If you’ve never tried a lychee, you’re seriously missing out.
Not only does this fruit bring a sweet flavor, but it’s also full of pretty sweet health benefits. It’s got lots of important nutrients and beneficial plant compounds to help you feel your best. Here’s why lychee is worth a try and how to eat it.
What are the benefits of lychee fruit?
- Lychee is high in important vitamins and minerals.
- It contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- It may support liver health.
Lychee (aka litchi) is a type of fruit native to southern China. China is the largest lychee producer in the world, but the fruit is also grown in other places, such as India, Africa, and the United States.
Lychee fruits look pretty unique. They’re covered in skin that has a reddish-pink color and a leathery, alligator-bumpy feel. This is why it’s sometimes referred to as the “alligator strawberry.” You can’t eat the tough skin, so make sure you peel it off before digging into the sweet, semi-translucent flesh.
What does it taste like? The fruit has a soft and juicy texture and a berrylike flavor. Some people can taste floral undertones in it too.
Depending on the variety, lychee fruits can be round or heart-shaped. They’re also pretty small, averaging about 1 inch in diameter.
Even though lychees are a common part of many people’s diets around the world, they’re typically hard to find in the United States. You can check local Asian markets and specialty stores like Whole Foods, or you can order lychees online.
Why go through the effort to find this fruit? Here are some of the biggest benefits of lychee.
Lychees are a great source of a bunch of vitamins and minerals your body needs to feel its best.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for 1 cup of fresh lychee fruit:
- Calories: 125
- Carbohydrates: 31 grams
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Fat: 0.83 grams
- Fiber: 2.5 grams
- Vitamin C: 151 percent of the Daily Value (DV)
- Folate: 7 percent of the DV
- Niacin: 7 percent of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 11 percent of the DV
- Potassium: 7 percent of the DV
- Copper: 31 percent of the DV
Lychee fruits are particularly rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that’s involved in super important bodily processes like immune function, neurotransmitter synthesis, and collagen production.
Vitamin C also functions as a powerful antioxidant in your bod. That means it helps protect your cells from damage.
Lychees are a rich source of copper, a mineral that supports enzymes involved in iron metabolism, energy production, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Copper is also involved in immune function, blood vessel development, and more.
In addition to vitamin C and copper, this fruit contains the B vitamins folate, niacin, and B6. It also provides potassium, a nutrient that’s critical for cellular function and healthy blood pressure control.
Noshing on lychees, along with other fruits and veggies, can help you meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs.
Like many other fruits, lychees are full of friendly plant compounds that can benefit your bod in a bunch of ways.
Research shows that lychees contain polyphenol compounds like gallic acid, epicatechin, and caffeic acid. And don’t forget that lychees are loaded with vitamin C.
All these compounds act as powerful antioxidants in your body. They help protect your cells from damage caused by pro-oxidants like free radicals that may otherwise lead to disease. Many of these compounds have anti-inflammatory effects as well.
These perks can have important impacts on your health. In fact, studies suggest that diets high in antioxidant-rich fruits may help protect against health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Your liver is involved in a bunch of critical functions like detoxification, digestion, vitamin storage, and more. So it’s important to keep this organ in tip-top condition.
You can support and protect your liver in several ways. Not overdoing it on alcohol, avoiding smoking and drug use, and following a healthy diet can all help.
Interestingly, preliminary research suggests that eating lychees may also help keep your liver healthy.
A few studies on rodents with stress- or alcohol-induced liver injuries have shown that treatment with lychee extract may help:
- accelerate liver cell regeneration
- reduce oxidative stress by scavenging free radicals
- reduce liver fat accumulation
- improve the function of the mitochondria (the energy-producing part) of liver cells
Even though these findings are pretty cool, it doesn’t mean that eating lychees will magically improve your liver health.
Keep in mind that these studies were performed on rodents, not humans. Plus, they used concentrated lychee extract, which is very different from eating normal amounts of whole lychee fruit.
Still, eating lots of fruits and veggies in general is a great way to support liver health. So bring on the lychees!
If you’ve never chowed down on one of these sweet fruits before, you might need a crash course.
Lychees are delicious fresh, so that’s a good place to start. Look for a ripe lychee, which will have bright skin that feels slightly soft to the touch but not too soft. If a lychee is super soft and completely caves in when you gently press on it, it’s probably past its prime.
Most lychees are pinkish-red when ripe, but some can be orange or even slightly yellow. A ready-to-eat lychee will also give off a sweet, flowery smell.
Now, on to the eating part.
Simply peel off the bumpy skin and discard it. Then score the flesh with a knife and remove the large pit at the center of the fruit. The pit is inedible, so you can get rid of it too.
Once you’ve removed the skin and pit, you can enjoy the sweet lychee fruit.
Although they’re fab on their own, you can try adding them to dishes like fruit salads, savory salads, and desserts too.
While there’s no doubt that lychees can be a delicious part of a balanced diet for most folks, some people may have a pretty severe reaction to eating lychees.
In fact, some people may have anaphylactic and inflammatory reactions to lychees, so it’s important to be careful with these fruits, especially if you’ve never eaten them before. Talk with a healthcare professional before eating lychee if you have other allergies, such as an allergy to mugwort.
FYI: Eating lychee has been linked to an increased risk of brain inflammation in malnourished children in certain areas of the world, like India. This relationship is complicated and involves a specific toxin found in lychees that may cause dangerously low blood sugar levels when a person is malnourished.
Lychees have a sweet, floral taste and are bursting with important vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium.
Plus, they’re high in a variety of antioxidant compounds, which are important for supporting overall health and protecting your cells from oxidative damage.
Depending on where you live, these beautiful fruits may be hard to find, so you may have to visit a specialty store to get your hands on some.