Passion Fruit Nutrition
For such a fruit with such a tempting name, you would expect a more attractive looking produce. Yet like the proverbial book judged by its cover, one would be forgiven for dismissing this dull purple or mottled yellow fruit with a tough, dry rind. But take note, the passion fruit’s loveliness lies deep within.
The ancient Indians of South America (the origin of this exotic fruit) knew a thing or two about its many hidden benefits. Aside from passion fruit nutrition - which we’ll discuss shortly - the Native Americans used the fruit and vine leaves to make sleeping medicine. Through scientific research the leaves have been found to contain somniferous (sleep inducing) compounds that help the body to relax and sleep easier. Similar sedative-like properties in the flowers are used to treat nervous-related gastrointestinal ailments as well as to calm nervous disorders and over-excitement in children.
The anti-oxidant properties of the fruit have also been identified through modern research. The naturally occurring antioxidants help to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Other phytochemicals in the fruit have properties that safeguard the heart functions and help fight against coronary disease.
Passion fruit nutrition also contains anti-allergy and asthma suppressing properties. Chemicals found in passion fruit act to counter the histamines produced by the body in reaction to allergens. The histamines are what give you those uncomfortable allergy and asthma symptoms. There is still ongoing research for the production of natural, non-toxic medical treatments from the fruit.
Another property of these fruits is that they stimulate digesting function. Again, it was the ancient Americans who discovered this aspect of the fruit. Research has proven the presence of compounds that aid in the intake of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals, but minimize the absorption of carbohydrates, bad cholesterols and sugars. This is great news for health conscious people, for those with body weight issues and sufferers of diabetes. It’s certainly a fruit you want to feature regularly in your diet.
What of its nutritional properties? Passion fruit nutrition is rich in a host of vitamins including A, B and C. Vitamin A plays a key role in good vision and counters against the free radicals that destroy the skin and tissues. Vitamin C is well known for boosting the immune system, building up bones, and inhibiting cancer and heart diseases. Vitamin B (niacin) helps to change the calories in carbohydrates and proteins into energy. Niacin also keeps the skin and nerves healthy and promotes healthy digestive function. The fruits are a rich source of iron and calcium, vital for healthy blood cells and bones respectively. In addition, passion fruit is high in natural fibres that aid in digestive movement and the cleaning out the colon. Additional benefits of fibre-rich foods is that they reduce the risk of strokes and heart ailments.
Due to the many benefits known about the passion fruit, much research is going into extracting its valuable compounds and making them into natural treatments and dietary supplements. Already available in stores or through online purchase are food supplements, jams and spreads, and even flour made from the flowers.
History of the Passion Fruit
The history of the discovery and dispersal of the passion fruit is tied to the medieval voyages of Spanish ‘Conquistadors’ (conquerors) to South America. In the olden days, South American was – and still is – a rich source of exotic plants and animals and among the new discoveries of the new world was this fruit. However, much as the Spanish claim to have ‘discovered’ this fruit, it was long known and consumed by the indigenous peoples of South America for food and health reasons. It appears centuries ago people knew of passion fruit nutrition.
The purple type (different from the yellow variety) originated from the lush tropical forests of Brazil and possibly Argentina and Paraguay. It was the Jesuit priests travelling along with the Conquistadors who named the fruit. In the pretty, unusually shaped flower, the missionaries saw many spiritual symbols related to the Passion of the Christ. The flower’s tendril-like filaments signified the crown of thorns, the three stigmata signified the three nails, and the five anthers are the five wounds of the crucified Christ.
The origins of the other main passion fruit, the yellow variety, are a little less clear. One theory holds that it’s also a native of the Amazon forest. Another theory is that it’s a hybrid of different fruits. Whatever its origins, the plant is now well established beyond South America. The early Spanish took the fruits back to Europe however, to this day, they are mostly grown in tropical countries including Australia, USA, India, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and several other South American countries. It seems passion fruit and passion fruit nutrition is found the world over
Australia, for example, has been growing both varieties of passion fruit since the 19th century. But the purple type has grown more popular in recent years, particularly due to its distinct flavour and strong aromatic scent which makes it a suitable base blend for other juices. In New Zealand the fruit was first commercially grown in the late 1920s.
In the United States, specimens from Australia were first grown in Hawaii. Today, thanks to research showing passion fruit nutrition, California is also a key state for the commercial cultivation of both the yellow and purple varieties.
Although the purple and yellow varieties are the most familiar, other types of passion fruit have been identified. The Granadilla variety, for example, has been long established in many Central and South American countries and comes in several sub-varieties. There is the sweet granadilla that is common in the Mexican highlands and has orange-colored fruits known for their juiciness. The red granadilla has crimson-coloured flowers (hence the name), with stripped fruits that turn yellow-orange on ripening which have a noticeable but pleasant taste. They’re farmed in Guadalupe and also grow wild in Brazil and Peru.
In Asia is where the largest passion fruit is found, the giant granadilla, which can grow to eight inches in length. It is common in India and Indonesia, and also grows wild in the northern parts of Australia. The giant granadilla is pinkish brown when ripe, with an attractive scent but a bland taste.
Other identified varieties are the banana passion and the blue passion. The former is a familiar fruit in markets of Columbia, Peru and Ecuador. The blue passion is so named for its flowers and has fruits that are orange in color. Although the blue passion is now naturalized in many part around the world it is believed to have come from Central and South America.
I hope this article on passion fruit and passion fruit nutrition has been interesting and helpful. Please feel free to bookmark us as we add new information on fruit the world on a monthly basis. We are also adding dessert recipes shortly.