By Dr. Mercola
The rough, red leathery skin of the lychee fruit contrasts with the white, creamy fruit inside. Originating in China, lychee (sometimes spelled litchi) is a tropical fruit known for its sweet and fragrant flavor.
Lychees are typically enjoyed fresh; remove a bit of the skin and then squeeze the aril — the fleshy part around the seed — into your mouth. However, they can also be found dried or in recipes, especially ice cream and desserts.
If you can get your hands on some fresh lychees (they're in season in May and June in the northern hemisphere), you will probably be delighted by the taste and texture (it's somewhat like a grape).According to Lychees Online, 91 percent of people who try properly ripened and harvested lychee fruit find the experience excellent1 In China, where lychees are especially popular, the fruit, which can be round, oval or heart-shaped, is considered a symbol of romance and love.2
10 Health Benefits of Lychees
Lychees contain an impressive array of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. According to Lychees Online, the fruit has more vitamin C than the same amount of oranges or lemons, a significant amount of potassium and as much fiber as an apple (with the skin on).3 Why else might you want to eat lychees?4
- Disease-Fighting Flavonoids
Flavonoids — antioxidant compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices — are known for their role in helping to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Lychee contains quercetin, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, cancer-fighting heart-healthy kaempferol and more.
- Antioxidant Protection
Antioxidants are nature's way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals.
If you don't have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.
Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play in maintaining good health and reducing your risk of heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
Antioxidants also help slow down the aging process, which can have immense effects on your skin health. Lychees are rich in antioxidant vitamin C, with more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in one cup.
- Heart Health
The flavonoids, fiber and antioxidants in lychees may support heart health. In addition, oligonol derived from lychee fruit has been shown to increase nitric oxide levels in animal studies.5 Increasing nitric oxide in your blood may open constricted blood vessels and lower your blood pressure.
It should be noted, however, that oligonol is a mixture of antioxidants from lychee skin and other sources (such as green tea), but does not occur naturally in lychee fruit.6
- Blood Regulation
The nutrients in lychee, including magnesium, copper, iron, vitamin C, manganese and folate, are required for blood circulation and formation.
Lychees have one of the highest concentrations of polyphenols among fruits.7 Among them is rutin, a bioflavonoid known to strengthen blood vessels.
For this reason, it's often used for varicose veins and hemorrhoids, as well as bruising. In fact, a deficiency of bioflavonoids may allow blood vessels to break easier, which is why, if you bruise easily, you would likely benefit from more rutin.
- Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Flavanol-rich lychee fruit extract (FRLFE), which is primarily derived from lychee fruit, has potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
FRLFE has been found to suppress inflammation and tissue damage caused by high-intensity exercise training and, researchers believe, may even be used to treat inflammatory diseases.8
- Vitamin C
One of the most prominent nutrients in lychee fruit is vitamin C. Vitamin C has numerous functions in the human body, including acting as an essential cofactor in enzymatic reactions.
In this way, it plays a role in your body's production of collagen, carnitine (which helps your body turn fat into energy), and catecholamines (hormones made by your adrenal glands), for starters.
Vitamin C is also used by your body for wound healing, repairing, and maintaining the health of your bones and teeth, and plays a role in helping your body absorb iron.
Vitamin C is considered an anti-aging vitamin and actually reversed age-related abnormalities in mice with a premature aging disorder, restoring healthy aging.9
Vitamin C even plays a role in brain health, as it is necessary to make certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin.10
It has also been found to play a role in preventing the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and more. Vitamin C may also be useful for:11
Boosting immune system function Improving vision in people with uveitis (inflammation of the middle part of the eye) Allergy-related conditions, such as eczema and hay fever Treating sunburn Alleviating dry mouth Healing burns and wounds Decreasing blood sugar in diabetics Fighting viral illnesses, such as mononucleosis Maintaining healthy gums
- Mitochondrial Health
Lychee pulp contains large amounts of phenolic compounds and exhibits antioxidant activities. In an animal study, lychee pulp phenolics protected against stress-induced liver injury by modulating mitochondrial dysfunction.
The researchers concluded, "Thus, lychee pulp may be a functional biofactor to mitigate oxidative stress."12
- Anti-Viral Activity
Certain proanthocyanidins in lychee seeds have shown powerful anti-viral activity, including against coxsackie virus and herpes simplex virus.13
- More Antioxidant Power Than Vitamin C?
Additional proanthocyanidins in lychee seeds showed more potent antioxidant activity than even vitamin C,14 which suggests there's still much to learn about the health potential of this exotic fruit.
Modern Research Confirms the Traditional Uses of Lychee
Traditionally, lychee has been used in many cultures for the treatment of health conditions ranging from obesity and diabetes to cough, flatulence, hernia and neuralgic pain.
According to folk remedy, the fruit possesses a number of functional properties, including anti-cancer, anti-viral, pain-relieving, diuretic and more.15 A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology recently set out to determine whether these medicinal uses are justified.
Researchers gathered data from scientific journals, books, and worldwide accepted scientific databases and revealed significant evidence that lychee offers medicinal benefits. According to the study:16
"Phytochemical investigation revealed that the major chemical constituents of litchi are flavonoids, sterols, triterpenens, phenolics, and other bioactive compounds. Crude extracts and pure compounds isolated from L. chinensis exhibited significant antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, hepato-protective, and immunomodulatory activities.
… The ethnopharmacological relevance of L. chinensis [lychee] is fully justified by the most recent findings indicating it is a useful medicinal and nutritional agent for treating a wide range of human disorders and aliments. Further investigations are needed to fully understand the mode of action of the active constituents and to fully exploit its preventive and therapeutic potentials."
Lychees Are a High-Sugar Fruit
Lychees do have one downfall and that is their high sugar content — about 29 grams in one cup. For this reason, eat lychees only in moderation. In rare cases, lychees have also been associated with severe allergies, something to be aware of if you've never tried them before.
If you want to learn even more about what's in the food you're eating, visit our Food Facts library. Most people are not aware of the wealth of nutrients available in healthful foods, particularly organic fruits and vegetables. By getting to know your food, you can make informed decisions about how to eat healthier and thereby boost your brain function, lower your risk of chronic disease, lose weight, and much more.
Food Facts is a directory of the most highly recommended health foods to add to your wholesome diet. Its purpose is to provide you with valuable information about various types of foods including recipes to help you maximize these benefits. You'll learn about nutrition facts, scientific studies, and even interesting trivia about each food in the Food Facts library.
Remember, knowing what's in your food is the first step to choosing and preparing nutritious meals each and every day. So visit Mercola Food Facts today to get started.