What is Cherimoya?
Cherimoya is a tropical fruit native to Ecuador and the north of Peru where you can still find it growing wild. The fruit which has the scientific name Annona cherimola is regarded by many as a superfood and is extremely well known in South America if not to the rest of the world. One of the reasons that cherimoya is still relatively unknown is that it is a difficult fruit to cultivate.
The Cherimoya trees which bare this wonderful fruit require very good drainage, they do not thrive in extreme climates nor do they fare very well at high altitude and tropical lowlands. Attempts have been made to cultivate the fruit in the US with only Southern California being successful so far.
The cherimoya fruit is often confused with sugar apples to which it is closely related. The fruits vary in shape and size but are often heart-shaped and the size of a grapefruit. They physically resemble a very large artichoke while their delicious flavor is like a combination of banana and pineapple.
The edible flesh of the fruit is sweet and creamy white in color. The skin and its large seeds are inedible and in fact the seeds become toxic when they are crushed.
The creamy texture and sweet flavor of the fruit make them an extremely popular ingredient in smoothies, puddings and ice creams. Apart from being delicious and easy to enjoy, there is plenty more reason to add this superfood to your diet as you are about to find out.
- A 100 gram serving of cherimoya contains around 75 calories and is free of both cholesterol and saturated fats. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber providing you with some 8% of your RDA of soluble fiber.
- Cherimoya has various polyphenols which act as antioxidants in the body. These antioxidants include acetogenin compounds which act as potent cytotoxins and are believed to combat parasites and diseases like cancer and malaria.
- Cherimoya is high in vitamin C which is another powerful antioxidant found naturally in many fruit and vegetables.
- Cherimoya contains several of the B family of vitamins including pyridoxine (vitamin B6) which is believed to help promote GABA levels in the brain.
- Cherimoya contains a healthy amount of many important vitamins such as potassium, copper, iron and manganese.
The Health Benefits of Cherimoya
1) Heart Health
What is more important to us than a strong and healthy heart?
Anything we can do to protect our heart’s health should be a priority with heart disease among the biggest killers in the world. Fortunately, cherimoya contains many of the nutrients necessary to ensure your heart remains strong.
Vitamin C is a known antioxidant with the ability to neutralize damage done by free radicals. It prevents lipids from being attacked and in turn helps keep cholesterol levels under control. Cherimoya also contains soluble fiber which are known to support cardiovascular health.
Fiber can prevent cholesterol, from being absorbed in the gut. Studies on diabetic patients have revealed that fiber also helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels while simultaneously improving HDL cholesterol.
A single medium-sized cherimoya comes with a healthy five grams of healthy dietary fiber. The majority of us get nowhere near the amount of fiber that is recommended and just one of these fruits will provide you with as much as 90% of your recommended daily allowance.
There are plenty of reasons that we are advised to fiber up our diets. It is essential to the proper function of our digestive tract and can help treat common complaints like constipation and bloating. Not only that, but fiber is key in keeping your blood sugar in the normal, healthy range.
3) Brain Health
The vitamin B6 found in cherimoya helps to regulate GABA levels in the brain. GABA is essential for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. There is also some evidence that vitamin B6 is necessary in the fight against cognitive diseases like Parkinson’s.
In addition to its brain health benefits, vitamin B6 is necessary for the proper function of the immune system and metabolism.
Indigenous South Americans have traditionally eaten cherimoya for its mild tranquilizing effects and its ability to stave of anxiety and convulsions. Because of these traditional uses, cherimoya has been studied to examine its effects on the mind.
In animal studies, researchers have found that cherimoya had antidepressant effects on mice and have recommended further trials to see if it would have the same effect on humans. (1)
With mental disorders like depression and anxiety on the increase, a natural alternative to the powerful pharmaceutical medications is definitely desirable. Let us hope that the results of these studies bear fruit in the future.
5) Antioxidant Activity
Like most fruit, cherimoya contains various antioxidants in the form of polyohenols. These compounds can help protect the body from damage caused by oxidative stress which often results in inflammation leading to serious illness.
If you do a quick internet search on the benefits of cherimoya, you will find plenty of support for the fruit as a treatment for cancer. However, if you look a little more closely into these claims, there is a certain amount of controversy and some conflicting opinion.
Several studies have suggested that cherimoya extracts had cytotoxic potential in vitro. However, another study has found that the annonacin polyphenols present in the fruit may induce symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease. (2)
7) Skin Health
Back onto more solid ground, cherimoya fruit is definitely good for your skin. The fruit is very rich in vitamin C which is vital for anybody who wants to improve the appearance and health of their skin. Vitamin c has natural antioxidant properties as well as being key to the production of collagen.
Collagen is a type of protein which helps keep the skin healthy, strong and elastic. And there is more good news to come, especially for those of us of a certain age. Because of their antioxidant capacity, cherimoya fruits can also reverse some of the signs that we are aging. Say goodbye to wrinkles, blemishes and age spots by adding this delicious fruit to your list.
8) Hair Benefits
Collagen not only helps maintain the health of your skin but it also important for your hair. Our hair and scalp is largely made up of collagen and he vitamin C in cherimoya contributes greatly to its formation.
Cherimoya is available in seed oil form and is perfect for thick, coarse and wavy hair. It also helps to hydrate the scalp and promotes shiny, healthy looking and more manageable hair.
How to Prepare and Serve Cherimoya
If you have never eaten cherimoya before then you are in for a real treat. It has an absolutely delicious taste when just eaten out of the hand but can also be prepared in a wide variety of ways.
To prepare your cherimoya fruit, wash and dry then cut it lengthwise. Discard the seeds and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.
- It is absolutely delicious the way nature intended with no seasoning or additives.
- You can juice it or use it as an ingredient in a juice mix.
- Cut it into chunks and use it as a topping for ice cream or in a fruit salad.