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Custard Apple: A Nutrient-Rich Wonder Fruit for Everyone

Health Benefits of Custard Apple

Custard apple, known as Sitaphal or Sharifa in India, is a tropical fruit that boasts a unique taste and creamy texture. This wonder fruit is not only delicious but also incredibly hardy, thriving in challenging soil conditions with minimal care. It has been used for centuries in folklore remedies and Ayurvedic medicine, and recent research studies are shedding light on its numerous health benefits. From the fruit to the roots, leaves, bark, and flesh, every part of the custard apple tree is utilized for its therapeutic properties.

A Nutrient-Rich Tropical Delight

Sugar Apples or Sweetsop
Sugar Apples

Beyond its unique flavor, custard apple is packed with essential nutrients that offer a wide range of health benefits. The green, cone-shaped fruit has a sweet taste, reminiscent of a blend between pineapple and banana. Let’s explore some of the key health benefits custard apple brings to the table.

  • Digestive Health – Custard apple is an excellent natural remedy for constipation. It contains dietary fiber, which aids in regulating bowel movements, preventing discomfort, and promoting overall digestive health.
  • Heart Health – The heart is a vital organ, and custard apple contributes positively to its well-being. The fruit contains potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart-related issues.
  • Skin Health – For radiant and healthy skin, custard apple is a go-to option. Its high vitamin C content helps in collagen production, keeping your skin firm and youthful.
  • Immunity Booster – Custard apple contains antioxidants, including vitamin C, which protect the body from oxidative stress. This, in turn, strengthens the immune system and guards against chronic diseases.
  • Low in Calories, High in Nutrients – Despite its delectable taste, custard apple is relatively low in calories and fat, making it an excellent choice for those aiming to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and iron.

A Glimpse into the Annona Genus

Custard apples belong to the Annona genus, which comprises approximately 170 species of small trees or shrubs. These trees are native to the New World tropics and have gained local importance for their traditional medicinal uses. Additionally, several species are cultivated for their delicious edible fruits.

Physical Characteristics

Members of the Annona genus are typically evergreen or semi-deciduous plants, intolerant of frost. Their leaves can range from leathery to hairy, with ovate shapes and smooth margins. The flowers of these trees are striking, featuring six to eight fleshy curved petals in two whorls, accompanied by numerous stamens and pistils. The fruits are often scaly, succulent, and may have segments.

Major Species

  1. Common Custard Apple (Annona reticulata): Also known as sugar apple or bullock’s-heart in the West Indies, this species bears dark brown fruit with a quilted appearance. The pulp is reddish-yellow and sweet, making it a favorite for many.
  2. Soursop (A. muricata): Known for its distinctive flavor, soursop is widely cultivated and enjoyed for its delicious fruit.
  3. Sweetsop (A. squamosa): This species, also known as sugar apple or sweetsop, is cherished for its fruit and is cultivated globally.
  4. Cherimoya (A. cherimola): Cherimoya is another species with delectable fruit.
  5. Alligator Apple (A. glabra): This native of South America and West Africa is valued for its roots and is often used for making jellies.

Custard Apple and Its Varieties

The term “custard apple” can refer to several different fruits, including:

  • Asimina triloba (Pawpaw): A deciduous tree native to the United States and Canada, known for bearing the largest edible fruit in these regions.
  • Annona cherimola (Cherimoya): This tree and its fruit are commonly referred to as cherimoya.
  • Annona reticulata: Known as sugar apple or sweetsop, it is another popular species.
  • Annona squamosa: This tree and its fruit are often called sugar apple or sweetsop.
  • Annona senegalensis: Referred to as wild custard-apple, this species also contributes to the custard apple family’s diversity.

Custard apple, despite its many variations, is a cherished member of the Rutaceae family, also known as the citrus family.

Custard apple, with its delicious taste and diverse health benefits, is truly a gift from nature. Whether you savor it for its unique flavor or appreciate its therapeutic properties, custard apple is a fruit that deserves a special place in your diet.

