Lychee, which has the scientific name Litchi chinensis, belongs to the soapberry family, but is the only member of its genus, meaning it is quite unique in the world. It is a fruit tree that can grow in tropical and subtropical climates and is native to China.
It smells very much like a flower and is often used to flavor cocktails and dishes because of its unique fragrance, which is lost if not consumed fresh.
The fruit is mainly eaten as a dessert in Asian countries and is also becoming popular in other parts of the world.
The fruit has been cultivated in China for more than 4,000 years and was once considered a great delicacy of the imperial court. It is now grown in many countries around the world, but the main production is still in Southeast Asia, China, India and South Africa.
Lychee is soft and pulpy, white or pink in color and the size is usually about 2 inches in height and width.
They are highly eminent in countries around the world for their health and medicinal benefits, which are due to the richness of nutrients and organic compounds present in them.
However, there are many more nutrients in dried lychee than fresh lychee, so if you want to consume this for your overall health, you should forgo the sweet smell and let the fruit dry.
Nutritional value of Lychee
According to USDA, lychee is packed with many nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, folate, copper, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese. Additionally, lychee is a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and a good source of proanthocyanidins and polyphenolic compounds.
Health Benefits of Lychee
In addition to helping improve your appearance, lychee also helps treat digestive problems, increase blood circulation, prevent cancer, and much more. Let’s look at its advantages in detail.
1. Aids in Digestion
The significant amount of dietary fiber in lychee, as in most fruits and vegetables, helps add bulk to your stool and improves your digestion. This helps bowel movements move smoothly through the digestive tract, and fiber also stimulates the peristaltic movement of the smooth small intestinal muscles, increasing the speed of food passing.
It also stimulates stomach and digestive juices so that nutrient absorption is efficient. This can reduce constipation and other gastrointestinal ailments. It also helps reduce abdominal obesity, according to a study cited in the Journal of Functional Foods. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties of flavanol-rich lychee also have hepato protective effects.
2. Can help prevent cancer
Research by the Department of Experimental Oncology, National Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, China shows that lychee fruit contains pericarp polyphenol compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity. These compounds show impressive anticancer potential against human liver cancer cells.
A 2006 study shows that percharp extract of lychee has the ability to induce apoptosis and inhibit the cell proliferation of breast cancer cells.
Research has shown that lychee seed extracts may be an alternative therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer. While human studies have yet to be done, the findings now look promising.
The latest research published in the journal Nutrients suggests that lychee has some therapeutic effects that may help treat colon cancer.
3. Improves cognition
Researchers from Southwest Medical University have published a study in the journal Nutrients highlighting the neuroprotective effect of litchi seeds. The study shows significant improvement in cognitive function and prevention of neuronal damage in the rat model affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
The proanthocyanidins in lychee have been extensively studied and they have also demonstrated antiviral potential by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Litchitannin A2, a substance found in lychee, is closely linked to preventing the spread or outbreak of viruses, including herpes simplex virus and coxsackie virus.
5. Regulates blood pressure
Lychee has a wealth of potassium, which means it can help your body maintain a fluid balance; it’s also low in sodium, which helps too. Fluid balance is an integral part of not only metabolic functions, but also hypertension. Potassium is considered a vasodilator, meaning it reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries, reducing stress on the cardiovascular system. Potassium levels are almost three times higher in dried lychee than in fresh lychee!
This powerful phenolic in lychee has been linked to a number of important health benefits, including anti-flu activity, improving blood circulation, weight loss and protecting your skin from harmful UV rays when exposed to the sun. It also exhibits significant antioxidant properties, as do ascorbic acid and other proanthocyanidins in lychee.
7. Improves blood circulation
Blood circulation in our body. Like Iron, copper is also responsible for the formation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs). More RBCs mean better blood circulation and increased oxygenation of the organs and cells.
Word of caution
Since lychees are a very good source of sugars, diabetics should exercise caution when eating lychees as it can interfere with their blood sugar levels. Also, lychees are considered a “warm” food, which means that they can sometimes throw the nutrients in the body out of balance. Excessive consumption of lychees can lead to irritated membranes, nosebleeds, fever or a sore throat. However, in normal amounts, there are no inherent health risks.