It’s Not for Everyone, but Star Fruit May be the Star of FruitsNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
I grew up eating tons of tropical fruits, like ackee, guinep, guava and dragon fruit. But I don’t recall ever trying star fruit. So I decided to learn more about this fruit which is now in season but can be obtained year round.
Where does this star of fruits come from?
Star fruit is originally from Asia and looks like a five-point star when you slice it. It is also called carambola.
What does star fruit taste like?
Star fruit is sweet, sour and comparable to other citrus fruits, like grapefruit. And here is what I learned about the health benefits of eating star fruit.
Most importantly, I discovered that star fruit is not for everyone.
Several reputable sources say that people with chronic kidney disease should avoid eating star fruit, because it is toxic for people with this condition.
“There are reports that neurotoxicity is due to the presence of oxalate in star fruit, but recent findings show that the neurotoxic effect of the toxin is by caramboxin, which appears to inhibit the GABAergic system which is the major inhibitory system in the central nervous system (CNS), involving changes as sobs and confusion, to more serious conditions such as seizures and death,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “It is important to multidisciplinary action to alert patients with CKD as the prohibition of the star fruit consumption.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are various studies that show “...eating star fruit can have a harmful (toxic) effect for people who have kidney disease. The substances found in star fruit can affect the brain and cause neurological disorders. This toxic substance is called a neurotoxin. People with healthy, normal kidneys can process and pass this toxin out from their body. However, for those with kidney disease, this is not possible. The toxin stays in the body and causes serious illness.”
So I hate to be the bearer of bad news for people with chronic kidney disease. You may have to avoid star fruit.
There are varying degrees of kidney disease, so it is best to discuss a diet plan with your doctor if you do have kidney disease. People with extreme cases may have to follow a more restrictive diet than those with milder cases.
Now for those of you who can eat star fruit, here is the good news:
“This fruit is known to have high antioxidant property that efficiently scavenge free radicals as well as helps in hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) and hypocholesterolemia (low cholesterol) treatments,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
(Read here to learn why low cholesterol can be dangerous).
And what’s so cool about star fruit, is that it really is a jack of all trades.
Even though it may help people with low blood sugar and too low cholesterol, star fruit may also help people with high cholesterol and too high blood sugar.
Star fruit is a good source of soluble fiber.
Star fruit contains soluble fiber, meaning the fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber which dissolves in water and swells like a sponge in the stomach, giving food a jelly like bulk. It combines with fat in the intestines and pulls it out of the body before it can enter the bloodstream. It is soluble fiber that may help lower blood cholesterol, slow the absorption of carbohydrates from foods and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, star fruit also contains insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, adds bulk to the stool and may help prevent constipation and other causes of digestive discomfort.
Any additional tummy benefits?
The NIH says star fruit may even help prevent stomach ulcers and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, like Staph and E. Coli.
Star fruit is an antioxidant powerhouse.
Star fruit “...is an excellent source of healthy plant compounds, including quercetin, gallic acid and epicatechin. These compounds all have powerful antioxidant properties and various health benefits,” according to one Healthline report.
You may already know that antioxidants help support the immune system and help prevent and delay cell damage by combating inflammation and oxidative stress (OS), two major contributors to several types of disease. You can get antioxidants in supplement forms but eating natural foods that contain them may be a better way to help protect yourself from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, arthritis and more.
“It has also been reported that Star-fruit extracts do have selective anti-brain-tumour activity,” reports the NIH.
“There is also some evidence from animal studies that the sugars in star fruit can reduce inflammation,” says Healthline.
(Which is crazy because sugar is usually a major cause of inflammation!)
Additional nutrients you can get from star fruit?
Some of the nutrients in one cup of raw star fruit cubes:
- Potassium, 176 mg. This mineral may help lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of sodium. According to Harvard Health, “[w]hen it comes to fighting high blood pressure, the average American diet delivers too much sodium and too little potassium. Eating to reverse this imbalance could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.”
- Vitamin C, 45.4 mg. Vitamin C has numerous benefits. It helps boost the immune system, prevent scurvy, promote healthy hair and collagen growth (which keeps your skin youthful and beautiful) and may help you recover faster from wounds, even wounds after surgery.
- Vitamin A, 81 IU. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, [w]e need vitamin A for good vision and eye health, for a strong immune system, and for healthy skin and mucous membranes.” Vitamin A may also reduce the development of cataracts and may reduce macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss.
- Lutein + Zeaxanthin, 87 mcg. These are two carotenoids and antioxidants that concentrate in eye tissue. According to the American Optometric Association, “[l]utein and zeaxanthin filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye.”
Ways to eat star fruit?
Star fruit is great just as it is, fresh and sliced for a quick snack or an addition to a colorful fruit salad. And the star shape makes it so festive! Star fruit is also great in a smoothie or mixed with Greek yogurt for a quick, healthy breakfast.
You can also try making this star fruit salsa.
- 4-5 medium tomatoes, deseeded and diced into small cubes
- 2 starfruit, diced into small cubes
- bunch of coriander leaves roughly chopped
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of rock salt
Any other precautions with star fruit?
“People taking prescription drugs should also proceed with caution. Similarly to a grapefruit, star fruit can alter the way a drug is broken down and used by the body,” according to Healthline.
(Read here to learn about how to avoid drug interactions).
I always recommend that people with any existing health issues and anyone who is taking both prescription and over-the-counter medications speak with their doctors about what foods they are including in their diets.
It is also good to get medical advice if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Have you tried star fruit? What are your thoughts on this food?
Enjoy your healthy life!
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