Health Benefits of Custard Apple

Fresh custard apple with leaf isolated on white background
Fresh custard apple

Custard apples, often referred to as the “gifts of nature,” are renowned for their numerous health benefits. These delectable fruits originate from the custard tree, a versatile plant with medicinal properties residing in its leaves, bark, roots, and unripe fruit.

While the custard apple boasts an array of health advantages, it’s important to note that its seeds contain a potentially toxic kernel when consumed. However, swallowing the seeds whole typically poses no harm. Let’s delve into the outstanding health benefits of custard apples and explore their potential advantages:

1. A Treasure Trove of Antioxidants

Custard apple is a rich source of antioxidants, featuring vitamin C and various phytochemicals. These compounds play a crucial role in shielding the body from oxidative stress, a key contributor to chronic diseases. By incorporating custard apple into your diet, you can fortify your body’s defenses against the harms of free radicals.

2. Fortifying the Immune System

Custard apples are loaded with vitamin C, known for its immune-boosting properties. A robust immune system is essential for warding off infections and diseases. By including custard apples in your daily intake, you can enhance your immune response and stay healthy.

3. Promoting Digestive Wellness

Thanks to the dietary fiber content in custard apples, they are a boon for digestive health. This fiber facilitates healthy digestion, prevents constipation, and nurtures overall gut well-being. Custard apple’s natural laxative properties make it an excellent choice for maintaining a smooth-running digestive system.

4. Heart-Healthy Delight

Custard apple is a heart-healthy option, as it is low in cholesterol and sodium, yet brimming with potassium. Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is crucial for cardiovascular well-being, and custard apple’s potassium content supports this cause. Regular consumption can reduce the risk of heart-related issues.

5. Soothing Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Certain compounds found in custard apple, such as acetogenins, exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are beneficial for reducing inflammation in the body, potentially alleviating discomfort associated with inflammatory conditions.

6. A Beauty Secret in a Fruit

Custard apples do wonders for your skin. The antioxidants and vitamin C present in these fruits combat free radicals, helping protect your skin and promoting collagen production. This dual action contributes to healthy, radiant skin, making custard apples a natural beauty enhancer.

Can Diabetics Indulge in Custard Apple?

Diabetic individuals must be cautious about their carbohydrate intake as it directly affects blood sugar levels. Custard apples contain natural sugars, which means moderation is the key for those with diabetes. Here are some essential guidelines to consider:

  • Diabetic patients should consume custard apples in moderate portions. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate portion size based on individual dietary needs and blood sugar control.
  • Incorporating custard apples into your diet can be a delightful and health-conscious choice. However, it’s always advisable to maintain balance and consult with a healthcare expert to ensure the most suitable approach, especially if you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions.

The Nutritional Riches of Custard Apple

Annona muricata or soursop, graviola and guyabano with palm leaves on rattan background. Copy space
Annona muricata

Let’s take a deep dive into the impressive nutritional profile of custard apple per 100 grams of the edible portion:

  • Calories: A modest 98.94 kcal, contributing to just 5% of your daily value (DV).
  • Carbohydrates: 20.38 grams, comprising 7% of your DV.
  • Dietary Fiber: A noteworthy 5.1 grams, offering 20% of your DV.
  • Protein: 1.62 grams, contributing 3% of your DV.
  • Fat: A minimal 0.67 grams, accounting for 1% of your DV.
  • Vitamin C: A robust 35.9 milligrams, offering a remarkable 60% of your DV.
  • Vitamin A: 22 micrograms, providing 2% of your DV.
  • Potassium: 382 milligrams, making up 8% of your DV.
  • Magnesium: 27 milligrams, contributing 6% of your DV.
  • Iron: 0.6 milligrams, offering 3% of your DV.

