Starfruit: Nutrition and Health Benefits

The starfruit, also known as the carambola, is quite a unique fruit: great-tasting, interestingly looking, a deep part of culture, and providing great health benefits.  The starfruit is native to regions of both Southeast and South Asia, as well as islands in the South Pacific.  Nowadays, the starfruit is grown all around the world in tropical regions, and even in warmer regions of the United States!

Starfruit - Photo credit: SMasters

The shape of the starfruit is very interesting – the starfruit usually has five ridges running down its side.  When cut, the starfruit forms the shape of a star, when looking at a cross-section.

The carambola has been cultivated in many parts of Asia for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and is a huge part of Southeast Asian culture and medicine.  It is believed that the starfruit either originated near Sri Lanka or the Moluccas of Indonesia.

It may be hard to get your hands on fresh starfruit in the US, since starfruits are not allowed to be imported from Malaysia due to concerns about pests and pathogens.  However, carambolas are grown in various warm and tropical regions of the US, such as Hawaii and Florida.

Unlike most other tropical fruits, the starfruit is completely edible, including the skin.  The edible skin has an interesting, wax-like texture.  The flesh of the starfruit has a texture that is similar to that of the grape, but is also crunchy and firm.  The extremely juicy flesh of the starfruit boasts a very interesting and unique taste – the starfruit seems to taste like a mix of apples, pears, and citrus fruits.

Some prefer to eat unripened starfruits.  Unripe starfruits have a taste similar to the green apple, and are more sour and firm.

The starfruit provides some basic health benefits, as well as some very unique disease-fighting properties.  To start off, the vitamin C and antioxidant content of the carambola is extremely high, a trait shared by many exotic fruits.  However, another added perk of the starfruit is that it is low in sugar, sodium, and acid, which is great for weight-loss diets.  Another very interesting benefit that the starfruit provides is quite interesting – extracts from the starfruit show that they help prevent and fight many pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella, and more!

It is important to note that the starfruit, similar to strawberries, does contain oxalic acid.  Oxalic acid does not have any negative effects in most humans, but it is harmful to people with kidney problems.  Thus, starfruit should be avoided by this portion of the population.

It is quite rare to find fresh starfruit in local grocery stores in the US, so it’s advised to purchase online: Melissa’s Fresh Star Fruits

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