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Publication #FSHN 07-08

What's in Your Tropical Fruit?1

Susan S. Percival and Brooke Findley2

Introduction

Fruits are abundant in nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, folate, and Vitamin C. Moreover, they also contain carotenoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants within the body. Eating large amounts of plant-based foods has been associated with lowered rates of cardiovascular disease (1, 2) and with decreased risk of cancer and stroke (2). Consuming adequate fruits and vegetables provides both essential nutrients and compounds that provide other beneficial physiological effects, not all of which are known.

The nutrient composition of tropical fruits is of particular interest not only because of the health benefits of fruit consumption, but also because of the importance of tropical fruits to the agricultural industry in Florida. In 2003, Florida ranked ninth in the nation for total cash receipts from fruit, with nearly 28% of this from field crops and other crops not including vegetables. Additionally, Florida's top export is fruit; in 2003, Florida ranked second in the nation in fruit exports (3). Since the production of tropical fruits is an important part of the economy of the state, highlighting the nutritional benefits of these fruits enhances their marketability and appeal.

However, the lack of comprehensive information about the nutritional properties of these foods presents a challenge. The purpose of this publication is to evaluate the current information available on the nutrient composition of tropical fruits. The nutrient information (amounts of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium and iron) for the tropical fruits examined was compiled from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (4, 5) (see Table 1). These values were then compared to the daily reference values for food labeling (6) and evaluated in relation to the percent provided per serving. According to the FDA, a "good" source of a nutrient provides 10-19% of the daily reference value, while an "excellent" source provides 20% of the daily reference value (6, 7). Scientific names for fruits not found in the USDA Nutrient Database were found in Morton's Fruits of Warm Climates (8). The tropical fruits chosen for this analysis were selected because they are currently of interest to local growers and to food and dietary supplement manufacturers in and around the state of Florida.

Table 1. 

Nutrient composition of tropical fruits

Common name

Scientific

name

USDA food

composition form

Amount

Fiber

(g)

Vitamin

A (RAE)

Vitamin

C (mg)

Calcium (mg)

Iron

(mg)

Folate

(mcg)

Potassium

(mg)

Acerola (Barbados cherry)

Malpighia glabra

Juice

1 cup (8 oz.)

0.7

60

3872

24

1.21

34

235

Fruit (raw)

½ cup

0.5

19

822

6

0.1

7

72

Asian pear

Pyrus pyrifolia

Fruit

½ cup

3

0

3.2

3

0

7

100

Avocado

Persea americana

Fruit

½ cup

5

5

7.5

9

0.41

61

364

Banana

Musa paradisiaca

Fruit

½ cup

1.9

2

6.5

4

0.20

15

268

Carambola (Star fruit)

Averrhoa carambola

Fruit

½ cup

1.5

2

19

2

0.04

6

72

Cherimoya

Annona cherimola

Fruit

½ cup

1.8

0

9

6

0.23

14

210

Coconut

Cocos nucifera

Fruit (raw)

½ cup

3.6

0

1.3

6

0.97

10

142

Durian

Durio zibethinus

Fruit

½ cup

4.6

2

24

7

0.52

44

530

Guanabana (Soursop)

Annona muricata

Fruit

½ cup

3.7

0

23

16

0.68

16

313

Guava (red)

Psidium guajava

Fruit

½ cup

4.5

26

188

15

0.21

40

344

Kumquat

Fortunella spp.

Fruit

½ cup

5.4

12

36

51

0.71

14

154

Longan (Dragon's eye)

Dimocarpus longan

Fruit

½ cup

0.9

NA

70

1

0.11

NA

221

Lychee

Litchi chinensis

Fruit

½ cup

1.2

0

68

5

0.29

13

162

Mammee apple

Mammea americana

Fruit

½ cup

2.5

10

12

9

0.58

12

39

Mango

Mangifera indica

Fruit

½ cup

1.5

31

23

8

0.11

12

129

Papaya

Carica papaya

Fruit

½ cup

1.3

38

43

17

0.07

27

180

Passion fruit

Passiflora edulis

Juice

1 cup (8 oz.)

0.5

89

74

10

0.60

17

687

Pitanga (Surinam cherry)

Eugenia uniflora

Fruit

½ cup

NA

65

23

8

0.17

NA

89

Plantain

Musa x paradisiaca L.

Fruit

½ cup

1.7

41

14

2

0.44

16

369

Pummelo

Citrus grandis

Fruit

½ cup

0.9

0

58

4

0.10

NA

205

Sapodilla

Manilkara zapota

Fruit

½ cup

6.4

4

18

25

0.96

17

233

Mamey sapote

Pouteria sapota

Fruit

½ cup

2.2

17

17

32

0.83

NA

286

Nutrients

Fiber helps maintain intestinal function, reduces the risk of heart disease, and can help keep blood glucose levels normal. Sapodilla, kumquat, durian and avocado were found to have the highest amounts of fiber of the fruits evaluated. Kumquat and sapodilla, at 6.4 g and 5.4 g of fiber per serving, respectively, both provide more than 20% of the daily reference value for fiber, and therefore are excellent sources of fiber.

