The often overlooked fruit known as the persimmon is rising in popularity. Eating persimmons also offers health benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’d like to add a little variety to your diet and still eat healthy, you may want to consider adding some persimmons to your grocery cart. This often overlooked fruit is growing in popularity as people become more open to exploring different tastes. Although this fruit has yet to gain mainstream popularity in the United States, it’s highly regarded in Japan where it’s the national fruit. Eating persimmons can provide a new taste experience as well as a variety of health benefits.
The persimmon is a versatile fruit which can be eaten raw or cooked. If eaten before fully ripe, the persimmon has a bitter, astringent taste due to high levels of tannins, the same polyphenols found in tea. As the fruit matures, the tannins change form which eliminates much of the bitter taste. For this reason, eating persimmons should be done after the fruit is soft and fully ripe.
What are the health benefits of eating persimmons? Persimmons are not only high in fiber but are an excellent source of vitamin A. This brightly colored orange fruit contains no fat but is rather high in carbs and natural sugars. In addition to the tannins which give the immature fruit its astringent taste, it contains two compounds known as shibuol and betulinic acid that are though to have anti-cancer properties. A study conducted in Japan showed that the peel of the persimmon contains phytochemicals known as proanthocyanidins which may protect cells against oxidative damage associated with aging.
Although eating persimmons may have significant health benefits, there’s one potential drawback. Because they contain the compound shibuol, they have the capacity to react in the acid environment of the stomach to form a gooey compound which can cause an intestinal obstruction known as a bezoar. In many cases, if a bezoar is formed from eating persimmons, it can require surgery. For this reason, persimmons should only be eaten on a full stomach and never eaten with crabmeat which can increase the tendency for bezoars to form.
Because of the growing popularity of persimmons, you can expect to see more of these sweetly tangy fruits in culinary creations served at higher end restaurants. At home, you can add persimmon slices to salads or puree them to make smoothies, jellies, a topping for pancakes, or use it as a flavoring for yogurt. It can also be mixed with other fruits to create a fruit salad. When choosing persimmons at the grocery store, look for ones that have a deep red coloration without blemishes. Avoid ones that are hard if you plan on eating them immediately since the immature persimmon has a bitter taste.
Eating persimmons can add a new taste sensation as well as be a valuable source of vitamins and phytochemicals. Look for the next time you’re at the grocery store.