The custard apple’s nutritional profile is a testament to its incredible value. Let’s break it down further by examining a fresh 100-gram custard apple:

NutrientAmount
Calories94
Proteins2.1 g
Dietary Fiber4.4 g
Total Fat0.0 g
Carbohydrates23.6 g

A Comparative Analysis

In comparison with other popular fruits such as bananas, apples, and oranges, custard apples display some remarkable differences:

Composition

Custard apples boast a higher protein and fat content compared to their fruity counterparts. Bananas surpass pawpaw (papaya) in terms of food energy and carbohydrate content. However, there is minimal variation in dietary fiber content among these fruits. In overall composition, custard apple aligns most closely with bananas. Apples, on the other hand, are especially low in protein, while oranges are low in fat. Both apples and oranges are lower than pawpaw or bananas in terms of food energy.

Vitamins

Custard apples shine when it comes to vitamin content. They contain three times as much vitamin C as apples, twice as much as bananas, and one-third as much as oranges. Custard apples also outperform apples and oranges in riboflavin content. While pawpaw has a higher niacin content compared to bananas, apples, and oranges, custard apples fare well in this department too.

Read more: What Ails the Health Sector – Challenges and Solutions

Minerals

Custard apples are rich in potassium, boasting roughly twice as much as oranges and three times as much as apples. Pawpaw excels in calcium content, surpassing oranges by one and a half times and leaving bananas and apples trailing far behind. In addition to calcium, pawpaw outperforms other fruits in phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and manganese content.

Amino Acids

The protein in custard apples contains all essential amino acids, surpassing apples in each one. Custard apples either exceed or match bananas and oranges in most essential amino acids. Pawpaw protein also includes all essential amino acids, outperforming apples and rivaling bananas and oranges in many of them.

Fats

Custard apple’s fatty acid profile is superior to that of bananas. It consists of 32% saturated, 40% monounsaturated, and 28% polyunsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, bananas have a higher saturated fat content (52%) along with lower monounsaturated (15%) and polyunsaturated (34%) fatty acids.

In summary, custard apples are a nutritional powerhouse, offering an array of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Their favorable fat composition and rich vitamin C content make them a standout choice for those seeking a healthy and delicious dietary option.

Conclusion

Custard apples are more than just a delightful treat for your taste buds; they are a treasure trove of health benefits. From their potential to lower the risks of arthritis and combat cancer-causing cells to preventing inflammation and promoting brain health, custard apples rank among the top foods for leading a healthy life. These remarkable fruits are replete with minerals, nutrients, and vitamins that seamlessly contribute to your daily recommended intake.

Whether enjoyed in its natural, raw form or incorporated as a delicious addition to salads and shakes, custard apples offer a wide array of health advantages. They enhance cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure and reducing bad cholesterol levels. The fruit’s rich carbohydrate content combats fatigue, ensuring you have the energy required for your daily activities.

Moreover, custard apples play a role in bolstering eyesight and possess natural anti-cancer properties, making them a formidable ally in your quest for overall wellness. Research also indicates that these fruits may reduce the risk of arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, custard apples combat anemia and stimulate collagen production, contributing to healthier and more radiant skin.

In sum, custard apples stand out as one of the top foods that can guide you toward a path of wholesome living. Their mineral-rich, nutrient-packed, and vitamin-laden composition make them an ideal addition to your daily diet. So, whether you savor them in their unadulterated form or incorporate them into your culinary creations, custard apples are a natural gift that keeps on giving.

Also read – The Potential of Curry Leaves: A Flavorful and Nutrient-Rich Ingredient

Ravi S. Behera
Ravi S. Behera
Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera, PGDAEM, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is an independent freelance Consultant and Author based in Bhubaneswar. He is an Honorary Advisor to grassroots Voluntary Organizations on Food Security, Forest and Environment, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Social Development issues. Ravi has lived and worked in various states of India and was associated with international donors and NGOs over the last twenty three years including ActionAid, DanChurchAid, Embassy of Sweden/Sida, Aide et Action, Sightsavers, UNICEF, Agragamee, DAPTA and Practical Action. He has a keen interest in indigenous communities and food policy issues.
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