Native to the tropics, guava is the fruit from fairy tales — it’s believed to have some seriously “magical” properties and has been used for thousands of years in folk medicinePsidium guajava: a review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Gutiérrez, R.M., Mitchell, S., Solis, R.V. Laboratorio de Investigación de Productos Naturales, Escuela Superior de Ingeniería Química e Industrias extractivas IPN. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2008 Apr 17;117(1):1-27.. With edible skin and seeds packed with fiber, this fruit is a sweet (sometimes tangy) snack that packs in power and nutrients.
The Magic Fruit — Why They’re Super
Photos by Caitlin Covington
One guava fruit (roughly the size of a medium apple) contains around 40 calories and is chock full of antioxidants and vitamins. Guava is one of the richest fruit-based sources of vitamin C, with each fruit providing 209 percent of the recommended daily amount — beating out even oranges. These sweet and tangy fruits also contain healthy doses of vitamin A, copper, manganese, and folate (essential for producing new cells and keeping them healthy). Guava even contains more potassium than an equal serving of bananas. And guavas get an A+ in fill-up factor, since they’re made up of 50 percent dietary fiber. One study suggested that out of all fruits, guava contains the most antioxidants, which can help prevent the development of chronic diseases.
But this fruit isn’t just a nutritional powerhouse. Guava’s traditional medicinal uses include healing wounds, cuts, ulcers, and boils, toothaches, oral ulcers, inflamed gums, throat and chest pains, diarrhea, and epilepsy (typically with the leaves of the plant) — and modern studies have shown many of these cures uses aren’t just folklorePhytochemical investigation and antimicrobial activity of Psidium guajava L. leaves. Metwally, A.M., Omar, A.A., Harraz, F.M., et al. Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt. Pharmacognosy Magazine, 2010 Jul-Sep;6(23):212-218.Newer insights into the mechanism of action of Psidium guajava L. leaves in infectious diarrhea. Birdi, T., Daswani, P., Brijesh, S., et al. The Foundation for Medical Research, 84A, RG Thadani Marg, Worli, Mumbai 200018, Maharashtra, India. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2010 Jun 28;10:33.Antidiarrhoeal activity of Psidium guajava Linn. (Myrtaceae) leaf aqueous extract in rodents. Ojewole, J.A., Awe, E.O., Chiwororo, W.D. Department of Pharmacology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. Journal of Smooth Muscle Research, 2008 Dec;44(6):195-207.. And forget the antibacterial spray — studies have shown that guava leaf extracts have antimicrobial properties to defend against bacteria that commonly cause skin or soft tissue infections. Some research also suggests guava can help ward off type 2 diabetes by lowering glucose levels in the bloodEffect of guava (Psidium guajava Linn.) leaf soluble solids on glucose metabolism in type 2 diabetic rats. Shen, S.C., Cheng, F.C., Wu, N.J. Department of Medical Nutrition, I-Shou University, No.1, Sec.1, Syuecheng Road, Dashu Township, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan. Phytotherapy Research: PTR, 2008 Nov;22(11):1458-64.Consumption of guava (Psidium guajava L) and noni (Morinda citrifolia L) may protect betel quid-chewing Papua New Guineans against diabetes. Owen, P.L., Martineau, L.C., Caves, D., et al. School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Quebec, Canada. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008;17(4):635-43.Hypolipidaemic & hepatoprotective effects of Psidium guajava raw fruit peel in experimental diabetes. Rai, P.K., Mehta, S., Watal, G. Department of Chemistry, University of Allahabad, Allahabad, India. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 2010 Jun;131:820-4.. But this might be good for non-diabetics too, since high blood sugar levels can lead to feelings of fatigue and weakness.
Studies have also shown the fruit can be useful for stomach troubles. The astringent properties of guava may be helpful in treating some, ahem, digestive issues like diarrhea, stomach bugs, and indigestionNewer insights into the mechanism of action of Psidium guajava L. leaves in infectious diarrhea. Birdi, T., Daswani, P., Brijesh, S., et al. The Foundation for Medical Research, 84A, RG Thadani Marg, Worli, Mumbai 200018, Maharashtra, India. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2010 Jun 28;10:33.Antidiarrhoeal activity of Psidium guajava Linn. (Myrtaceae) leaf aqueous extract in rodents. Ojewole, J.A., Awe, E.O., Chiwororo, W.D. Department of Pharmacology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. Journal of Smooth Muscle Research, 2008 Dec;44(6):195-207..
The flesh of this fruit also contains high amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help prevent prostate cancer, and one cup has 17 percent more than the same amount of tomatoes (long touted as the premier source of lycopene)Chemoprevention of prostate cancer with lycopene in the TRAMP model. Konijeti, R., Henning, S., Moro, A., et al. Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA. The Prostate, 2010 Oct 1;70(14):1547-54.. Guava leaf extracts have also been shown to help prevent other types of cancerAction mechanism and signal pathways of Psidium guajava L. aqueous extract in killing cancer LNCaP cells. Chen, K.C., Peng, C.C., Chiu, W.T., et al. Department of Urology, Traipei Medical University-Shuang Ho Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan. Nutrition and Cancer, 2010;62(2):260-70..
Guava Guide — Your Action Plan
When trolling the grocery store aisles, select a guava fruit that’s firm but gives to gentle pressure (much like a ripe pear), and store in the fridge for up to one week (we bet it won’t last one day).
Don’t be afraid of this nutritional powerhouse — just dig right in! Down the entire fruit, from the skin to the seeds, since it’s all edible and nutritious. The skin alone, which is usually light green to yellow in color, has more vitamin C than the flesh of an orange. Don’t play a game of Where’s Waldo — look for guava in South American grocery stores or in some higher-end supermarkets. They’re usually sold quite firm, so be sure to ripen at room temperature for a few days before using.
Too much of a good thing? Not really! While too much potassium can be toxic, it’s highly unlikely that someone could eat enough guavas to experience the symptoms (we’re talkin’ 15 fruits per day). So go ahead and fill up that belly — this superfood is Greatist approved.
Superfood Recipe: Guavaritas
Photo by Caitlin CovingtonServes 2 What You’ll Need:
8 ounces Guava nectar (or juice/puree your own!)
4 ounces tequila
What To Do:
- Juice three of the limes (ending up with about 3 tablespoons juice).
- Thinly slice the last lime in round slices. Set aside. (For garnish.)
- Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (with a few cubes of ice) until well mixed.
- Strain into glasses, garnish with lime, and enjoy!
Our Favorite Recipes From Around the Web
Breakfast: Strawberry-Guava Smoothie via Cooking Light
Lunch: Cabbage and Guava Salad via PtitChef
Cocktail hour: Rosé Sangria with Pineapple and Guava via Epicurious
Dinner: Guava-Stuffed Chicken with Caramelized Mango via Bon Appetit
Dessert: Pineapple Guava Sorbet via Eat, Drink, Garden