Pleasantly sweet and with a tantalizing aroma, cherimoya (Annona cherimola) is one of the most tasty and healthiest fruits that have its origins in the Andes. Nowadays they are grown widely in different parts of the world including South America, Central America, Portugal, Italy and south Asia. Cherimoya or Chirimoya or Churimoya is an oval shaped fruit with a white and creamy flesh that has many dark brown seeds in it. Because of the white color and the sorbet like texture of this fruit, it is also known by the name custard apple. It is sometimes referred to as the ice cream fruit as some people prefer to chill it and eat its flesh with a spoon. The taste of cherimoya is an exceptional and divine mix of bananas, mango, pineapple, coconut, strawberry, and papaya. The creamy consistency and unique taste of this fruit makes it a perfect addition to many desserts like ice creams, fruit salads, etc. The skin and seeds of this fruit are toxic and hence is not edible.
Nutritional value of cherimoya
In addition to the wonderful taste and fragrance, cherimoya is also known to be a storehouse of numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other important nutrients. Like most other fruits, cherimoya also contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. A 100 gram serving of this fruit can provide you with about 75 calories. It is rich in dietary fiber, which helps in digestion and also in lowering cholesterol. Cherimoya is a rich source of polyphenolic compounds like acetogenins that are found to have antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-helminthes and anti-malarial properties. This fruit has a pretty impressive list of vitamins like vitamin C and B complex vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate. Consumption of cherimoya can provide you with good amounts of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, iron, zinc and copper.
Health benefits of cherimoya
In addition to having exceptional taste, cherimoya also provides a great deal of nutrition. Cherimoya is an excellent source of a variety of nutrients and hence is known to be one of the healthiest fruit available. Some of the health benefits of this fruit are outlined below:
Cherimoya offers cardiovascular benefits
Cherimoya has a perfect balance of sodium and potassium levels, which is very useful in maintaining normal heart rate and in controlling blood pressure levels. This fruit has been found to have the ability to lower the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Thus the consumption of cherimoya improves your cardiovascular health and protects your ticker from heart attacks and heart diseases.
Prevent cancer by eating cherimoya
Cherimoya can boast of an abundance of powerful antioxidants that makes this fruit possess anti-cancer benefits. The free radicals in your body cause oxidative stress, damaging your cells and bringing about cell mutations that may lead to the formation of cancer cells. The great thing about antioxidants is that they are capable of neutralizing the effects of these harmful free radicals. Cherimoya has been found to offer protection against certain types of cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer and liver cancer.
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Skin benefits of cherimoya
Besides the numerous other health benefits, cherimoya offers several benefits to your skin as well. It has high amounts of vitamin C, which helps in maintaining a healthy and beautiful skin. Vitamin C has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help in eliminating free radicals and delaying the aging process. It helps in preventing the occurrence of aging signs like wrinkles blemishes, pigmentation and fine lines, thus keeping your skin looking young and flawless. Vitamin C also promotes the formation of collagen that helps in increasing the elasticity of your skin and also in promoting fast healing of wounds and injuries.
Hair benefits of cherimoya
Cherimoya contains several nutrients that are beneficial for the health of your hair. It contains minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc that are essential for hair growth. Oil made from the seeds of this fruit is helpful in hydrating your hair and making it look shiny and lustrous. Copper present in cherimoya helps in maintaining the natural color of the hair and in preventing premature graying. Cherimoya powder made from unripe fruits is an effective remedy for getting rid of hair lice. Make a paste of this powder with water and apply it on your scalp. Leave it on for about an hour and then wash it off. This will help in eliminating nits and lice from the hair.
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Cherimoya is an immune booster
Cherimoya contains high levels of Vitamin C, which is known to play a key role in enhancing the functioning of the immune system. This vitamin is a potent antioxidant that not only increases your immune response against the attack of harmful microbes, but also eliminates the free radicals that cause diseases like cancer. By boosting your immunity, cherimoya helps in warding off commonly occurring diseases like flu, cold and other infections.
Cherimoya improves brain health
Another important advantage of cherimoya is that it is rich in B vitamins that play a vital role in improving the functioning of your brain. One such vitamin is pyridoxine (vitamin B6), which is needed for the normal brain development and performance of brain functions. It also stimulates the production of hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine, which influences your mood. Low levels of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) are associated with mood disorders, sleep disorders and other problems like anxiety, stress and depression. Vitamin B6 in cherimoya helps in controlling the GABA levels and in preventing these conditions. This vitamin is also helpful in protecting against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, cherimoya also contains minerals like copper and potassium that promote brain health.
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Cherimoya has anti-inflammatory properties
Cherimoya possesses anti-inflammatory effects due to the presence of high levels of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. This property makes it useful in combating inflammatory disorders such as allergies, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Cherimoya has cytoprotective properties
According to studies, cherimoya is capable of ensuring the survival of cells and in reducing the release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) from your body. A high level of LDH in your blood is an indication of cell or tissue damage.
Cherimoya for bone health
Along with calcium that improves your bone health, cherimoya also contains other bone building minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron and manganese. All these minerals work together to ensure strong and healthy bones that can withstand conditions like osteoporosis.
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Cherimoya promotes digestive health
Cherimoya is a rich source of dietary fiber that improves the health of your digestive system. The fiber helps in preventing digestive disorders like constipation by adding bulk to your stools and regularizing bowel movements.
Cherimoya for diabetics
Cherimoya is a fruit with low glycemic index which means that it provides a slow release of glucose in to the blood stream. As a result, it does not cause considerable spikes in the blood sugar levels, which is very important for people suffering from diabetes. The dietary fiber in this fruit also helps in keeping the blood sugar levels under control. Thus cherimoya is a suitable food option to be included in a diabetic diet.
Cherimoya aids in weight loss
Cherimoya is low in calories and contains no saturated fat and cholesterol. All these features along with the presence of high amounts of fiber make it an excellent weight loss aid. The fiber in cherimoya keeps you full for a long period of time, thus preventing you from frequent snacking or eating too much. Incorporating this fruit in your daily diet is a great way to get all the important nutrients into your body without worrying about extra calories.
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Cherimoya helps in preventing anemia
Deficiency of iron is a major cause of anemia in people. Regular consumption of cherimoya can prevent this condition because this fruit is an excellent source of iron.
Side effects of cherimoya
When you try this fruit, make sure to avoid the seeds and skin as they carry toxic substances. Ingestion of crushed seeds can lead to vomiting, nausea, flatulence, and dryness of the mouth.
Selection and storage of cherimoya
When buying cherimoya, look for the ones that are firm with a greenish yellow tinge. Avoid fruits that are shriveled, have blemishes and have turned dark in color. Once you have bought cherimoyas, keep them at room temperature and allow them to ripen. To know if they have ripened, gently press them. Ripe cherimoyas will yield to gentle pressure. This fruit has a short shelf life and hence should be consumed as soon as it is ripe. Keeping them in the refrigerator for a long time is not recommended as they lose their flavor and freshness. However, cherimoya can be juiced and kept in the refrigerator for several days or even weeks.
Cherimoya has been described as the most delicious fruit known to mankind by the famous author Mark Twain. From the outside this may not be a very attractive or appealing fruit but when cut open it holds a true delicacy full of flavor, nutrition and health benefits.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Antheore , Flickr - Mad Hausfrau, Flickr - esimparim