Quenepas: Nutritional Value and Benefits
Quenepas goes by many different names around the world, but that doesn’t change the impressive nutritional value and health benefits it delivers, including the ability to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve digestion, strengthen bones, improve mood, and regulate hormones.
More commonly known as the Spanish lime, quenepas is a tree in the soapberry family with the scientific name Melicoccus bijugatus. The fruit of this tree is small, round and green with a thin, rigid skin that grows in large bunches. Native to the New World tropics, this fruit has become a cultural and culinary staple in many different Caribbean islands and Central American countries. The fruit goes by many different names, including guinep, skinip, limoncillo and mamon, but they all refer to the same fruit, which is like a cross between a lime and a lychee, with a sweet and tangy taste. After removing the skin, the creamy, soft pulp is revealed, which is packed with various minerals and vitamins that can be very beneficial for human health. Inside the fruit is a large seed, so most people eat this fruit by sucking on the pulp until only the seed is left.
You can find quenepas in a wide variety of dishes and preparations throughout the New World tropics, not only because of its unique, powerful flavor, but also because of its nutritional density and value. There are no fats and a very low level of calories, which is what many people on diets are looking for, but it also delivers significant amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as some dietary fiber, calcium, iron, tryptophan, lysine and other powerful organic acids and antioxidants. With this formidable variety of nutrients, it comes as no surprise that quenepas can have a powerful effect on human health.
Health Benefits of Quenepas
Bone Strength: As a moderately good source of calcium, quenepas can help to improve bone strength and durability as you age. Bone mineral density naturally decreases as we get older, so it is important to maintain a regular flow of calcium into the diet. This can help prevent osteoporosis and other age-related weakness, while also optimizing the intake of other nutrients in the gut, such as iron.
Immune Booster: Like many types of tropical fruit, quenepas contains a number of key vitamins and minerals that the immune system needs to function. Specifically, vitamin A and vitamin C are found in high supply. Vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells, a crucial element of our immune system, while both of these vitamins can function as antioxidants, eliminating free radicals and easing the stress and strain on our bodies.
Circulation: Iron is one of the most important minerals in our body, as it plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. When we are depleted of our iron reserves, we suffer from anemia, characterized by weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness and stomach upset. When we don’t have fresh, oxygenated blood running through our veins, it creates a noticeable change in our overall function. Quenepas contains a measurable amount of iron, so adding it to your diet is never a bad idea.
Digestive Health: Arguably the most important element of quenepas is the high concentration of dietary fiber. As with many fruits and vegetables, the fiber found in quenepas is able to improve digestion by bulking up stool and stimulating peristaltic motion. This will not only ease symptoms of constipation, bloating and cramping, but will also improve the nutrient uptake efficiency in your stomach.
Hormonal Effects: Phosphorous is a key mineral for human health, but we don’t often pursue it directly. It is found in small amounts in many foods, but it is easy to become deficient in phosphorous. Quenepas contains a good amount of phosphorous, which can benefit hormonal function and balance, resulting in effects all over the body, from growth and development to menstruation.
Mood Stabilizer: In tropical countries, quenepas has also been recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and mood instability. It is believed that the concentrated burst of minerals and vitamins, as well as organic acids and antioxidants, can help neurotransmitter levels return to normal, thus eliminating mood swings and unexplained anxiety. This tropical fruit has often been given to women during menstruation, as it can calm some of the psychological side effects.
Sleep Aid: Tryptophan is an unexpected compound in quenepas, but it has a definite effect on the human body. Tryptophan is legendary for its ability to induce sleep, namely because it stimulates the production of serotonin. This “good feeling” neurotransmitter can dispel anxiety and worry, clearing the mind and leading to restful, undisturbed, rejuvenating sleep.
Weight Loss: The low calorie count and complete lack of fat within quenepas means that it is perfect for people on a diet. Not only that, but the dietary fiber of this tropical fruit will help the body feel full, thus reducing the chances of between-meal snacking.
Diabetes Risk: Early research has shown that quenepas can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels in the body, which is important for people suffering from diabetes, or those at high risk. By optimizing the insulin-glucose balance in the body, quenepas can prevent the peaks and plunges of blood sugar that can be so deadly for diabetic patients.
Blood Pressure: There are many phenolic compounds contained in quenepas, which have been directly linked to protecting cardiovascular health and reducing cholesterol levels. This can do wonders for your overall heart health, both by lowering your blood pressure, preventing blockage, and significantly reducing your risk for heart attacks and strokes.