The cherimoya is a heart-shaped, green fruit native to the Andes in South America. It belongs to the same botanical family as the custard apple. From a Western perspective, cherimoya is a weird and exotic fruit. It has long been assumed that this plant originated in Ecuador and Peru. However, recent studies point to Central America as its origin since many wild relatives of this plant can be found there. Nowadays, cherimoya is grown in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. American writer Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men."
What does cherimoya look like?
The fruit is large, grapefruit-sized, oval-shaped, and green. Its scaly, inedible skin texture resembles that of an artichoke. The flesh inside is soft, like custard, white and creamy, with toxic dark brown seeds that must be removed.
Cherimoyas are rich in vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B6), minerals, and fibre, which are essential for a balanced diet. In addition, a single cherimoya provides over five grams of protein — about 10% of the recommended daily intake. Cherimoyas also contain antioxidants that help prevent the onset of many illnesses. The carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C in cherimoyas contribute to health and wellness.
A single serving of cherimoya fruit (160 grams) provides about 120 calories, 1.1g of fat, 28.3g of carbohydrates, and 2.5g of protein.
What is cherimoya good for?
Aside from tasting great, cherimoya also offers a variety of potential health benefits.
High in antioxidants
Cherimoya is packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, which is linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Cherimoya contains potent antioxidant compounds.
May improve your mood
Cherimoya has a high content of vitamin B6, which plays an essential role in the production of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation. Inadequate levels of B6 may contribute to mood disorders and depression. Boosting your body's vitamin B6 levels with foods such as cherimoya may help reduce your risk of depression caused by a vitamin B6 deficiency.
May benefit eye health
Cherimoya is rich in the antioxidant lutein, which protects your eyes against free radicals. Studies have linked high lutein intake with good eye health and a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, which causes vision loss. Lutein may also protect against cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye that causes poor vision. Therefore, eating lutein-rich foods such as cherimoya may help maintain eye health.
May prevent high blood pressure
Cherimoya is rich in nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, such as potassium and magnesium. One cup (160 grams) of the fruit provides 10% of the RDI for potassium and 6% of the RDI for magnesium. Both potassium and magnesium help dilate blood vessels, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
May promote digestive health
One cup (160 grams) of cherimoya contains 5 grams of dietary fibre, which is over 17% of the RDI. Soluble fibres nourish the good bacteria in your gut. By providing nutrition to gut bacteria, cherimoya promotes a healthy digestive system.
May have cancer-fighting properties
Cherimoya contains compounds that may help fight cancer. Cherimoya contains flavonoids which have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth in test-tube studies. However, human studies are needed to determine how the compound found in cherimoya and other fruits may affect cancer cells.
May reduce inflammation
Chronic inflammation increases the risk of many illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Cherimoya contains several anti-inflammatory compounds.
May boost immunity
Cherimoya is a rich source of vitamin C, which supports immunity by fighting infections and diseases. Vitamin C deficiency can impair immunity and increase infection risks. Consuming cherimoya and vitamin C-rich foods is a great way to keep your immune system strong.
How to eat cherimoya
When selecting cherimoyas, look for dark green fruits that are a bit soft when pressed. If you buy a cherimoya that isn't ripe yet, you can let it ripen at room temperature – it will begin to feel a little softer when you press on it, similar to how avocados ripen.
When cherimoyas are ripe, you can eat them with a spoon – cut them in half, remove the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. You can also peel the fruit and cut it into cubes. When eating cherimoya, always discard its dark brown seeds, which are toxic to humans.
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