Superfruits, where do they come from and why are they so special: Dragon Fruit and Star fruit

If you are in southern Europe or even in the UK, you are probably enjoying (while dutifully taking care of yourself and the others) this hot summer perhaps with a smoothie or an ice-cream.

Speaking of fresh fruity foods, I believe that you have already stumbled upon new exotic fruits such as dragon fruit and star fruit. These exotic fruits are now considered superfruits. This means that being rich in fibres, biological compounds such as vitamins, phenolic acids and anthocyanins which are well-know antioxidants, these products could impart beneficial effects on human health.

Dragon fruit and the star fruit (or Carambola) come from central America and southeastern Asia respectively. The first one is easily recognisable since it has a characteristic red bract with a white pulp filled with black seeds while the star fruit presents a star shape when cut and a fun fact is that its leaves are sensitive to touch and light so when you touch them they tend to fold.

As you can imagine, these superfruits have been historically used both as medicine and ornament. It was common use for Maya populations in pre-hispanic times to use dragon fruit as a remedy against heart disease and as a wound disinfectant as well as a diuretic (Argueta et al., 1994).

Dragon fruit has a chemical composition that is characterised by high percentages of glucose ,fructose, proline and ascorbic acid, the last one being a powerful antioxidant that can be found in other fruits such as lemon, oranges and many others. Alongside such compounds, we can also find carotenoids and major minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium which are greatly important not only for our teeth and bones but also for our muscles and the entire organism as many of them are needed for enzymes that are busy working for the proper functionality of our metabolic pathways.

Dragon fruit is also rich in hemicellulose, cellulose and pectin which are present in the pulp and are very important as they possess prebiotic functionality (Blaut et al., 2002) which means that they can be consumed by microorganisms living in our gut thus boosting our gut health.

The star fruit or Carambola is also considered a superfruit thanks to its composition rich in various bioactive compounds such as antioxidants. In fact, the star fruit is a power house of these ranging from carotenoids to phenols to flavonoids. In the traditional Chinese medicine, fruit, roots leaves and flowers of the star fruit were used to treat high blood pressure and diabetes while in Nepal they used powdered star fruit seeds to treat asthma and colic (Barwick et al., 2004; Saghir et al., 2013).

Now it won’t be a surprise for me if you are feeling already like going to look for those fruits in your favourite fruit shop. I am definitely doing so!

References

  • Argueta A.V., Cano L.M.A., Rodarte M.E. (1994). Atlas de las plantas de la medicina tradicional Mexicana. Ciudad de Mexico, MEX: Instituto Nacional Indigenista.
  • Barwick M. (2002). Tropical and subtropical trees: an encyclopedia. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
  • Blaut M. (2002) Relationship of prebiotics and food to intestinal microflora. Eur J Nutr. ; 41 Suppl 1:I11-I16.
  • Saghir S.A.M., Sadikun A., Khaw K.Y., Murugaiyah V. (2013). Star fruit (Averrhoa carambola L.): From traditional uses to pharmacological activities. Boletin Latinoam Caribe Plantas Med Aromat; 12: 209 – 19.

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