In a world where ketogenic diets have celebrity status, and the anti-sugar fervor is at an all-time high, many have started to question the role of fruit in their diet and overall health. Because research has rightfully shown that basically everyone on the planet is eating too much added/refined (sometimes called ‘free’) sugar(s) and that consuming too much added/free/refined sugar is detrimental to health, fruit has been lumped into the ‘sugar category’ and painted with same negative brush.
It’s true that sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose, to name a few, are naturally found in fruit and some vegetables unlike starches which are found in grains, legumes, and root vegetables. However, when it comes to reducing our intake of ‘sugar’, the focus should be on using less white/table sugar, brown sugar, maple or agave syrup, and honey while also choosing prepared products made with less sugar but in no way should you ever avoid fruit in the name of health.
I’m not talking about fruit juice. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100% fruit juice or not, consuming lots of fruit juice beyond a reasonable amount, as in a 125 ml or 4 oz serving size, is something to stay clear of unless you’re an athlete and getting enough food calories in is a challenge. The only time eating fruit could be a problem is when its consumptions follows the principles of fad diets such fruitarianism, but for the average person, eating more fruit is a worthy goal and tropical fruits have some unique offerings.
Check out: Is An All Fruit Diet Healthy?
5 tropical fruits to add to your diet
Key nutrients: fiber, vitamins C, K1, potassium, calcium
Grown on a vine, these egg-shaped fruits are known for their fuzzy brown skin and sweet-tart flesh. Some slice them across-wise to make medallions (I remember that’s who there were served the first time I tried them), but now I peel with a vegetable peeler (though the skin is edible) and enjoy the delicious green or golden flesh and tiny, edible seeds as is. Kiwi can be used salads, smoothies, juices, or on low-fat yogurt. They are perfect for fruit salad too.
With only 70 calories, kiwis are a great source of fiber, with twice the vitamin C of an orange. Two medium kiwi fruit have more potassium than a medium banana; potassium is key when it comes to lowering blood pressure or maintaining healthy blood pressure.
How to choose kiwi: When buying green or gold kiwis, choose plump, fragrant fruit that yields to gentle pressure. Unripe fruit has a hard core and a tart, astringent taste. If only firm kiwis are available, ripen them for a few days before eating them.
Key nutrients: beta carotene, fiber, potassium, proanthocyanidin, vitamin C
Mangoes are one of the tastiest ways to get some beta-carotene, potassium, fiber and heaps of other plant-based goodies. Mangoes are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compound and the potassium lowers blood pressure, and maintains a healthy heart beat. The vitamin C supports the immune system, skin health and wound repair, and stimulates collagen production.
How to choose a mango: When choosing a mango, pick one that is plump and heavy for its size. Most importantly, the mango should be fragrant; take a whiff and check for a fruity/floral scent. If you’ll be using the mango right away, you will want to find a ripe one. Mangoes are ripe when you can indent them slightly with your thumb. (Avoid mangoes that are so ripe, they feel mushy, or mangoes that have brown marks).
Unripe (but not green) mangoes will ripen in a few days when left on your counter. Refrigerate a ripe mango to make it last longer. Mango also freeze well if you have a couple of ripe ones; peel, dice and freeze – they are great for making smoothies.
Key nutrients: vitamin C, potassium, fiber, lycopene, beta carotene, folate
Juicy, sweet, and acidic, the guava’s taste might remind you of strawberries and pears. The edible rind may be white, yellow, pink, or red, and may be seedless or filled with pale, edible seeds. Guava are an excellent source of vitamin C. Guava also gives you beta-carotene some of which is converted to vitamin A. Like watermelon, guava are a somewhat decent source of lycopene; the same thing that makes tomatoes red.
How to choose guava: You can tell when guava is ripe when it turns from bright green to a softer yellowish-green color. If you see a touch of pink on the fruit, it is in its prime. If you don’t find any that are yellow, you can always buy green guava and wait for them to ripen just like you would bananas.
Key nutrients: beta carotene,vitamin C, potassium, folate and magnesium
All types are delicious, brimming with vitamin C, beta carotene (like most orange fruit and vegetables), potassium, and antioxidants. Papaya contains several unique enzymes including papain and chymopapain. These enzymes have been shown to help lower inflammation. In addition, the antioxidant nutrients found in papaya, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, are also very good at reducing inflammation.
How to choose a papaya: You know if you have a ripe papaya if it has skin that is turning from green to yellow. If a papaya is ripe, you should be able to press your thumb into the flesh easily. Papayas will ripen more quickly when put in a paper bag with ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples.
Papayas come in various shapes and sizes such as he Hawaiian variety which is smaller and pear-shaped, while the Caribbean and Asian papayas are large; likely the ones you’re familiar with in the grocery store.
Key nutrients: vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber
Star fruit is a juicy tropical fruit which is both common and widely grown in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, but also in Hawaii and Florida, so they’re easy to find at your local grocery store or market.
With only 30 calories per fruit , they’re a low calorie way to get a decent dose of vitamin C. One medium starfruit has a decent amount of fiber, 2.5 and are especially rich in flavonoids; phytonutrients that help to reduce inflammation. Starfruit are easy to eat, slice across the fruit to make star-shaped, bite-sized medallions which can be eaten as a snack like sliced apples or they can be added to salads.
How to choose a ripe (or ripening) star fruit: When ripe, star fruit appear mainly bright yellow with tinges of light green. They may have some dark brown along the five ridges which is normal and does not mean the fruit has spoiled. The flesh should still be quite firm to the touch. You can also buy star fruit when it’s green and wait for it to ripen; just leave it on your counter for a few days like you would other fruit. When over-ripe, star fruit turns entirely yellow and starts to have brown spots all over; sound familiar? Just like a banana when it starts to become over-ripe but some people like them like that!!