Cherimoya Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

cherimoya

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Cherimoya (Annona cherimola), also called the custard apple, is a roundish green fruit with a unique scaly outer skin. It has a creamy texture and an exotic, tropical taste. Some compare the flavor of cherimoya to a banana, mango, papaya, or coconut. But others say that it tastes like a strawberry.

Sometimes this fruit is called “pearl of the Andes” because it was cherished by the Incas, often reserved only for royalty. The fruit is now commonly grown in Central America. Cherimoya is closely related to soursop (Annona muricata) and the two are often confused.

If you can find cherimoya at your local market, it can make a delicious and healthy addition to your diet. The fruit is nearly fat-free and provides vitamin C and vitamin B6.

Cherimoya Nutrition Facts

The following information is provided by the USDA for a single serving (100 grams) of fresh, raw cherimoya.

  • Calories: 75
  • Fat: 0.7g
  • Sodium: 7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17.7g
  • Sugars: 13g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 1.6g

Carbs

A 100-gram serving of cherimoya contains about 75 calories. A whole fruit weighs about 235 grams without the seeds and skin. So a 100-gram serving would be slightly less than a half fruit. Most of the calories in cherimoya are carbohydrates.

There are 13 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in cherimoya. Sugar that occurs naturally in foods is generally less of a concern than sugars that are added to food as part of the processing (called "added sugars").

You'll benefit from about 3 grams of fiber if you consume one serving of cherimoya. Consuming fiber improves digestion and regularity. Fiber may provide other health benefits, including decreased risk of some types of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 28 grams. The rest of the carbohydrate content in cherimoya is starch.

The glycemic index of cherimoya, specifically, has not been determined, although some sources put the glycemic load at about six, making it a low glycemic food. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when considering the food's impact on blood glucose.

Some studies have investigated the glycemic index of related tropical fruits also called custard apple (Annona squamosa) and have estimated that it is probably around 59, but the margin of error is 21. Fruits with a glycemic index of 59 would be considered moderate glycemic foods.

Fats

There is almost no fat in cherimoya. One serving provides less than one gram.

Protein

Cherimoya provides a very small amount of protein, about 1.6 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cherimoya is a good source of vitamin C, providing about 12.6 milligrams or about 14% of your recommended daily intake of 90 milligrams. Cherimoya also provides about 15% of the RDA for vitamin B6, often called the mood-boosting vitamin. Vitamin B6 is also a micronutrient that helps you to maintain a healthy metabolism. Vitamin B6 is important during pregnancy for brain development and immune function in the baby.

Cherimoya is also one of several tropical fruits that have been studied for the folate that it provides. If you eat the whole fruit, you'll get 53 mcg of folate or about 13.5% of the recommended daily allowance. Folate cannot be synthesized by the body, so it must be consumed in foods or provided in the form of a supplement.

There is some evidence that folate intake is low in adults. The nutrient is particularly important for women of childbearing age since a deficiency is associated with a higher risk for neural tube defects in newborns. An insufficient intake of folate can also cause other chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular disease.

Other vitamins in cherimoya include small amounts of thiamin (0.10mg), riboflavin (0.1 mg), and small amounts of niacin and pantothenic acid.

Minerals in cherimoya include potassium (287 mg), magnesium (17mg), iron (0.3mg), and smaller amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.

Health Benefits

There are not many studies specifically investigating the health effects of consuming cherimoya fruit. But vitamins and minerals in the fruit may provide certain benefits.

May Help Preserve Memory

The vitamin B6 in cherimoya may help you to preserve memory as you get older. Some limited studies have suggested that elderly people who have higher blood levels of vitamin B6 have a better memory. But supplements don't seem to provide a benefit. You'll get this nutrient from cherimoya and it is also found in foods such as bananas, meat, fish, legumes, and potatoes.

May Reduce the Risk for Cataracts

The vitamin C in cherimoya may help you to reduce your risk of getting cataracts, a condition characterized by cloudy vision. The National Institutes of Health reports that some studies show that people who get more vitamin C from foods have a lower risk of getting the condition. But they also note that the relationship is unclear and more research is needed.

May Boost Overall Eye Health

Cherimoya has been studied for its important bioactive compounds, most notably a carotenoid called lutein that is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. There is no RDA for lutein but many studies investigating the role of lutein on eye health have involved supplements of 10 milligrams per day.

According to at least one study, the levels may be as high as 129 to 232 micrograms per 100-gram serving. USDA data for cherimoya, however, shows that a 100g serving would only provide about 6mcg.

The American Optometric Association suggests consuming foods with more lutein to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration. 

May Reduce Cell Damage

Many of the health benefits of cherimoya are attributed to the antioxidants that the fruit provides. Antioxidants help to protect cells in your body from damage caused by free radicals.

Specifically, scientific evidence suggests that the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) may lead to certain chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegeneration. Antioxidants in food help to reduce the damaging effects of ROS. However, the topic is hotly debated as too little ROS activity may have undesirable health consequences. Researchers have advised that more studies are needed to fully understand the role that antioxidants play in maintaining good health.

Most studies have shown that supplements are not the best source of antioxidants. The National Institutes of Health recommends that consumers get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, such as cherimoya.

May Help in Treatment of Leukemia

Preliminary studies suggest that the seeds of a cherimoya may provide some benefit in the treatment of leukemia, a blood cancer. Annonaceous acetogenins contained in the seeds are toxic to humans, but may also provide anti-cancer properties by halting the proliferation of designated cell lines. But at this point, research into this potential benefit is still in the early stages.

Allergies

Reports regarding cherimoya allergies are limited. But there is some evidence that those with a latex allergy may experience a reaction when consuming certain fruits, including cherimoya. Cross-reactions between latex and plant foods (mainly fruits) have been widely reported. The most commonly cited foods are chestnut, avocado, and banana.

There has been at least one reported case of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to cherimoya.

Adverse Effects

Cherimoya is not known to interact with any medications or supplements. However, you should avoid consuming the seeds. Several varieties of custard apple have seeds that can cause harm. Cherimoya seeds are widely known to be toxic.

Varieties

A related fruit, soursop, is sometimes called Brazilian cherimoya but it is a different fruit. Both fruits are part of the custard apple family.

When It's Best

Some grocery stores carry cherimoya but you are more likely to find it in tropical areas. Chile, California, and Spain are the main producers of cherimoya. Because the fruit breaks open and bruises easily, cherimoya doesn't ship well and can be hard to find outside of those areas.

Cherimoya season lasts from November until May. When choosing the best cherimoya, look for fruit with bright, green, unbroken skin. Some may have gold tones or brown spots. The fruit should yield slightly when you press it with your finger. Avoid black, shriveled, or overripe fruit.

Storage and Food Safety

Cherimoyas ripen when left at room temperature. Ripe cherimoyas can be refrigerated for up to two days. Storing them longer may lead to a dull taste. Try to eat them within a day or two of ripening for the best flavor.

How to Prepare

Most people consume cherimoya simply by breaking open the fruit and scooping out the creamy flesh. The pulp of this fruit can also be pureed and mixed with other fruits in salads or used as a topping for ice cream.

Cherimoya juice is also commonly consumed as a refreshing drink. In Columbia, for example, the juice is mixed water and garnished with a slice of lemon. You might also try using cherimoya pulp in smoothies.

Recipes

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