There were fruits I didn’t even know about before coming to Hawaii. You think you’ve heard all of them — bananas, berries, pineapple, etc,.
But then you hear the word jackfruit and it completely throws you for a loop. Or lilikoi — when people said it out loud, I thought it was a double name like Mary Jane or Lily Ann. And btw, what the HECK is a rambutan?
Breaking news: They’re fruits. Delicious ones.
Hawaii has volcanic soil, meaning that many of the islands are nutrient-rich. Between the mineral quality of our soil and the lush tropical climate, it’s the ideal foundation for growing ripe, delicious fruits and vegetables.
Not only are these fruits yummy, and bursting with flavor, but they have such a wide and helpful variety of health benefits. As a vegan, I like learning about which fruits and veggies supply all the nutrients I need to feel good. Remember when I talked about mental health and nutrition? Exactly. (Spoiler alert: carbs made me a bitch.)
The following is a breakdown of some of my favorite fruits you can get in Hawaii (and elsewhere!) and their various health benefits.
Pineapple is so ubiquitous with Hawaii, and for good reason. It's a powerful, nutrient-rich powerhouse of a fruit. It's even been used in folk medicine for years. For one, it's loaded with vitamin C, which we all need right now to bolster our immune systems. For another, it can reduce inflammation because it contains bromelain, which reduces swelling and aids digestion. It's also a great low-calorie, high-impact snack if you're watching your weight.
The mango is sometimes referred to as "the king of fruits" due to its high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants. Vitamin K helps your blood clot, which can ease symptoms of anemia. The antioxidants in mangos have been shown to fight free radicals, which can cause damage to your cells and potentially lead to cancer. Free radicals also degrade your skin, so mango can help you achieve that glow you want. Mangos contain 2/3 of your daily helping of Vitamin C, along with beta-carotene, which boosts vision.
In Hawaii, it feels like summer year-round (not to brag.) So having lychee on hand, a fruit with a high water content, can help ease dehydration. They're composed of carbs and water -- and getting your carb content from fruit is one of the best ways to do it. Additionally, lychee contains copper (great for heart health), Vitamins A and C, and fiber that can assist your digestion. If you have any sort of blood-related ailment, lychee is an excellent resource.
Spoiler alert: lilikoi is passionfruit. Passionfruit offers a small amount of iron (again, great for anemics) as well as polyphenols, which are micronutrients packed with antibiotics. In plain English, polyphenols improve digestion, brain function, and blood sugar levels, as well as protect against blood clots, heart disease, and certain cancers. You may be noticing that many of these fruits offer similar benefits, but lilikoi contains the most polyphenols compared to the rest of the list!
Apple bananas are the sweeter, tangier cousin to the "real" banana, making them a great alternative if you crave a little more flavor. They're also smaller, which makes them a phenomenal kid-sized snack to cart around with you for the little ones, (or for yourself.) Apple bananas have fiber, potassium, and more of Vitamins A and C than regular bananas.
In my head, guava is the fun one. Maybe it's just the most fun to say -- the one we all reach for when we think of tropical fruits. Guava can be eaten as a fruit, or the leaves can be boiled down into tea. The fiber-packed aspect of it means that it aids digestion and can alleviate stomach problems. Oddly enough, it can also ease menstrual pains? It's also a solid source of vitamins, iron, and other nutrients.
Papaya is excellent for your skin. Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in the fruit, helps filter out blue light rays. So if you're on your phone a little more nowadays, add a little papaya to your diet. Like the others, vitamin content assists with digestion, inflammation, and other irritants; Vitamin K boosts bone health. Choline assists with sleep, learning, and memory.
The rambutan offers benefits similar to the other fruits -- fruit in general is so excellent for you -- in addition to phosphor, which helps you detoxify your kidneys. Rambutan peels have been used for centuries to fight off viruses and bacterial infections, although it's generally recommended that you don't consume the skin. Studies also show promising results in the rambutan peel fighting off insulin sensitivity, which is beneficial to those with diabetes.
Starfruit is an excellent source of healthy plant compounds, including quercetin, gallic acid, and epicatechin. Most simply, it means that starfruits are chock full of antioxidants. Due to its high oxalate content, it's not recommended for people with kidney problems. (Oxalate is a substance that can react poorly in those with kidney stones.) BUT if you don't fall under that umbrella, it's a powerful fruit with a variety of health benefits.
Saving the best for last! Just kidding, I love them all -- but coconuts have a special place in my heart due to their ability to be absolutely anything.
Coconut milk in coffee. Coconut water as a strong source of electrolytes (and the perfect post-run or post-surf refreshment.) Substitute it for Gatorade. Use coconut oil for your cooking (much healthier) and even to remove makeup! Coconut is a superfood with a plethora of antioxidants, good cholesterol, and manganese, a chemical which aids your brain.
I could go on for ages about any of these fruits. They play an enormous role in my own life, and you should view the repetitive nature of the keywords I use for them (antioxidants, vitamins, fiber) as a signal that they are truly what keeps your body going.
Additionally, they offer great nutritional value in a low calorie way that can assist you in many other aspects, making them an excellent solution for anyone attempting to lose weight or become healthier in a long-term, sustainable way. They're full of the good stuff that our bodies crave.
Whether you blend 'em, chop 'em, or eat 'em whole; You're doing yourself a favor either way.
Do you have a favorite fruit? Share with me in the comments or on Instagram!