Star Fruit (Carambola): Benefits & Nutrition Facts
Star fruit is an exotic variety of fruit that is packed with nutrients and minerals, which has recently gained global popularity due to its potential effects on our health. With an unmistakable appearance and a memorable flavor, star fruit is definitely something you must add to your diet.
Table of Contents
- What is Star Fruit?
- Star Fruit Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits of Star Fruit
- How to Eat Star Fruit?
- Side Effects of Star Fruit
What is Star Fruit?
Bearing the scientific name Averrhoa carambola, star fruit is a species of tree that can be found throughout Southeast Asia and other tropical areas including the Caribbean and Latin America. The fruit of this tree is widely cultivated for its use in culinary dishes, thanks to the tart, sour flavor, a combination of apple, grapes and citrus fruits. The name comes from the distinct shape of this fruit when it is cut in a cross-section – the shape of a star. The fruit is approximately 3-6 inches in length and the flesh of the fruit is yellow, crisp and tart in taste. The entire fruit can be eaten including the waxy outer layer.
Star fruit is also widely known as carambola and is commonly used in desserts, pickled and made into jams, and can also simply be eaten like a vegetable in savory dishes. The juice can be used as a flavoring agent in many other dishes, particularly with shrimp and other protein dishes. This fruit can also be dried and sugared, to be eaten as candy. When the fruit is ripe, it will be light yellow with slightly brown ridges. It is best to avoid smaller, green fruits, as these tend to be quite sour and unpleasant to eat. This fruit is increasingly available in western countries and is sought after due to its nutrient density and antioxidant levels.
Star Fruit Nutrition Facts
Star fruit contains an extremely low number of calories (only 31 calories per 100 grams) but it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins, as well as phosphorus, zinc, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Furthermore, there is also the concentration of antioxidants in this fruit, such as polyphenolic compounds, such as quercetin and gallic acid.
Health Benefits of Star Fruit
Star fruit (Carambola) has many benefits and some of them include boosting the immune system, detoxifying the body, relieving respiratory distress, protecting the skin, aiding in weight loss, speeding up the metabolism, optimizing digestion and building strong bones.
Armed with quercetin, gallic acid and other polyphenolic flavonoids, star fruit is packed with antioxidants that can counter the effects of oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals before they can damage the skin. This includes preventing or minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, while also keeping the skin moisturized and blemish-free as you age.
Promotes Weight Loss
With a tiny amount of calories per fruit (28 calories on average), this tropical treat won’t compromise your calorie goals, if you are trying to lose weight. Furthermore, it is full of fiber and other nutrients that can speed the metabolism and improve inflammation, all of which can help support your effort to shed those extra pounds. Fiber will also help you to feel full faster, lowering your chances of overeating or snacking between meals.
A single medium-sized star fruit has approximately 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, which is great news for your immune system. With a solid vitamin C boost in your morning fruit smoothie, your immune system will be functioning at a high level, with an optimal number of white blood cells, in conjunction with vitamin C, as an antioxidant, throughout the body.
Research on star fruit has revealed that it can be a potent anti-cancer fruit, thanks to its dense antioxidant and fiber content. The polyphenolic flavonoids found in star fruit are able to counter the mutagenic effects of free radicals and clear them out of the body before they can do damage and lead to chronic disease. Furthermore, the fiber in star fruit will cleanse the colon and reduce toxicity levels, helping to lower your risk of colon cancer.
Balances Blood Pressure
With a moderate amount of potassium, star fruit is able to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes by relieving tension on blood vessels and arteries. By eliminating hypertension, your heart will be able to rest, circulation can be more effectively carried out, and the fluid balance in your body will be appropriately maintained.
Dietary fiber is a key element in digestion, as it can stimulate the movement of stool through the digestive tract, relieving symptoms of constipation, bloating, cramping and diarrhea. Furthermore, it can help to improve nutrient uptake and the bioavailability of other essential minerals and vitamins. Both the inner fruit and the waxy peel of star fruit provide significant levels of dietary fiber.
Bone Mineral Density
There is a diverse range of minerals in star fruit, and while the fruit is not a great source or these essential nutrients, it does contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and calcium, all of which can help promote better bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis as we age.
Research has found that this insoluble fiber-rich fruit can prevent the release of glucose after eating and readily control insulin levels in the body, making it an ideal snack for people who want to avoid diabetes or for diabetic patients to manage their symptoms.
With high levels of pyridoxine, folate and riboflavin, this fruit can help to optimize your metabolism by ensuring that necessary enzymatic and hormonal processes take place throughout the body. These critical vitamins play a part in everything from nerve cell communication and energy metabolism to circulation and emotional control.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
With a very low amount of natural fat and a high level of dietary fiber, this tropical fruit is great for managing and reducing cholesterol levels. Fiber helps to regulate LDL cholesterol and elevate HDL cholesterol, thus lowering your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack and atherosclerosis.
Detoxifies the Body
Known as a diuretic, this fruit can stimulate urination, which can be helpful for someone looking to detox. This fruit will help to cleanse both the liver and the kidneys, although people with pre-existing kidney conditions should eat this fruit with caution. By increasing urination, star fruit can lower levels of toxins, excess salts and fats within the body.
Improves Respiratory Health
This fruit is known as an anti-inflammatory and cooling agent that can promote salivation and cut through mucus or phlegm. This makes it a popular remedy for respiratory infections and general health, alleviating sore throats and addressing underlying infections of the respiratory system.
How to Eat Star Fruit?
Star fruit can be included in any number of desserts, jams, marmalades, savory dishes and fresh fruit salads, but the unique appearance of the fruit often confuses people as to how it can be eaten. While some exotic fruits require peeling or other forms of preparation, star fruit is surprisingly simple. The waxy outer layer can be safely eaten, and is quite thin.
The most important part of the preparation process is actually removing the top and bottom of the fruit. A narrow slice can be taken from either end and discarded. Most people then slice the fruit in cross-sections to eat raw, add to salads, combine in a spiced mix of stewed fruits. These fruits are also popular in fruit shakes and smoothies, they can be pickled or simply used to garnish a cocktail.
Side Effects of Star Fruit
Unfortunately, there are a few side effects of star fruit that should be taken seriously including lethal toxicity under certain conditions, as well as allergic reactions, kidney stones and drug interactions.
- Allergies – While allergies to star fruit are uncommon, they are not unheard of and may result in digestive upset, such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. When consuming star fruit for the first time, try just a small amount to see how your body reacts.
- Toxicity – Some of the compounds in star fruit can be dangerous – and even deadly – if they aren’t properly processed out by the body. Therefore, if you have kidney disease and are unable to filter out certain neurotoxins, star fruit can result in headaches, confusion, nausea, seizures and even death. Most people with kidney issues and all uremic patients are recommended to avoid star fruit.
- Kidney Stones – Similarly, this fruit has a very high concentration of oxalic acid, which is okay in moderate amounts, when your kidneys are functioning normally. However, eating a lot of this fruit can increase your risk of kidney stone development.
- Drug Interactions – The active ingredients in star fruit are known to interact with many medications, namely making them non-functional in the body. This inhibitory action can be dangerous if you are on multiple prescriptions, therefore, speak to your doctor before eating star fruit if this in such scenario.