Kiwano Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Kiwano fruit
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Kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus) is also called horned melon because of the fruit's prickly appearance. Kiwano is an oval-shaped fruit about 10 centimeters long with thick, knobby orange skin, bright green flesh, and white translucent seeds on the inside. Most describe it's flavor as similar to that of a cucumber and melon with some hints of lime. Some people add sugar to it when they eat it to enhance the flavor.

Kiwano is believed to have originated in Southern Africa but later migrated to New Zealand and Australia. The fruit is grown primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and certain parts of Asia. More recently, the fruit has been grown in California.

Kiwano can be eaten alone or added to fruit salads, smoothies, or salsa. It is not available in every supermarket, but if you can find it, horned melon can be a healthy addition to your diet providing protein, magnesium, vitamin C, and iron.

Kiwano Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (233 grams) of kiwano fruit.

  • Calories: 103
  • Fat: 2.9g
  • Sodium: 4.7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17.6g
  • Protein: 4.1g

Carbs

Most of the calories in kiwano come from carbohydrates. You'll consume 103 calories and 17.6 grams of carbohydrate if you eat a full-cup serving of the fruit (slightly more than one whole fruit). However, the USDA only provides limited information about the type of carbohydrates in the fruit.

Carbohydrates can be sugar, fiber, or starch, but the USDA does not distinguish between the types for this particular fruit. There is also no recorded glycemic index for the fruit.

Fats

There is just a small amount of fat in a single serving of the horned melon. A one-cup serving provides 2.9 grams of fat. The USDA does not provide information about the type of fat (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, or saturated fat) although studies suggest that the fat is unsaturated.

Protein

Kiwano provides more protein than many other types of fruit. You'll get 4.1 grams of protein in each one-cup serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

A single serving of kiwano is an excellent source of magnesium, providing 93.2 milligrams or about 22% of the daily value (DV). The fruit is also a good source of vitamin C, providing 12.3 milligrams or 13.6% of the daily value, and a good source of iron, providing 2.6 milligrams or 14.6% of the daily value.

Health Benefits

There is limited evidence about the health benefits of kiwano. A few studies have highlighted certain potential advantages of consuming horned melon fruit—but the studies are primarily rodent studies or in vitro (test tube) studies.

Some researchers have written about the use of kiwano leaves—which are not likely to come with the fruit if you buy it in your local grocery store. Many of these traditional uses of kiwano fruit and kiwano leaves have not been tested with rigorous scientific studies.

For example, the fruit has been used to treat patients who have tested positive for HIV/AIDs, although evidence supporting this use is lacking. The fruit is also sought after as a source of water by people of the Kalahari Desert. In traditional South African medicine, the leaves are chewed or eaten for their anti-fatigue effect, used in herbal teas for a laxative effect, or to prepare anti-inflammatory packs.

Studies need to be conducted on humans to determine what benefits this fruit may provide, but here is what the limited science says so far.

May Provide Antioxidant Benefits

Kiwano seeds contain primarily unsaturated oils. According to one report published in 2018, "the oil is rich in antioxidant substances such as carotenoids and tocopherols that bring many benefits to cells and organs by neutralizing the damage of free radicals that cause cardiovascular and cancer diseases." The report's author also notes that the oil may help strengthen the immune system.

May Boost Heart Health

The author of the 2018 report also notes that the seed's oil contains unsaturated fatty acids that can help control blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that when consumed in moderation, unsaturated fats may help improve your blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated and trans fats.

May Have the Potential to Lower Blood Glucose

There is a possibility that the fruit extract of kiwano may be able to lower blood glucose levels, but the evidence is very preliminary. A study conducted in 2010 showed that in rats with hyperglycemia, the extract showed clinically significant hypoglycemic properties. The blood glucose changes were not significant in rats that were not hyperglycemic.

May Have the Potential to Reduce Ulcers

There is a possibility that extract from the pulp of the fruit has anti-ulcer properties, according to one rodent study published in 2009. There is also evidence that isolated alkaloids from the fruit pulp of the plant provide some level of gastric mucosal protection in mice. But studies in humans are lacking.

Allergies

Information regarding allergies specifically to horned melon are also lacking. However, since the fruit is related to cucumber and melon it may be possible that those with oral allergy syndrome (OAS) may have a reaction when consuming it. Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome include itchiness or swelling of the mouth, face, lip, tongue, and throat. OAS may also cause difficulty breathing or even anaphylaxis in rare situations.

Adverse Effects

It is not known if kiwano interacts with medication or can cause adverse reactions.

Varieties

There is only one variety of kiwano but you may see it called different names in addition to horned melon. The fruit is also sometimes called spiked melon or jelly melon.

When It's Best

The peak season for the fruit is in the summer. However, stores that carry the fruit may have it year-round because it is brought in from other parts of the world.

When looking for a horned melon, find one that has no bruising or soft spots. If the fruit is green, it is not yet ripe. Find one that is a bright yellow-orange color.

Storage and Food Safety

Kiwanos do not need refrigeration. Try to eat the fruit within a few days of purchase.

How to Prepare

You can eat the fruit right out of the shell. Simply, slice it in half and spoon out the pulp. You can also eat the seeds. The fruit is not naturally very sweet so many people sprinkle sugar on it to give it extra sweetness. You can also spoon out the pulp and add it to smoothies, fruit salads, salsa recipes, or fruit dips.

Also, keep in mind that the shell of the horned melon can be used as a colorful bowl. Simply scoop out the fruit and fill it with yogurt and toppings or fruit salad.

Recipes

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