Vitamin A is important for vision, expression of genes, growth, and development, as well as proper immune function (9). Passion fruit juice (89 µg/serving), pitanga (65 µg/serving), acerola (60 µg/serving), and plantain (41 µg/serving) contain the highest amounts of Vitamin A of the tropical fruits evaluated. Despite these fruits' high levels of Vitamin A when compared to the other fruits evaluated, these three fruits are not considered "good" or "excellent" sources of the vitamin. More research into beta-carotene and its contribution to vitamin A value is needed.

In the body, Vitamin C is used as a cofactor for many metabolic reactions; it also serves as an antioxidant (9). Many of the fruits evaluated are high in Vitamin C. Acerola juice, which contains 3872 mg per serving, and raw acerola cherries, which contain 822 mg per serving, are extraordinarily high in Vitamin C. Guava, which contains 188 mg per serving, is also an excellent source, followed by passion fruit juice (74 mg/serving), longan (70 mg/serving), and lychee (70 mg/serving).

Calcium is necessary for blood clotting, muscle movement, and transmission of nerve signals, and is important for formation of bones and teeth (9). Of the tropical fruits evaluated, kumquat (62 mg/serving), mamey sapote (39 mg/serving), and sapodilla (25 mg/serving) contain the most calcium; however, none of these fruits are considered "good" or "excellent" sources of calcium. (Fruits are not typically good sources of calcium.)

Iron is a component of enzymes and hemoglobin in the body and prevents anemia (9). Of the tropical fruits evaluated, acerola, coconut, and sapodilla contained the most iron. All three of these fruits are good sources of iron for males, with a serving of acerola providing 15% of the RDA for males, and servings of coconut and sapodilla providing 12% of the RDA for males; however, these fruits are not considered "good" or "excellent sources" of iron for women, whose RDA for iron is higher. (Fruits are not, in general, good sources of iron.)

Folate is important in metabolic reactions in the body and also prevents certain types of anemia (9). An adequate folate intake prevents birth defects and heart disease. Avocado, durian, and guava are the tropical fruits with the most folate. With 61 µgg/serving, 44 µgg/serving and 40 µgg/serving, respectively, they are considered "good" sources of folate. Data on the folate content of some fruits are nonexistent.

Potassium is important in maintaining the fluid balance of cells. It contributes to normal cell function, helps to counterbalance fluctuations in blood pressure when excess sodium is taken into the body, and decreases markers of bone turnover (9). Of the tropical fruits evaluated, passion fruit juice, durian, plantain, guava, and avocado contained the most potassium. Passion fruit juice, in particular, is an excellent source of potassium, containing almost 700 mg of potassium (20% of the daily reference value) per serving.

Fruits

In addition to vitamins and minerals, a number of the fruits characterized in the USDA database contained other dietary bioactive components, such as carotenoids and polyphenols (Table 2). After noting which fruits had significant quantities of at least three of the nutrients listed in Table 1, we searched the scientific literature for research on the composition of other dietary bioactive components in these fruits. This meant we searched for articles on acerola, avocado, durian, guava, kumquat, passion fruit juice, and sapodilla.

Table 2. 

Carotenoid and phenolic compounds identified in select tropical fruits

Fruit

Scientific Name

Cryptoxanthin

Lycopene

Beta-carotene

General Phenolic

4-CQA

5-CQA

Catechins

Acerola

Malpighia glabra

   

x

x

     

Banana

Musa spp. and hybrids

x

x

x

   

x

 

Guava

Psidium guajava

x

x

x

x

     

Mango

Mangifera indica

x

x

x

 

x

x

 

Papaya

Carica papaya

x

x

x

       

Starfruit (carambola)

Averrhoa carambola

x

x

x

x

     

Sapodilla

Manilkara zapota

     

x

 

x

x

Mamey sapote

Pouteria sapota

     

x

   

x

Acerola (Malpighia glabra, Malpighia emarginata) is extraordinarily high in vitamin C and is also a rich source of vitamin A, iron, and folate. The fruit juice has also been found to contain carotenoids, such as beta-carotene (10).

Avocado (Persea americana) contains alpha and beta carotene and lutein/zeathanthin, but not lycopene (4). Other bioactive food components have not been characterized. The oil of the avocado has received more attention than the edible pulp.

Durian (Durio zibethinus) is high in fiber, folate, and potassium; however, no carotenoid or phenolic information is currently available.

Guava (Psidium guajava), a source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potassium, is also very high in lycopene and beta-carotene (4, 11). Guava also contains ellagic acid, gallic acid conjugates, and quercetin glycosides, but not hydroxycinnamics (12) or cryptoxanthin (4, 11). No derivatives of chlorogenic acids were detected in guava (13).

Passion fruit juice (Passiflora edulis) is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. The predominant carotene is zeta-carotene (14).

Sapodilla (Manikara zapota) and kumquat (Fortunella spp.) are high in fiber, iron, and calcium, as far as fruits go. Two unusual polyphenolic compounds with high antioxidant activity, methyl 4-O-galloylchlorogenate and 4-O-galloylchlorogenic acid (15), have been identified in sapodilla. 5-caffeoylquinte (CQA) (but not 4-CQA) was also found in small quantities in the sapodilla (13). In addition, sapodilla contains catechin conjugates and polyphenols (12). The predominant flavanone in kumquat is narirutin, while the fruit is practically devoid of flavones (16).

