was introduced to California in 1904. Low in calories, fat and carbohydrate, it is rich in vitamin C, E, niacin, folic acid and high in the minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Its high fiber content can prevent constipation and this fruit is a rich source of many antioxidants such as anthocyanins and ellagic acid. These powerful antioxidants can help prevent early aging by decreasing wrinkles and dark spots, increases the production of collagen, promotes healthy hair by decreasing hair loss, has anti-cancer properties, reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and its high content of calcium is good for bones and teeth.
6. Rambutan – This fruit comes from the southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. The Rambutan tree produces this hairy like fruit grown in clusters and is usually red in color but can also be yellow or orange. The seeds inside the fruit are poisonous but once cooked, they are safe to eat. Tasting similar to a grape, a 100 gram serving provides about 40 percent of the daily recommendation of vitamin C and it’s also a good source of the mineral iron with anywhere from 13.8 to 31.2 percent of the daily recommendation.
7. Dragon Fruit – Also known as pitaya fruit, this colorful plant is a type of cactus and is grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and Israel. It’s leathery skin can come in three types: red-skinned fruit with white flesh, red-skinned fruit with red flesh, and yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh. It’s sweet, crunchy taste resembles a cross between a kiwi and a pear. This fruit provides plenty of vitamin C, fiber, phosphorus, calcium and antioxidants and has been known to help control levels of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes.
8. Horned Melon – This exotic oval-shaped fruit, native to southern Africa, literally has little horns protruding from its bright yellow exterior. Inside, the flesh is lime green with a jelly like texture and a grassy smell. Rich in the anti-oxidant, a-tocopherol, also known as Vitamin E, this fruit is beneficial for skin, heart, muscles, nerves and red blood cells. The lime green pigment found inside contains beta carotene which supports a strong immune system and increases skin and eye health. Biting into a horned melon will give a refreshing taste combination of lime, banana and cucumber.
ABOUT CHERYL MUSSATTO
Cheryl Mussatto has over 30 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian and has worked in a variety of settings that cover a wide span of nutrition experience. Currently she works as an adjunct professor for two community colleges, Allen Community College in Burlingame and Butler Community College in Council Grove, Kansas teaching two courses, Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition. Cheryl also is a contributing author for osagecountyonline.com, an online newspaper and Edietitians, a global free nutritional and health magazine. Her articles for both publications pertain to nutrition topics that cover a diversity of health and nutrition interests for the general public. She is also certified as a health and wellness coach.