Let’s hear it for the Guava

An article in today’s Arab News sings the praises of the “exotic guava.” It made me homesick for my mother’s back yard…so here I am feeling nostalgic, especially since it’s mango season. Here are some excerpts from their article, with a link to the full text below.

The guava fruit, Psidium guajava and other varieties, comes in green color or red (“strawberry” guava). It is cultivated in Asia, Central and South America, and Egypt. It is popular in the tropics, but not always found in the West except in the form of juice, jams, fruit leathers, and sauces on the Internet. The fruit comes in some hundred species. Due to its aroma and sweetness, the popular softer one is more prone to drawing fruit flies. This type comes sweet and with either white or dark pink pulp, which contains the phytochemical, lycopene.  There is also the bitter kind with coarse skin. Other types have pale yellow or brownish skin. All species of guavas are not only nutrient-dense, but also low in calorie. Guava’s richness in nutrients makes the fruit a staple nourishing food in its countries of origin.

Guava stands out due to its unusual combination of nutrients such as the A-C-E vitamins and K. Vitamin C and soluble fiber is particularly abundant in the fruit. The green guava, more than any other type, provides the body with 200 mg of C, twice the amount of the daily recommended dose.Pectin (prebiotic fiber) in the fruit is very high, too. Like apples and oranges, guava’s richness is pectin (polysaccharides), the gel-like substance produced with cooking, makes the fruit helpful in lowering cholesterol, hence reducing risk of cardiovascular and digestive disorders.

The tough seeds in the center of the pulp are rich in omega-3-and -6 fatty acids. To avoid the unpleasant hard seeds, they can be blended with the juice, or else they should be chewed thoroughly in order to get to the “heart-healthy” fats.

The “strawberry” guava, in particular, contains an elevated amount of carotenoids (beta-cryptoxanthin and lycopene, precursors of vitamin A). Lycopene found in “strawberry” guava has drawn the interest of researchers. In test tube experiments, the phytochemical showed activity on free radicals, giving hope for the treatment of cancer, prostate in particular. Being abundant in the fruit, lycopene puts guava in the forefront for fighting cancer.

Guava’s abundance in phytonutrients such as carotenoids (lycopene, betacarotene, beta-cryptoxanthin); polyphenols (anthocyanins); and soluble fiber (pectin) has attracted medical research because of their cell protecting properties.

The guava fruit and leaves extracts and metabolites were found by Mexican scientists to be effective in therapies for digestive tract ailments, allergies, inflammation and pain, as it was seen in traditional healing.

In traditional medicine, the guava fruit and its leaves are found to provide balancing properties to the body. Guava leaves have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, aspects which are being researched for the treatment of chronic diseases. In laboratory trials, essential oils of the guava leaf showed activity on cancer cells. The cancer process seemed to slow down by extracts of guava leaves or its bark.

In ancient therapies, guava leaves were known for their antibacterial and antiviral effects. The ancient Egyptians drank the infusion of lightly boiled guava leaves to soothe persistent coughs due to the leaves’ anti-inflammatory properties. They should be lightly boiled and left to steep for 20 minutes.  Such healing effects have yet to be proven by scientific research and human trials. From personal experience, I found the infusion relieving to cough and detoxifying to the body, renewing energy.

The low-calorie fruit adds to the delight of eating it without worries about weight gain. For better absorption, fruits should be taken on an empty stomach. Pectin in the fruit is an important ingredient for making preserves, jellies, jams, marmalades, salsas, and sauces. Guava juice is particularly popular in the Middle East, Mexico, and South Africa. In Central American and Caribbean countries, people enjoy the fruit in salsas and sauces. Recently, the exotic guava has gained wider popularity. We just have to patiently wait for medical and scientific researches to support traditional claims. Meanwhile, why not enjoy this healthy superfruit!

For the full article go to http://arabnews.com/lifestyle/food_health/article71889.ece

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