The health benefits of tropical fruits such as Pineapples, Papaya, Mangoes and Guavas have some incredible healing powers, and they can play an essential role in preventing heart disease and cancer. They can also aid in digestion. So the next time you wheel your trolly around the supermarket, make sure you stock up on these luscious fruits.
Depending on where you live in the world, many of these tropical fruits can be obtained year-round and not only just in the summer months. Eating these fruits will have a better taste when in season.
Some tropical fruits, however, like papaya, are very much and all-season fruit. Other tropical fruits are a kiwi, star fruit, passion fruit, jackfruit, banana and oranges. Even though avocados are also tropical fruits, you wouldn't put them in your fruit salad.
Despite whether some of these fruits may be unfamiliar to you, they offer many of the same benefits as their homegrown kind. And then some. Not only are tropical fruits high in fibre, but they also contain an array of potent compounds that can help fight several diseases.
While dozens of tropical fruits are grown worldwide, especially in places like South East Asia and Central America, the ones you're most likely find in North America are mangoes, papaya and guavas. Let's discuss some of the more familiar ones and one that's maybe not so familiar, shall we?
Even though mangoes are an exceedingly juicy fruit which kind of tastes a lot like a combination of peach and pineapple mixed, only much sweeter and although it can get messy, it's well worth the effort. You can, of course, purchase mango pre-cut and then you don't have to worry about making a mess, or you can peel one and slice it up yourself.
Tucking into the flesh around the inner pip, though at times can be a messy endeavour, is what makes eating a mango, a real taste sensation. Whatever floats your boat, mangoes are a great tropical fruit.
Mangoes, like any other tropical fruits, contain large amounts of vitamin C but what makes them unique is that they also provide a lot of beta-carotene, both of which are potent antioxidants. These antioxidants block the effects of harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals.
It's because free radicals can damage healthy tissue throughout your body. What's more important is they also damage your body's low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, making it more likely to stick to your artery walls and at the same time increase your risk of heart disease.
Mangoes do come in different shapes and sizes depending on where in the world you are. Julie and East Indian mangoes from Jamaica. Haden, Tommy Atkin, Palmer, Keitt and Ataulfo mangoes from the USA. Sindhri mangoes from Pakistan and the Nam Dok Mai mango from Thailand. These are just a few of the many mango species from around the world. There are just too many to review here.
But just for the exercise, a single mango contains about 5 milligrams of beta-carotene, 50 to 83 per cent of the recommended amount of 6 to 10 milligrams, and just less than 60 milligrams of vitamin C, 95 per cent of the Daily Value (DV). It is a very healthy mix.
It's not only antioxidants that make mangoes good for the heart, but they're also high in fibre with a single mango supplying almost 6 grams of fibre - more than you'd get from one cup of cooked oats. What's more, nearly half of the fibrous substance in mangoes is the soluble kind.
Getting more soluble fibre in your diet can dramatically lower your cholesterol and help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. The insoluble fibre in mangoes is also crucial because it allows your stools - and any other harmful substances they contain - to move through the body more quickly and efficiently. It means that eating more mangoes can play a significant role in reducing your risk of colon cancer.
Papaya, on the outside, has the partial appearance of a rainbow, what with its bright colours of orange, yellow-green. And on the inside, you'll find beautiful orange-yellow flesh with a hint of the healing powers to come. Papayas come packed with carotenoids, the natural pigment that gives many fruits and vegetables their brilliant hues. But carotenoids do much more than pretty up your bowl. They can quite literally save your life.
Carotenoids in papaya are potent antioxidants, and those of you who choose to eat the most carotenoid-rich foods like papayas will have a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. Many fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids, but papayas are way ahead of the pack. Depending on the size, half a medium papaya can contain as much as 4 milligrams of carotenoids.
Papaya also contains several protease enzymes such as papain which are very similar enzymes produced naturally in your stomach. Eating raw papaya during and after a meal makes it easier for your body to digest proteins, which can help ease an upset stomach. Papayas may also play a role in preventing ulcers as well. By having a small serving of papaya each day, it may also help counteract the irritating effects of aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
While it may not be easy to find guavas in your local supermarket, these pink or yellow lemon-size tropical fruits are worth searching. They are, however, found in such places like Hispanic or Indian markets should one be in your neighbourhood. What makes guavas so special is a carotenoid called lycopene. For a long time, lycopene took a backseat to a related compound called beta-carotene.
But studies have shown that lycopene maybe even more powerful than its more famous kin. Lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants. Scientists have found that lycopene was able to block the growth of lung and breast cancer cells quickly. And men who got the most lycopene in their diets had a 45 per cent lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those getting the least.
While tomatoes have long been admired for their high lycopene content, guavas are a far better source, with at least 50 per cent more lycopene in a single fruit. And when it comes to dietary fibre guavas are indeed superstars, containing about 10 grams per cup.
That's more fibre than you'd get in an apple, apricot, banana and nectarine combined. So much so that it came to the attention of heart researchers, since getting more fibre in your diet is one of the best ways to lower cholesterol and with it, the risk of heart disease.
A waxy, golden-yellow fruit tasting of citrus, apple, and plum, is the star fruit that hails from Southeast Asia. Sweet-tart, each fruit has 40 calories and is an excellent source of vitamin C. Wash, slice, and eat the entire star-shaped treat. You don't need to peel or seed it. Add it to salads or savoury dishes, or use as a garnish. But don't eat it if you have kidney problems since star fruit naturally has kidney stone-forming oxalic acid.
Pass the can. Even though frozen tropical fruits retain their nutrients, the canned kind doesn't fare nearly as well. A study in Spain, for example, found that canned papaya lost many of its protective carotenoids during processing.
Add a little fat. The lycopene in guavas is absorbed more efficiently when it's eaten with a bit of fat. Spooning yoghurt on sliced guavas, for example, will help you get the most lycopene, while at the same time, adding a hint of richness to the tangy fruit.
Keep the heat down. Tropical fruits are often added as ingredients to recipes. Still, unfortunately, the heat used in cooking destroys some of the vitamin C. To get the most vitamins, it's best to eat tropical fruits raw, the way nature intended.
Store them carefully. Tropical fruits that become exposed to air and sunlight will quickly give up their vitamin C, so keeping the fruits in a cool, dark place will ensure that not only will they stay fresh longer, but they will also help preserve their vital nutrients.
The one problem with tropical fruits, well, at least for American shoppers, is knowing how to pick the best ones. Here's the solution and how to get the best taste every time.
Take a sniff. Tropical fruits should smell sweet and fragrant even before you cut them. So put your nose to the test before putting them in your trolly. If the smell is too weak, the taste will be disappointing also. Best to put it back.
Keep them cool, not cold. When tropical fruits need a little more time to ripen, it's best to store them in a cool, dry place. But don't put them in the refrigerator, since cold kills the flavour.
Find the right combination. Fruit salads, yes, gelatin salads, no. It's not a good idea to combine raw papaya or pineapple with gelatin. The enzymes in natural fresh fruit will break down the protein in gelatin and keep it from setting.
Please take note that the information on this site is designed for educational purposes and is intended solely for a general readership. The contents herein are not intended to offer any personal medical advice or to diagnose any health issues you may have. This information is also by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider. For that, you'd need to consult your medical doctor or a health care practitioner for any advice should you require prescription medication.