Star fruit, botanically known as Averrhoa carambola is a fruit that grows in the carambola tree. Although native to countries like Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, this fruit is grown widely in many other tropical countries also. The cross section of the star fruit resembles the shape of a star and hence the name. Star fruit tastes best when consumed soon after it is ripe or becomes yellow in color. The flesh is juicy but with a firm and crunchy texture. Ripe star fruits have a slight sweet and sour taste, kind of like a mix of pear, apple and citrus fruits. Unripe ones are sour with a taste similar to that of green apples. One of the benefits of this fruit is that the whole fruit including the waxy skin is edible and highly nutritious too.
Carambola fruit is also known as belimbing manis, tamarindo chino, tamarindo culí, balimbín in parts SE Asia and kamrakh in India. In most European countries they are called star fruit translated in respective languages. Other local names include ma fueang (Thai), plae speu (Cambodian), sungwarthi (Myanmar), khế (Vietnamese), yángtáo (Mandarin), Kordoi (assamese), karmranga (Bengali), Karambal drakshi (Kannada), karambal (Marathi), Karmanga (Oriya), chaturappuli / vairappuli (Malayalam), Thambaratham (Tamil), ambanamkaya (Telugu), kamranga (Sinhalese).
Nutritional value of star fruit
When compared to the other low calorie tropical fruits, the calorie content in star fruit is much lower. It has no saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol whatsoever. However, it can boast of having an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other important nutrients. The flesh and peel of this exotic fruit is a great source of dietary fiber that helps in digestion and in lowering cholesterol. It is rich in phytonutrients and polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as epicatechin, quercetin, and gallic acid that have potent antioxidants properties. Star fruit is an excellent source of vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A and B group vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate. It also contains a number of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and iron.
Health benefits of star fruit
The wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in star fruit offers numerous health benefits in addition to lowering the risks of many diseases and health problems.
Star fruit – anti-aging fruits
Regular intake of star fruit can delay the aging process, as it is rich in antioxidants that eliminate the free radicals that cause damage to the cells. It is the oxidation stress caused by these free radicals that lead to premature aging and the appearance of aging signs like wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. So by fighting off the free radicals star fruit helps you stay young and healthy.
Skin benefits of star fruit
Star fruit is found to have strong anti-inflammatory effect and hence has been used as a remedy for skin disorders. This fruit is loaded with flavonoids and other antioxidants that possess anti-inflammatory effects. Carambola has been used in traditional folk medicine in the treatment of several skin disorders like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis and its uses has been supported by animal studies.
Star fruit has high water content which helps to hydrate and moisturize your skin. It is a good source of zinc that helps in preventing acne breakouts. Moreover, the anti-microbial properties of this fruit also help in preventing acne, pimples and other skin infections. The richness of antioxidants in star fruit keeps your skin looking young and supple. It is also considered to be a remedy for oily skin.
Star fruit is good for your hair
Star fruit is rich in nutrients that help to maintain the healthy growth of your hair. These nutrients prevent loss of hair and aids in keeping your hair healthy and strong. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, it protects the scalp from damage by free radicals. Dry or split hair, loss of hair are associated with low intake of Vitamin C. Star fruit provides hair with adequate supply of Vitamin C.
Star fruit and digestive health
Star fruit is a rich source of soluble fiber that improves digestion. The fiber helps in adding bulk to the digested food so that it can easily pass through the digestive tract and the stools are easily expelled from the intestine. This fruit helps in making your bowel movements regular and in preventing constipation.
Star fruit may prevent cancer
Free radicals are considered to be a major contributor of many diseases, one of them being the deadly cancer. These free radicals cause oxidation stress to cells and bring about cell mutations, leading to cancer. Star fruit can help in preventing many types of cancers as it is rich in vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants that can neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals.
Star fruit for diabetics
Star fruit is a low sugar fruit and hence is an ideal choice for people suffering from diabetes. The high levels of fiber in this fruit help in minimizing the diffusion of sugar by absorbing glucose, thus preventing unnecessary and dangerous spikes in the blood glucose levels.
Roots of the star fruit tree have been traditionally used in China to treat digestive problems and diabetes. Study show that extract from carambola root reduced blood sugar and lipids in drug induced rats. It showed protective action on pancreatic cells as well. Leaves of the plant also show such blood sugar reducing properties suggesting its potential used in treatment of diabetes. Decotion made from its leaves are used as home remedy in treatment of diabetes.
Boost your immunity with star fruit
As mentioned above, star fruit is rich source of Vitamin C. It provides almost 57% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C. This vitamin has a reputation of being a powerful antioxidant which is capable of boosting your immune system, thus protecting your body against cold and flu. Therefore eating a diet rich in vitamin C is extremely beneficial in increasing your immunity.
