Caimito or Star apple, as it is popularly known, is an exotic tropical fruit that is native to Caribbean islands. Nowadays it can be found growing in many of the tropical countries of the world and also one of the common dooryard trees found in tropical American countries. The ripe, purple skinned fruits with radiating star pattern have a deliciously tasting pulp. Star apple is a low calorie fruit with impressive list of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and various other nutrients packed in it. Traditionally, star fruit is used as a remedy to treat diarrhea, pneumonia, high blood pressure, laryngitis, dental issues, digestive issues and fever. Recent studies have found that even the seed, fruit pulp, leaves and bark all have strong medicinal properties.
Nutritional value of Star Apple
Caimito is a zero fat, low calorie fruit, which makes it an ideal food to be included in a weight loss diet. A cup of fresh caimito provides you with about 67 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates. It is also a good source of fiber, which contributes to a healthy digestive system and lowering of cholesterol. It can also help prevent diabetes and certain types of cancers like colon cancer. A single serving of caimito can offer you 3 grams of fiber. A serving of star apple also provides you with 5 percent of the daily recommended values of important vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin A. It is a good source of calcium, providing you with 10 percent of daily recommended value of the mineral. Consumption of calcium rich foods like caimito helps strengthen your bones and teeth, and also reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, such as abdominal bloating and cramping. Caimito is rich in phosphorus, another bone healthy mineral.
Health benefits of Star apple
The heavy load of nutrients in caimito makes it a wonderful health benefitting fruit. The regular consumption of star apple can definitely boost up your health in the following ways:
Star apple improves your digestive health
Caimito is a great source of dietary fiber and hence the fruit is capable of keeping your digestive system in good health. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, makes it soft and eliminates it easily through the intestines. By normalizing your bowel movements, the fiber in caimito helps get rid of constipation and other digestive problems. It also helps prevent more dangerous health conditions like colon cancer.
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Caimito helps you lose weight
Being a low fat, low calorie fruit, caimito is one of the best choices of foods to be included in a weight loss diet. Moreover the high amount of dietary fiber in the fruit improves your satiety and makes you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. This helps prevent over eating, which is very important when you are trying to lose weight.
Caimito is a good for diabetic fruit
Another important benefit of caimito is that it helps control blood sugar levels and so is an ideal food for people suffering from diabetes. It has been found that the fiber in caimito helps to keep the blood sugar levels under control. This fruit is also rich in antioxidants that protect your body against health conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart diseases.
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Caimito shows anti-microbial activity
According to research, the star apple contains an alkaloid known as eleagnine, which shows potent antimicrobial activity. This compound has also been found to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The seeds of caimito have been used in the preparation of ointments that are meant to fight against infections. Researchers have also found that the leaves of the caimito tree exhibits strong anti-bacterial activity against common bacteria isolates.
Star apple has high vitamin C content
Vitamin C is a water soluble nutrient that is necessary for supporting many important functions of the human body. This vitamin, which also acts as an antioxidant is responsible for producing collagen, healing wounds, protecting the heart, improving immune health, enhancing vision, decreasing blood sugar levels in diabetics and more. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C neutralize the harmful effects of the free radicals and help prevent many deadly conditions like cancer and heart diseases. It also helps delay the process of aging. Since the human body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, it is important that we eat foods rich in this nutrient. Caimito is one such food, which has high vitamin C content.
Star Apple is good for the bones
Calcium and phosphorus are two very important minerals needed for the development of strong bones and teeth. A right balance of these minerals is needed by the body to maintain good bone health as well as to prevent various bone disorders. Caimito is a good source of both calcium and phosphorus, and hence is considered a bone healthy fruit.
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Star Apple helps prevent iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a very common type of anemia that occurs due to inadequate amounts of the mineral iron in the body. Iron is required by your body to produce hemoglobin, a protein molecule in the red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and returns carbon dioxide from the body tissues back to the lungs. Iron deficiency anemia is often characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, fast heart beat, headache, dizziness and poor appetite. This condition can be corrected by taking iron supplements or by eating foods high in iron content such as caimito, green leafy vegetables etc.
Other medicinal uses
In addition to the fruit, other parts of the caimito tree such as its seeds, leaves and bark are also used as natural remedies for the treatment of various ailments. A decoction of the leaves or the bark is used in Philippines for treating dysentery and diarrhea. According to research, the bark of the star apple tree has been used traditionally to treat malaria and yellow fever. The leaves have emollient properties and are used as for the treatment of stomachache, diarrhea and skin eruption. In Western Nigeria, the cotyledons from the seeds of caimito are used for preparing ointments that treat dermatological and vaginal infections. Research indicates that the leaf extract of caimito was found to exhibit hypoglycemic (reduce blood sugar levels) and anti-platelet properties, which may be beneficial in managing diabetes mellitus and heart attack respectively.
Caimito may not be commonly available in the local grocery stores. However you may sometimes find them in specialty stores. They come in three varieties – purple, yellow and green, purple being the most common variety. The rind and skin of star apples contain sticky latex and they have an astringent taste. So take care not to bite into the fruit. To eat the fruit, cut it in half and then spoon out the flesh. In Jamaica, it is common to make a delicious fruit salad using a combination of caimito, pineapple, mangoes, citrus, other fruits, and frozen coconut water.