NUTRITIOUS BENEFITS OF PASSION FRUIT AND ACEROLA CHERRIES
It was the Jesuits who named it passion fruit. Spanish missionaries who followed the trail of the conquistadors in South America stumbled upon this rare fruit which resembled some Christian symbols. The ten petals for example represented the apostles; the five anthers were the five wounds. As for the three stigmas they were the nails pierced into the hands, and feet of Jesus. No wonder they called it Passion fruit.
Found mainly in the rain forests of the Amazon, particularly in Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentina, it is also found in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. There are about 50 different species, which bears the botanical name Passiflora edulis. Some passion fruits are purple in color and others yellow, but both however taste alike. The yellow variety is found mostly in Latin America and this is a fruit that can be put to different use. You may use it for desserts, or with other main dishes like lobsters. You may even make jam out of it or mix it with your cocktail for that unique tropical flavor.
The benefits of Passion fruit juice were studied by the University of Florida in collaboration with EPPA (Ecuadorian Passion Fruit Processors Association). Some of the findings were really interesting. One glass of passion fruit juice provides 60% of our daily requirement of Vitamin A. It also provides 50% of our requirement of Vitamin C something which other fruits like grapes, pineapple, mango or lemon cannot provide. That’s not all it contains more potassium than orange and just one glass of the juice provides 40% of our daily requirement. And for those who are athletically inclined passion fruit helps to increase performance. It also helps in lowering cholesterol level. The journal Nutrition Research reported that the Arizona College of Public Health in Tucson found passion fruit peel may ease breathing of those suffering from asthma. In fact the Brazilians have a passion flower drink called maracuja grande which helps in curing asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis. In Peruvian traditional medicine it is used for urinary infections too.
Better known as Barbados cherry or West Indies cherry, acerola cherries is found in profusion in the Caribbean islands and Brazil. The catalog of the Royal Palm Nursery for 1887-1888 reveals that it was brought to Florida from Cuba around this time. It was only after World War II that planting of of acerola cherries became popular. The cause of this spurt in interest was on account of some developments in Puerto Rico. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the Federal Soil Conservation Department planted Barbados cherry trees to check erosion in Rio Piedras Experiment Station. Seeds were distributed to families and schools in order to increase the intake of Vitamin C amongst children.
The School of Medicine, of the University of Puerto Rico in 1945 was doing food analysis of the embolic (Emblica officinalis L.) which had a high content of ascorbic acid. But one day a lab assistant brought the Barbados cherries for testing, as it was often consumed by the local people in the Caribbean when they had cold. The researchers were surprised to find that Barbados cherries had for more ascorbic acid than the emblic. It was the widely publicized and it was this finding which spurred the growth of acerola cherries in the US.
Acerola cherries can be eaten as such or as sherbet. It can be used for making dessert or added with other fruit juice for fortifying it with ascorbic acid. It is also used as a commercial source for Vitamin C. Apart from vitamin C it is also rich in minerals and is an anti-oxidant. Researchers have identified nearly 150 nutritive constituents which includes proteins, mineral salts, iron, calcium and phosphorus.. It is undoubtedly one of the nutritious fruits in the world.