Research Opportunities

While information regarding a variety of tropical fruits was found in the USDA food composition database, many fruits have no composition data available. Because of this gap in composition data for tropical fruits, there are many opportunities for research into the nutrient and phytochemical composition of these fruits. Table 3 presents tropical fruits for which no composition data is available from the USDA "What's in the Foods You Eat?" search tool.

Table 3. 

Tropical fruits lacking compositional information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Common name

Scientific name

Abiu

Pouteria caimito

Ambarella

Spondias dulcis Forst., Spondias cytherea Sonn

Annon (sugar apple, custard apple)

Annonaceae squamosa

Araza (Araçá-boi)

Eugenia stipitata

Black carrot

Daucus carota

Black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit)

Diospyros digyna, Diospyros obtusifolia

Camu-camu (camocamo, cacari)

Myrciaria dubia

Cashew fruit (cashew apple)

Anacardium occidentale

Cili fruit (chestnut rose)

Rosa roxburghii tratt

Cupuacu

Theobroma grandiflorum

Jabuticaba (Brazilian grape tree)

Myrciaria cauliflora

Jackfruit

Artocarpus heterophyllus

Key lime

Citrus aurantifolia

Monstera (ceriman)

Monstera deliciosa

Pitahaya (dragonfruit, strawberry pear)

Hylocereus undatus and hybrids

Pupunha (Pejibaye, peach palm, pewa, peach nut, pejibave)

Bactris gasipaes

Sea buckthorn

Hippophae rhamnoides

Wax jambu (Java apple)

Syzygium samarangense, Syzygium javanicum, Eugenia javanica

White sapote

Casimiroa edulis

Wolfberry

Lycium pallidum, Lycium chinense

References

1. Hu FB. Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(suppl): 544S-551S.

2. Van Duyn MA, Pivonka E. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: Selected literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000; 100: 1511-1521.

3. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Florida Agriculture Statistical Directory 2005 [Internet]. 2005 [cited 2006 August 15]. Available from: http://www.florida-agriculture.com/pubs/pubform/pdf/Florida_Agricultural_Statistical_Directory.pdf

4. United States Department of Agriculture. What's in the Foods You Eat Search Tool 1.0 [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2007 June 21 ]. Available from: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=7783

5. United States Department of Agriculture. USDA Food Composition Data: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 18 [Internet]. 2005 Sept 23 [cited 2007 June 21]. Available from: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/

6. United States Food and Drug Administration. Food Labeling Guide [Internet]. 1994 Sept, revised 1999 June [cited 4 April 2013]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm2006828.htm

7. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Volume 2 [Internet]. 2002 Apr 1 [cited 2006 September 9]. Available from: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm

8. Morton JF. Fruits of Warm Climates [Internet]. Winterville, NC: Creative Resource Systems; 1987, updated 2000 Mar 17 [cited 2006 September 15]. Available from: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/index.html

9. United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. DRI Tables [Internet]. 2007 Aug 4 [cited 2007 May 4]. Available from: http://riley.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=3&tax_subject=256&topic_id=1342&level3_id=5140

10. Mezadri T, Perez-Galvez A, Hornero-Mendez D. Carotenoid pigments in acerola fruits (Malpighia emarginata DC) and derived products. Eur Food Res Technol. 2005; 220: 63-69.

11. Setiawan B, Sulaeman A, Giraud DW, Driskell JA. Carotenoid content of selected Indonesian Fruits. J Food Comp Anal. 2001; 14: 169-176.

12. Mahattanatawee K, Manthey JA, Luzio G, Talcott ST, Goodner K, Baldwin EA. Total antioxidant activity and fiber content of select Florida-grown tropical fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Sep 20;54(19): 7355-7363.

13. Pontes PV, Moreira RFA, Trugo LC, DeMaria CAB. The content of chlorogenic acids in tropical fruits. J Sci Food Agric. 2002; 82: 1177-1181.

14. Ma J, Luo XD, Protiva P, Yang H, Ma C, Basile MJ, Weinstein IB, Kennelly EJ. Bioactive novel polyphenols from the fruit of Manilkara zapota (sapodilla). J Nat Prod. 2003 Jul;66(7): 983-6.

15. Talcott ST, Percival SS, Pittet-Moore J, Celoria C. Phytochemical composition and antioxidant stability of fortified yellow passion fruit (Passiflora edulis). J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Feb 12;51(4): 935-41.

16. Nogata, Y, Sakamoto, K, Shiratsuchi, H, Ishii, T, Yano, M, and Ohta, H. Flavonoid composition of fruit tissues of citrus species. Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 2006;70(1): 178-192.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN 07-08, one of a series of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, UF/IFAS Extension. First published September 2007. Reviewed April 2014. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Susan S. Percival, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611, and Brooke Findley, M.S., nutritionist, Wake County Human Services, Raleigh, NC.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.