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Health Benefits of the Lychee Fruit - Litchi

Updated on November 4, 2010

The Lychee Fruit

The lychee (litchi chinensis) is a tropical fruit tree native to Asia. It is now cultivated in many parts of the world and its fruit is known by the names lychee, litchi, laichi and lichu. Prime season for fresh lychees is June and July, but they are available canned and dried throughout the year. When dried, they are referred to as lychee nuts.

The lychee tree is a medium-sized evergreen which yields an abundance of small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is covered by a pink-red, roughly textured skin. This skin is inedible, but is easily removed to expose the sweet, translucent white flesh surrounding a large inedible seed. The flesh of the lychee looks like a peeled green grape and has a similar texture. It’s delicious with a distinct sweet, succulent flavor; much like a fusion of strawberries, watermelon and grapes. Lychees are used in many dessert dishes and are very popular in China and throughout Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

Lychee Fruit

Lychee Fruit - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author B.navez
Lychee Fruit - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author B.navez

The lychee has been cultivated in China as far back as 2000 BCE. There are many stories of the fruit’s use as a delicacy in the Chinese Imperial Court. The lychee was first introduced to the west in the late 18th century.

Lychees are commonly sold fresh in Asian markets. The red rind turns a dark brown when the fruit is refrigerated, but this doesn’t affect the taste. The outer leathery skin also has a thin inner membrane that must be removed before eating. As the lychee ripens, the skin and inner membrane lose water and become tougher, fusing together.


Lychee Fruit Diet


When shopping for lychee, select a fruit with a bright coloring and no blemishes. The skin is naturally tough and leathery, but it should be pliable and not too dry. If the fruit tastes bitter or sour, it’s not ripe. Unfortunately, lychees will not continue to ripen once they have been picked.

Fresh lychees should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. They will begin to ferment as they age, so they must be used quickly. Lychees can also be frozen. Simply place the fruit, with the skin on, in a plastic zip bag; suck the air out, seal and place in the freezer.

Peeled Lychee Fruit

Peeled Lychee Fruit - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.  Author Luc Viatour
Peeled Lychee Fruit - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Luc Viatour

To peel a lychee, most people simply use their fingernail to dig into the leathery outer skin and peel it away. If you’re peeling a large amount for a recipe, a small knife can be used to cut through the skin lengthwise all around the seed. If the lychee is very fresh, you’ll need to gently peel the skin and inner membrane away from the fruit, much like peeling an orange. If the lychees have been stored for a while, the skin and membrane will peel away easily, usually in whole halves after having been scored around the seed.

If the lychees are very ripe, you can often just tear off one end of the skin, pinch it toward the opposite end and the fruit will slip right out of its skin and into your mouth or bowl.

Lychees make a great addition to fruit salads, desserts, chicken salad, stir-fries or in sweet and sour dishes. They’re also delicious when used in dessert sauces, jellies and syrups. The fresh juice also makes a delicious drink.

Because of its distinctively sweet taste and numerous health benefits, lychees have been a favorite fruit of Chinese royalty since ancient times.

No other fruit can boast such a long, illustrious history as the lychee. A history involving an emperor and his pursuit for the coveted fruit. As legend has it, the last emperor of the Tang dynasty, in order to woo his favorite concubine, dispatched his royal guards to the far reaches of the empire, a distance of 600 miles, in order to acquire the lychees to ensure their freshness.

From China, the fruit slowly became popular all over the world and has now been declared a “Super Fruit”. Scientists have determined that the lychee is one of the best sources of antioxidants.


Lychee Products

Lychee
Lychee

Lychees in heavy syrup.

 

Health Benefits of Lychee Fruit

In addition to great taste, here are a few important health benefits of the lychee fruit:


1. Guiltless pleasure -

Lychee fruit are low in calories, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol and are rich in dietary fiber. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), each lychee fruit contains approximately 7 calories. Sweet and low calorie aren't often combined!

2. A huge dose of Vitamin C and potassium -

Lychee, like citrus fruits, is an excellent source of vitamin C. The USDA not only cites high levels of vitamin C, an important antioxidant, but high levels of potassium as well. Potassium is important in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

3. Excellent source of B-complex vitamins –

Lychees are a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and folates. These vitamins are essential to help the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

4. More polyphenol power -
A 2006 study cited in the Journal of Nutrition found that lychees had the second highest concentration of polyphenols, nature's most potent and abundant antioxidants, of all fruits commonly eaten in France.

