By Dr. Mercola. Many people love the flavor of tropical fruits like coconuts and mangoes. But did you know that, aside from tasting good, they also have healthy benefits that in some instances could be lifesaving?
For example, five of the most outstanding fruits that can change your life are:
- Longan berries
Scientists believe an antioxidant in mangosteens can cause cell death in cancer; and avocadoes, mangoes, and longan berries are rich with vitamins and nutrients that can help prevent common birth defects as well as cancer.
With coconuts, the juice – or water inside – not only is sterile, but has the same electrolytic balance as human blood, which enabled medics in the Pacific Theater in World War II to use it as an emergency substitute for plasma. And not too many years ago, coconut oil’s bad reputation caused a panic at the concession stands, when a study claimed that a large movie-theater popcorn, cooked in the oil, delivered as much saturated fat as six Big Macs.
But coconut oil has recently become the darling of the natural-foods world.
Scientists are backtracking on the worst accusations against coconut oil. It turns out that most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is an entirely different thing from a health risk perspective — partial hydrogenation creates trans fats and destroys the essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil.
According to the New York Times: “And while it’s true that most of the fats in virgin coconut oil are saturated, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the arterial villains they were made out to be … The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein.”
Whole fruit, especially organically grown fruits that are naturally low in fructose, are part of a healthy diet and when eaten in moderation offer your body a laundry list of benefits from all the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals contained in them. Lost sometimes in the debate and confusion about fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and fruit juices is the fact that whole, organic fruit is a great source of nutrients and has been a natural part of our diet on this planet since, well, forever.But the devil is in the details, as usual.
Is Fruit—Which Is a Source of Fructose—Good or Bad?
Today the threat of added sugars, especially fructose and high fructose corn syrup (and ALL added sugars, really) has become one of the greatest pitfalls to good health in our food chain. Study after study links high sugar consumption to a long list of health problems, and the main offenders in this category are not whole, natural organic fruits, but added sugars that Americans are consuming in an “alarming number” on a daily basis.
Keep in mind that fruits also contain fructose, although an ameliorating factor is that whole fruits also contain vitamins and other antioxidants that reduce the hazardous effects of fructose. Juices, on the other hand, are nearly as detrimental as soda, because a glass of juice is loaded with fructose, and a lot of the antioxidants are lost.
It is important to remember that fructose alone isn’t evil, as some fruit can certainly be beneficial. But when you consume high levels of fructose it will absolutely devastate your biochemistry and physiology. Remember the AVERAGE fructose dose is 70 grams per day which exceeds the recommend limit by 300 percent.
So please BE CAREFUL with your fruit consumption. You simply MUST understand that because HFCS is so darn cheap, it is added to virtually every processed food. Even if you consumed no soda or fruit, it is very easy to exceed 25 grams of hidden fructose in your diet.
If you are a raw food advocate, have a pristine diet, and exercise very well, then you could be the exception that could exceed this limit and stay healthy as you likely do not have insulin resistance. But if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol than it is best to limit your fructose, even from fruits.
It would also be wise to avoid fruit juices and sugary fruit drink concoctions brought to you by the processed food industry that separate the natural fruit sugars from the pectin and fiber they are bound to in nature, creating more or less a sugar grenade that hits your stomach and spikes your blood sugar and insulin.
Then you have the issue of dissociated methanol from any processed fruit drinks that I have written about previously as it can serve as a catalyst for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
The featured article correctly points out that the five tropical fruits discussed have some rather remarkably great qualities, especially the once vilified coconut, which I will go into much more detail about below.
One thing to keep in mind about these amazing fruits — you want to always eat them unprocessed (or minimally processed in the case of coconut oil), and without any added sugars!
So, for instance, a mangosteen/coconut fruit drink that’s marketed as an antioxidant-rich sports recovery beverage is not something you want to ever consider using. Please stick to the whole, natural, organic fruit itself and always properly wash your fruits to remove any residual pesticides they may have come from the growing fields. Buying organic fruits will cut down on pesticide levels, but they can still harbor harmful bacteria.
Coconut – The Tree of Life
Referred to as the tree of life in the Philippines, because they use literally every part of the plant, the coconut (specifically coconut oil) was recently vilified in the US in 1994 when it was linked to movie theater popcorn and called an artery clogger. It has also been vilified for about the last 60 years by the vegetable seed oil industry. But the problem is the health threat is related to partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers have in fact linked to health problems for a long time.
Virgin unrefined coconut oil has none of the problems associated with hydrogenated oils; in fact, unrefined coconut oil is now linked to a number of impressive health benefits and according to the article above:1 “Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn’t so bad for you after all.” Actually, virgin unrefined coconut oil is incredibly good for you!
What the New York Times is just discovering now has been known all along to anyone who has studied the health of those who live in native tropical cultures, where coconut has been a primary dietary staple for thousands of years.
Back in the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price found South Pacific Islanders whose diets were high in coconut to be healthy and trim, despite high dietary fat, and heart disease was virtually non-existent. Similarly, in 1981, researchers studying two Polynesian communities2 for whom coconut was the primary caloric energy source found them to have excellent cardiovascular health and fitness.
Where were all the clogged arteries and heart attacks from eating all of this “evil” saturated fat? Obviously, coconut oil was doing nothing to harm the heart health of these islanders. Isn’t it about time that America discovers the heart health benefits of coconut oil? Heart disease has been on the rise for the last 60 years in America, the same 60 years that coconut oil has been vilified!
I don’t think so.
Also cooking with coconut oils is far better than using polyunsaturated fats, which include common vegetable oils such as corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, and canola.
- Cooking your food in omega-6 vegetable oils produces a variety of very toxic chemicals, as well as forming trans-fats. Frying destroys the antioxidants in oil, actually oxidizing the oil, which causes even worse problems for your body than trans-fats.
