Lychee is a strange and wonderful fruit with a wealth of health benefits, including its ability to boost the immune system, prevent cancer, improve digestion, build strong bones, lower blood pressure, defend the body against viruses, improve circulation, aid in weight loss, protect the skin, and optimize metabolic activities.
Introduction to Lychee
Lychee, which has the scientific name Litchi chinensis is in the soapberry family, but is the only member of its genus, meaning that it is quite unique in the world. It is a fruit tree that can grow in tropical and subtropical climates, and is native to China. It smells very much like a flower, and is often used to flavor cocktails and dishes because of its unique scent, which is lost if not consumed fresh. The fruit is almost primarily eaten as a dessert food in Asian nations, but it has begun to make the leap into more western markets, especially in luxury or high-end restaurants.
The fruit has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years in China, and was once considered a great delicacy of the Imperial Court. It is now cultivated in many nations around the world, but the main production still resides in Southeast Asia, China, India, and parts of Southern Africa.
The fruit is soft and pulpy, white or pink in color, and the size is usually about 2 inches high and 2 inches wide. They are highly celebrated in countries around the world because of their health and medicinal benefits, which are due to the wealth of nutrients and organic compounds present in this fascinating fruit. However, far more nutrients are present in dried lychee than in fresh lychee, so if you want to consume this for your overall health, forgo the sweet smell and allow the fruit to dry. Most vitamin and mineral contents more than double when eaten as a dried fruit.
Nutritional Facts of Lychee
Lychee is packed with health benefits, but they come from the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in the fruit, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, folate, copper, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese. Furthermore, lychee is a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and a good source of proanthocyanidins and polyphenolic compounds.
Health Benefits of Lychee
Digestion: The significant amount of dietary fiber in lychee, as in most fruits and vegetables, helps add bulk to your stool and increases your digestive health. This helps bowel movements move through the digestive tract smoothly, and fiber also stimulates peristaltic motion of the smooth small intestine muscles, increasing the speed of food passing. It also stimulates gastric and digestive juices, so nutrient absorption is more efficient. This can reduce constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Immune System: Perhaps the most significant nutrient in lychee is vitamin C, and this fruit has more than 100% of the daily requirement of ascorbid acid in a single serving. This means that your immune system gets a major boost, as vitamin C is a major antioxidant compound and is known to stimulate the activity of white blood cells, the main defensive line of your body’s immune system.
Cancer Prevention: The polyphenolic compounds and proanthocyanidins found in lychee are actually even more powerful than vitamin C in neutralizing free radicals and protecting the body from various diseases and afflictions. Free radicals are the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause cancer, heart disease, cognitive disorders, and premature aging, among other undesirable conditions. Lychee is a rich source of these organic compounds, so can be consumed as an effective preventative measure of various cancers.
Antiviral Capacity: The proanthocyanidins in lychee have been studied extensively, and they have also demonstrated antiviral capabilities. Litchitannin A2, a compound found in lychee, has been closely connected to preventing the spread or outbreak of viruses, included herpes simplex virus and coxsackie virus.
Blood Pressure: Lychee has a wealth of potassium, meaning that it can help your body maintain a fluid balance; lychee is also low in sodium, which also helps. Fluid balance is an integral part not only in metabolic functions, but also in hypertension. Potassium is considered a vasodilator, meaning that it reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering the stress on the cardiovascular system. Potassium levels are almost three times higher in dried lychee rather than in fresh lychee!
Oligonol: This powerful phenolic compound found in lychee has been connected to a number of important health benefits, including anti-influenze activity, an improvement in circulation, a reduction in weight, and the protection of your skin from harmful UV rays when exposed to the sun. It also demonstrates considerable antioxidant capabilities, just like ascorbic acid and the other proanthocyanidins in lychee.
Blood Circulation: Copper is another essential mineral found in considerable quantities in lychee, and although iron is most commonly associated with red blood cells, copper is also an integral part of RBC formation. Therefore, the copper content in lychee can boost blood circulation and increase oxygenation of the organs and cells.
A Few Words of Caution: Since lychees are a very good source of sugars, diabetics should be careful when eating lychees since it can unbalance their blood sugar levels. Also, lychees are considered a “hot” food, meaning that they can sometimes unbalance the body’s nutrient levels. Excessive consumption of lychees can result in irritated membranes, bloody noses, fever, or sore throat. However, in normal quantities, there are no inherent health risks.