5. Cancer protection -
A study performed at Sichuan University in China last year found that the antioxidants found in lychees may prevent the formation of breast cancer cells. Also, the flavones quercitin and kaempferol identified in the French study were cited in an earlier study as a powerful force in reducing the proliferation of cancer cells.

A Chinese research team recently discovered that the lychee fruit exhibited potential anti-breast cancer properties. The study, published in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology (2006), shows that this delicate fruit inhibits the formation and progression of breast cancer.


For additional information on another excellent all natural product that can greatly benefit your health, please visit the wheatgrass juicer . Wheatgrass juice is a natural source of vitamins A and C. It contains more vitamin C than oranges and twice the vitamin A as carrots. It’s exceptionally rich in vitamins E, K, and B-complex and is a natural source of laetrile (B-17).


Comments

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  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 6 years ago

    Thanks for stopping in Jason!

  • JasonPLittleton profile image

    JasonPLittleton 6 years ago

    Thanks for this.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Catlyn, they're delicious aren't they? I'm glad you had a chance to try them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Catlyn profile image

    Catlyn 7 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

    I ate my first raw lychee about a month ago and really loved it. Trader Joes carries them during the summer season.

    Thanks for this information!

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    creativelycc, you should be able to find lychees in almost any Asian food market, or through Amazon. Thanks for reading!

  • creativelycc profile image

    Carrie L. Cronkite 7 years ago from Maine

    Wow, I never heard of this fruit. Wonderful hub, would love to know where I could buy some of this fruit, it sounds so delicious and the health benefits are great!

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks susanlang! I have never been to OR, but it sounds beautiful. I hope to be able to visit there someday. I love lychee fruit, it's not only delicious but good for your as well. My kids eat lychee all the time, it's one of their favorite fruits.

  • susanlang profile image

    susanlang 7 years ago

    Lychee fruit trees would do well in Bend OR. out-west. The winter season there is mild and and summers are hot and dry. Many people do not realize how beautiful Bend OR., really is as it sits between the beautiful Cascade mountains and as a result; storm clouds mostly blow past this city giving the people living there lots of warm sunshine in the summers. I learned something new about this healthy fruit and it's health values. Thank you and I rated this way up!

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks aglinwu, I'm going to have to go read your hub!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Love your list of health benefits--gives me a lot of reasons to indulge when I go home to visit. I was debating on doing a hub on lycee but opted for the lesser know, little brother--longans.

    Appreciate your vote and rated this up for you.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    I haven't tried that yet, but I bet it's delicious. Thanks for your comment seryhu.

  • seryhu profile image

    seryhu 7 years ago from Canada

    The best way to have them by far: Lychee Martini, and I'm not even a casual drinker.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Rose, I agree. The lychee is very unique, but delicious! Thanks for commenting.

  • Rose West profile image

    Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan

    Lychee is delicious.. I remember eating my first one when I first moved to Hawaii. It really has quite a unique flavor.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    That would be great. I've never known anyone to grow their own lychees.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

    Thanks...I'll try to let you know if I find the product.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks RTalloni, the Lychee trees are grown in Florida and Hawaii, so you might be able to find some online sources in those areas. I know there are online sellers, you might want to shop around to find one that has a variety that would be compatible to your area.

  • RTalloni profile image

    RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

    Great info! Any sources for purchasing a lychee plant?

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Hi katie, next time you see these you should give them a try. I think you'll like them :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

    Cool, I see this Lychee in the Asian markets and have wondered about it, now I know! Thanks for the review of Lychee Fruit ;)

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Hi Pamela, it is delicious. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    Lamme, The fruit founds and looks wonderful. I have never heard of it before. Thanks for an interesting hub.

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Thanks MaryRenee! If you haven't tried them, I think you'll be surprised how delicious they are. My kids would eat them everyday if I let them.

  • profile image

    MaryRenee 7 years ago

    Lamme: wow! very intresting hub, this fruit has many benefits! :) Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  • Lamme profile image
    Author

    Lamme 7 years ago

    Hi 4FoodSafety, Lychee trees generally get about 10-15 ft tall. I've never heard of anyone growing one indoors. They need direct sun and at least a short "chilling" period in the winter. They can't tolerate freezing temps, but they do need a cooler spell in order to produce fruit.

  • 4FoodSafety profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Fontana, WI

    How large do the trees grow? Can we grow indoors similar to lemon trees?

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