- Most vegetable oils are GM (genetically modified), including more than 90 percent of soy, corn and canola oils.
- Vegetable oils contribute to the overabundance of damaged omega-6 fats in your diet, throwing off your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Nearly everyone in Western society consumes far too many omega-6 fats — about 100 times more than a century ago — and insufficient omega-3 fats, which contributes to numerous chronic degenerative diseases.
There’s actually just one oil that is stable enough to withstand the heat of cooking, and that’s coconut oil.
Coconut water, on the other hand, according to the article above,3 is a better sports hydration drink than ANY of the commercially available sugary sports drinks, and is both sterile and an isotonic beverage, meaning it has the same electrolyte consistency of human blood, which enabled medics in the Pacific Theater in World War II to use it as an emergency substitute for blood plasma.
Doesn’t drinking a beverage with the same electrolyte balance as human blood sound like a good idea? It does to me. It’s also better to get your coconut water straight out of a young, green coconut and avoid the commercially available products on the market, which I consider to be a processed food.
Coconut oil also has an immune-boosting fat called lauric acid and has been shown to be helpful in improving metabolic rates to facilitate weight loss. Personally, I believe that unless you are allergic to coconuts you should find ways to regularly use it in your diet. I typically use one to two teaspoons a day in my morning breakfast Miracle Whey breakfast shake.
Avocado – The Low Fructose Fruit
“Avocados are native to Central and South America and have been cultivated in these regions since 8,000 B.C. In the mid-17th century, they were introduced to Jamaica and spread through the Asian tropical regions in the mid-1800s. Cultivation in United States, specifically in Florida and California, began in the early 20th century. While avocados are now grown in most tropical and subtropical countries, the major commercial producers include the United States (Florida and California), Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.” The avocado has many health benefits associated with it, and may even help to protect the liver from damage, according to research from Japan:5
|Researchers fed avocado and 22 other fruits to laboratory rats||Have more than twice as much potassium than a banana|
|The rats were then given D-galactosamine, a substance that causes liver damage by interfering with cell synthesis and results in cell death||Promote heart health|
|The rats fed the avocado obtained the least amount of liver damage||Have anti-inflammatory properties|
|Are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is easily burned for energy||Are a good source of “healthy” fat in your diet|
My recommendation, as with all foods in general is not to eat avocados every day, as this may lead to food allergies. But avocados as part of your balanced, natural foods diet are a great source of healthy fat.
Also, avocados are one of the safest fruits to buy conventionally grown because its thick shell protects the inner fruit from building up pesticides, and it has been rated as one of the best commercial crops in terms of pesticide exposure.6
Longan Berry—The Chinese Miracle Fruit
Native to China, this yellowish-brown berry with a leathery protective shell is closely related to the lychee fruit (but not as juicy) and is touted for its ability to neutralize poisons. In fact, in Vietnam, where it’s known as “dragon’s eye”, it’s been used as an antidote to snake bites for centuries.
According to the article above,7 longan berries: “… have long been said by Asian herbalists to have relaxing properties, making them the perfect snack to enjoy to lower your stress levels. It is also said to have anti-cancer, antioxidant, and liver-protective properties. The longan contains high levels of iron, potassium, and large amounts of vitamins A and C. Finding them in a form other than fresh at your local market may be tough, but dried and canned longan are also available.”
These berries can be found at Asian markets throughout North America.
Mangoes – A Great Source of Vitamins A and C
According to the article above, a single mango: “…will contain half of your recommended daily allowance of both Vitamin A and Vitamin C, as well as some B-Vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, beta-carotene.”
And according to LifeMojo.com:8 “About 4000 BC ago, the wild mango originated in the foothills of the Himalayas of India and Burma, and about 40 to 60% of these trees still grow in India and Southeast Asia. Also known as Mangifera Indica, this exotic fruit belongs to the family of Anacardiaceae. Though native to Southern and Southeast Asia, the fruit is now also grown in Central and South America, Africa and the Arabian Peninsula also. Today, there are over 1,000 different varieties of mangos throughout the world.
One thing to watch out for with mangos, however, is they pack a caloric wallop. For every 100 grams of mango, you’re going to get 75 calories.
Mangosteen is a fruit found in tropical countries throughout Asia — Thailand, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It also grows reasonably well in areas such as Hawaii and tropical Northern Australia. It is not a fruit found widely in the supermarkets of North America, but it can be found in Asian markets and can be purchased here on the Internet.
According the above source, mangosteen can cause death in cancer cells. This is taken from studies showing that the xanthones in mangosteens have been shown to destroy cancer cells.9 Research in this area needs to be expanded on, and I definitely do not recommend you drink any mangosteen concoctions that are loaded with added sugar which actually can fuel cancer cell growth.
Also according to one scientific study on the effect of xanthones in mangosteen:10 “The mangosteen rind, leaves and bark have been used as folk medicine for thousands of years. The thick mangosteen rind has been and is used for treating catarrh, cystitis, diarrhea, dysentery, eczema, fever, intestinal ailments, pruritis and other skin ailments. The mangosteen leaves are also used by some natives in teas and for diarrhea, dysentery, fever, and thrush. It is also known that concentrates of mangosteen bark can be used for genito-urinary afflictions and stomatosis.”
- 2 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 1981;34(8):1552-61
- 3 See Ref I
- 4 World’s Healthiest Foods Website
- 5 Science Daily, December 20, 2000
- 6 Mindfully.org, A Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
- 7 Lifehack, March 7
- 8 Lifemojo.com, Top 10 Health Benefits of Mangoes
- 9 International Journal of Molecular Sciences, March 2008;9(3):355-370
- 10 See Ref IX
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