Lychee or litchi offers wide range of nutrition and health benefits. Some health benefits of litchi includes improving digestion, immunity, regulate blood pressure, acts as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Lychee or Litchi chinensis is the only member of genus Litchi under soapberry family of fruit. In Chinese 荔枝 (pinyin: lì zhī) / lychee means ‘gift for a joyful life’; quite truly this fruit provides rich nutrients and mineral for healthy and joyful life. Other names of Lychee are aslichi, lichee, laichi, leechee, fuitlechia (Spanish), quenepe chinois (French Haiti), Quenepe, genip or mamoncillo (West Indes), Litschi (German). Lychee is native to southern provinces of China – Kwantung and Fukien. Cultivation of Lychee dates back to records thousand years ago. Cultivation of lychee spread to Burma, India and West Indes during colonial period. Since then cultivation of lychee has spread across globe. This fruit grows well in tropical and subtropical climate.
Lychee fruit has distinct flavor and taste. The fruit is about 2 inches in diameter and mostly seed. Outer cover is hard and rough. The seed is covered with pulpy flesh which is edible raw. Lychee is used in beverages, desserts and other culinary items for its distinct flavor. Dried lychees are also commonly used. As Lychees dehydrate, skin turns brown and brittle, while flesh inside turns dark brown just like rasin. Dried lychee fruits have longer shelf life and offer much more nutritional and health benefits as fresh lychee. This wonder offers various medicinal benefits and consuming lychee provides healthy life.
Nutritional Facts of Lychee
Health benefits of Lychee can be attributed to the nutrients and minerals packed in the fruit. The fruit is wonderful source of Vitamin C and Copper. 10 fruits or 100 grams of lychee are sufficient to fulfil daily Vitamin C requirement of body and 10% of daily requirement of Copper and potassium. It also contains dietary fiber and other vitamins – Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and minerals like Phosporus, magnesium, manganese and iron. Most of the protein is in form of lysine. It is also good source of sugar, as 10 lychee offer same amount of energy as loaf of bread.
Health Benefits of Lychee
In China, lychee has been administered traditionally for various diseases. It is considered to relieve coughing. Apart from fruit, other parts like seeds, fruit peel, root, bark and flowers also show medicinal properties. Lychee fruit peel tea is considered to overcome smallpox and diarrhea. Similar decoction of root, bark and flowers can help throat infection.
Lychee aids Digestion
Dietary fiber in lychee helps in proper digestion. It contains nutrients which assist in other digestive functions and metabolic activity, thus providing health benefits. It is considered good for gastro-intestinal diseases.
Lyhcee increase immunity
Lychee contains nutrients which act as bodies first line of defense against harmful substances. As immunomodulatory substance, it improves immune system of body.
Lychee as Anti oxidant
Research has attributed antioxidant activity of lychee to Vitamin C and other phenolic and flavonoid contents. Phytochemicals in litchi pulp have clinically shown antioxidant properties. Lychee helps in protecting internal organs of body mainly heart and kidney from damage due to free radicals. . A study found high antioxidant activity in pericarp of litchi fruit and suggested potential use in topical cosmetic products. Oligonol is a polyphenol, present in abundance in lychees and known to have antioxidant properties. It also has anti-influenza properties and protects skin from UV radiation.
Litchi has Anti inflammatory properties
This wonderful fruit has therapeutic effects which can be attributed to its anti- inflammatory properties. Lychee is considered to have beneficial effect on gastralgia, tumors and gland enlargements.
Lychee in prevention of Cancer
Anti cancer properties of lychee are latest area of research. Some phenols in lychee are considered to be potent anti oxidant and help in removal of carcinogenic radicals. Consumption of lychee is supposed to prevent or supress breast cancer development. A research has also found anti cancer properties of lychee root extract.
Litchi has antiviral capacity
Phytochemicals in lychee like proanthocyanidins have anti viral properties. They can prevent spread or outbreak of virus including herpex, coxsackie and influenza.
Lychee regulates Blood Pressure
Lychee provides sugar and potassium which has regulatory impact on blood pressure. With antioxidant properties it protects circulatory system from damage by free radicals. Dried lychee provides thrice more potassium as raw litchi. Lychee is also good source of copper which is associated with red blood cells formation and thus the circulatory system.
Lychee as Anticoagulant
A study suggests that Litchi be a new natural source for the development of antiplatelet, anticoagulant and thrombolytic therapeutics for thrombotic and cardiovascular diseases.
Lychee is good for Endurance and exercise
If you exercise regularly, consuming lychee is good for you. Lychee is considered to provide Vitamin C, potassium, sugar and other minerals which help recover from exercise and increase stamina.
Health benefits of litchi nuts
Seed is often discarded but powdered seed or lychee seed tea is considered to have medicinal benefits. In India, traditionally seeds of lychee fruits have pain relieving properties. Powdered lychee seeds are used as astringent, cure for digestive disorders and kill intestinal worms. In China, seeds are used as analgesic in neuralgia and orchitis. However scientific studies are not available confirming effectiveness and health benefits of lychee seeds.
Caution on lychee consumption
Excessive consumption of raw lychees should be avoided. According to Chinese, it causes fever, fainting, irriated membranes, sore throat, skin rash or nosebleed and is traditionally considered with hot properties.
Lychee is good source of sugar and care should be taken by diabetic person while consuming lychee..
An ecological study has found association of litchi plantation and outbreak of acute encephalitis in children in Vietnam.
Its distinct flavor makes its most relished fruit and used in various fruit cups, fruit salads and other recipes. Litchi pulp can be canned in sugar syrup and stored for longer period.
Candied or Pickled Lychee or lychee jelly are other ways of storing lychee. Lychee nuts or dried lychee tastes like raisins and used by some Chinese as alternative to sugar in tea.
Some Recipes using Lychee
Mix 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup unbleached flour with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg. To this add 1 cup lowfat buttermilk, 3 Tbsp lychee jam or puree and 1/4 cup fat-free egg substitute. Stir well till a consistent free flowing dough is obtained. Add some freshly cut lychee or pieces of lychee jelly.
Pour the batter in 12 muffin cups with paper baking cups. Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes until the muffins are lightly browned
In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of lychee juice to boil over medium heat. Add 2 lychee black tea bags and some berries, cover and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and allow to cool. Pour the cooled liquid in blender and add ¼ cup low-fat buttermilk and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for about 4 hrs before serving. Garnish the soup with some freshly cut lychees.Image Credits: USDA, Flickr - Sugree