9 Amazing Benefits of Kiwano (Horned Melon)

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most impressive health benefits of kiwano may include its potential ability to improve cognitive ability, prevent certain types of chronic diseases, aid in weight loss, protect the skin, and boost metabolism. Kiwano improves eye health, strengthens bones, optimizes digestion, and speeds up wound healing.

Kiwano (Horned Melon)

The horned melon or kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus) is a strange-looking fruit native to Southern Africa and has recently (in the past century) been introduced to other parts of the world, namely Australia and New Zealand. This is where it picked up the name kiwano, due to its similar consistency and appearance to kiwi. However, this fruit is not biologically linked to kiwi and is actually closer in nutritive and evolutionary terms to cucumber and zucchini. The fruit is widely cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and certain parts of Asia. [1]

Nutrition Facts

Horned melon (Kiwano)
Serving Size :
Water [g]88.97
Energy 44
Energy [kJ]183
Protein [g]1.78
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.26
Ash [g]0.44
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]7.56
Calcium, Ca [mg]13
Iron, Fe [mg]1.13
Magnesium, Mg [mg]40
Phosphorus, P [mg]37
Potassium, K [mg]123
Sodium, Na [mg]2
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.48
Copper, Cu [mg]0.02
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.04
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]5.3
Thiamin [mg]0.03
Riboflavin [mg]0.02
Niacin [mg]0.57
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.18
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.06
Folate, total [µg]3
Folate, food [µg]3
Folate, DFE [µg]3
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]7
Carotene, beta [µg]88
Vitamin A, IU [IU]147
Sources include : USDA [2]

The name “horned melon” comes from the fruit’s unusual appearance, as the outer layer of orange or gold skin is covered in small spikes. The inside of the fruit does have the gelatinous appearance of a kiwi, but the inner layer of fruit pulp is a culinary ingredient. The leaves and roots are also used for various applications, but the fruit is the most highly prized. The seeds contain high concentrations of beneficial nutrients and organic compounds that make the fruit so healthy. [3]

As a cultural item, kiwano is considered vital for meeting food shortage issues in sub-Saharan Africa, as it can retain significant amounts of water through the dry season and can also grow in harsh conditions, while simultaneously providing a wide range of essential nutrients to those who may have limited access to food.

Health Benefits of Kiwano

The health benefits of kiwano are explained in detail below:

May Aid in Weight Loss

Considering that this fruit is more than 80% water, it has the ability to fill you up without packing on any pounds. People trying to lose weight without feeling hungry all the time often reach for a kiwano to stave off hunger pangs. The high concentration of nutrients also keeps your body nutrient-rich, even though the fruit is low in calories and fats. [4]

Potentially Antioxidant Properties

There are potentially high levels of alpha-tocopherol found in kiwano, which is a potent antioxidant form of vitamin E. This is very important for the health of nerves and blood vessels, while it also seeks out and neutralizes free radicals.

May Aid in Eye Care

The significant levels of vitamin A found in kiwano make it an important booster for vision health. Vitamin A is a type of carotenoid, which acts as an antioxidant for the eye, eliminating free radicals that can cause macular degeneration, while also slowing down or preventing the development of cataracts. [5]

Close-up of fresh whole and halved kiwano fruits on a wooden table

Kiwano melon is an exotic, peculiar-looking fruit from the central and southern regions of Africa. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Improve Cognitive Function

Although different nutrients can positively affect the brain, vitamin E is linked to slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The possibly high levels of tocopherol variations in kiwano make it a favorite amongst all who want to keep their minds fresh. [6] [7]

May Boost Metabolism

Zinc is a mineral that is often overlooked in human health, but it plays a key role in metabolism and producing protein, which can be necessary for wound healing and the repair of organs, tissues, blood vessels, and cells. The high content of vitamin C is a perfect complement to the zinc found in kiwano, as ascorbic acid is a key component of collagen, which is another key material in repair and growth. [8] [9]

May Slow Aging

Between vitamin A, C, natural antioxidants, and abundant organic compounds, kiwano is wonderful for staying young, both inside and out. It is known to protect the integrity of the skin and reduce age spots and wrinkles, in addition to lessening the appearance of scars and blemishes. These important nutrients may keep the body younger by preventing the onset of chronic diseases through their intense antioxidant activity. [10]

May Relieve Stress & Anxiety

Research has connected some of the organic compounds in kiwano with the regulation of hormones, particularly adrenaline and other stress hormones. If you suffer from chronic stress or feel anxious, eating some kiwano can quickly ease your mind and get your body back to a calm, relaxed state.

An infographic on the health benefits of kiwano

Kiwano contains many essential nutrients like protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Aid in Digestion

The high fiber content in kiwano makes it an ideal digestive aid. Dietary fiber helps to stimulate peristaltic motion and clear out the gastrointestinal tract, keeping your bowel movements regular and preventing cramping, bloating, constipation, and serious conditions like gastric ulcers. Dietary fiber is also a key element of heart health, as it helps to regulate the level of cholesterol in the body; it even helps to regulate insulin receptors, thereby preventing or managing diabetes. [11] [12]

May Increase Bone Strength

Kiwanos are also turned to for their high mineral content, particularly for calcium, in order to boost bone strength and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. While the other minerals in kiwano, including zinc, are important for bone development, growth, repair, and integrity, calcium is the most desirable mineral for our bone health. [13]

Word of Caution: The bitter forms of kiwano, before they are ripe, can have dangerous levels of chemicals that are not present when the fruit is ready to eat. This toxicity can cause stomach issues, headaches, and fevers, but is not known to be life-threatening. Also, kiwano is not commonly considered allergenic food.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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