Star fruit has antimicrobial properties
Star fruit has been found to have powerful antimicrobial properties and hence eating it or drinking its juice can help in getting rid of bacteria like E-Coli, salmonella, and staphylococci that are known to cause intestinal problems.
Star fruit keeps your heart healthy
Being low in cholesterol and saturated fat, Star fruit is beneficial for maintaining a healthy heart. The cholesterol and blood pressure lowering effects of this fruit makes it useful in protecting your heart from cardiovascular diseases.
Star fruit lowers cholesterol
Star fruit contains plenty of fiber that absorbs cholesterol and prevents it from accumulating in the blood stream. It also helps in lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and in increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
Avoid hypertension by eating star fruit
It has been found that one in every four adults has high blood pressure or hypertension, but most people don’t even know that they have this condition. Hypertension can cause heart attacks, strokes and many serious health hazards, which may even lead to death. It is due to this reason that high blood pressure is often referred to as a silent killer. A well- balanced and nutritious diet can help in keeping your blood pressure under control. Star fruit contains high levels of potassium that helps in preventing high blood pressure by neutralizing the effects of sodium or salts. Results with tests on animals seem to be supporting its ability to reduce blood pressure.
Star fruit helps you shed those extra pounds
Because of the low calorie content, Star fruit makes a great healthy snack and a perfect addition to a weight loss diet. Star fruit contains high amounts of dietary fiber and water and hence its consumption can give you the feeling of fullness for a longer time. This prevents snacking in between meals and overeating.
Star fruit for pregnant women
Star fruit is a good source of vitamins like folate and other nutrients that are essential for the health of the mother and the fetus. Folate is extremely important for not only ensuring the proper growth and development of the baby but also for preventing neural tube defects. Star fruit is also helpful in stimulating milk flow for lactating mothers.
Star fruit is good for the eyes
Star fruit is a rich source of vitamin A that plays a vital role in keeping your eyes healthy. The abundance of antioxidants in this fruit helps in preventing eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataract. Star fruit is also used as a remedy for sore eyes.
Star fruit for treating cough
Star fruit has anti-expectorant and anti-pyretic properties and so is used for treating coughs, fever and sore throat.
Star fruit for healthy bones
Star fruit is an excellent source of calcium, which is a bone-building mineral. It also contains high amounts of minerals like phosphorus, magnesium and manganese, all of which are associated with the formation and maintenance of healthy bones. These nutrients help in making your bones strong, thus preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
Star fruit has diuretic properties
Star fruit has been used in early Chinese medicine as an efficient diuretic. Diuretics increase the production of urination and as the frequency of urination increases, it helps in flushing out the toxins and also in preventing water retention. The diuretic property of star fruit helps in promoting weight loss as well as in preventing conditions like high blood pressure, kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Star fruit can prevent arthritis and gout
The high amounts of vitamin C in star fruit helps in preventing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and gout that cause swelling and pain in your joints. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream. The excess uric acid may harden and form crystals in your joints leading to severe pain and swelling. Studies suggest that vitamin C may help in lowering the levels of uric acid and thus in preventing these conditions.
Other benefits of carambola
It is commonly used to treat headaches, vomiting, coughing and hangovers It is used as appetizer and stimulating appetite. It is effective in treating diarrhea and fever.
Side effects of star fruit
Star fruit contains high amounts of oxalic acids and hence is not recommended for people suffering from kidney diseases. Those having renal failure, kidney problems or undergoing dialysis should avoid star fruit at any cost as it may turn fatal and may even lead to death. It also works against nutrients and interfere in absorption of other vital nutrients.
How to eat star fruit?
This is one question which comes quite often when we deal with exotic fruit. Star fruit tastes great and whole of the fruit is edible. Select a ripe fruit which is slightly sweet. Cut any brown edges of the fruit and top portion. Slice it to remove the seeds and eat the whole fruit.
Culinary uses of star fruit
In parts of Asia, they are cooked and used in recipes similar to apple. They can be processed into jam, jelly or pickle. Dried Star fruits are available in parts of Caribbean. Unripe starfruits can be eaten with some salt to reduce its sourness. Carambola juice or sherbet is worth a try.
Star fruit, unlike the other super fruits has still not become very popular in the western world. However, its reputation is increasing day by day as more and more people have come to realize its health providing benefits along with its fantastic taste.Image Credits: Flickr - DeuxFlorida, Flickr - Giniger, Flickr - Hanoi Mark