Health Benefits Of Durian Fruit

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What is durian fruit?

Durian, scientifically known as Durio zibethinus, is a tropical fruit with a distinctive smell and flavour that has been enjoyed for centuries in the regions of Southeast Asia.1 The fruit is native to the region, and its origins can be traced back to the island of Borneo, which is now divided between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Durian fruit is known for its thorny exterior and unique odour, which has been described as a mix of sweet, savory, and intense aromas. Despite its polarizing smell, durian fruit has gained popularity around the world, especially in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, for its distinctive flavor profile.

The fruit has a spiky outer shell and can grow up to 30 cm long and 15 cm in diameter. The fruit is often referred to as the "King of Fruits."  It is also becoming more widely available in other parts of the world, including the United States, where it is gaining a reputation as a trendy, exotic delicacy. In addition to its distinctive flavour and scent, durian is also prized for its potential health benefits, with some studies suggesting that it may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer properties. As such, it is a fruit that has captured the attention of both food enthusiasts and health experts alike. In this context, exploring the potential health benefits of durian, as well as its culinary appeal, can provide a fascinating insight into this intriguing and versatile fruit. 

Health benefits of durian fruit

Boosts immune system

One of the primary health benefits of durian is its antioxidant content. One cup of durian fruit contains about 80% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.2 On top of that, vitamin C also helps the body produce collagen, a protein that promotes the development of healthy skin and connective tissues. The fruit also contains other antioxidants, including carotenoids and flavonoids, which may help to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Helps digestion

Each cup of durian fruit also contains about 9 grams of dietary fiber which reinforces a healthy gut and digestive system and promotes feelings of fullness and satiety. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, prevent constipation, and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Having a healthy gut microbiome can furthermore be beneficial in synthesizing vitamins, detoxifying harmful chemicals or pollutants, protecting against infections, and regulating the immune system.

Lowers heart disease risk

If consumed in moderation (2 to 3 seeds of durian a day), the fiber in durians can also help to regulate blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Durian is also a rich source of potassium, an essential mineral that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure and maintaining heart health. Potassium helps to counteract the negative effects of sodium which is known for causing high blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart disease.

Reduces cancer risk

Durian fruit is high in antioxidants, which help to protect cells from damage by free radicals and oxidative stress; thus, it may help reduce the risk of cancer. One study even found that durian fruit extract was able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.3

Durian is a rich source of phytochemicals, including flavonoids and carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants and have been shown to have anti-cancer properties in some studies. These compounds may help to prevent the formation of cancerous cells and reduce the growth and spread of existing cancer cells. In addition, some studies have suggested that durian may have anti-inflammatory effects, which could also contribute to a reduced risk of cancer.4 Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for many types of cancer, and reducing inflammation in the body may help to lower overall cancer risk.

Improves skin health

Vitamin C and other antioxidants content in durian help protect the skin from damage and promote the regeneration of healthy skin.4 Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the production of collagen, a protein that is crucial for skin health and elasticity. Collagen helps to keep skin firm and smooth and can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Other antioxidants in durians also help to protect skin cells from damage caused by free radicals and environmental stressors, while reducing inflammation and improving overall skin health and appearance. Its anti-inflammatory effects could further contribute to improved skin health since chronic inflammation is a known contributor to many skin conditions, including acne and eczema.

Antibacterial properties

Durian has been found to possess antibacterial properties owing to its various phytochemical constituents. Researchers studied durian extracts and have found chemical compounds such as alkaloids, saponins, flavonoids, and tannins which are capable of interfering with bacterial growth of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, among others. This suggests that durian may have potential as a natural antibacterial agent for use in the treatment or prevention of bacterial infections.5 Additionally, some studies have suggested that durian may have antifungal properties, which could further contribute to its potential as a natural antibacterial agent. This property will actively aid in preventing pathogenic manifestations and infections.

Nutritional facts

Durian fruit is a rich source of nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.6 Each cup of durian fruit contains approximately:

  • 357 calories (kCal)
  • 9 grams of dietary fiber
  • 6 grams of protein
  • 80% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C
  • 38% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B6
  • 30% of the daily recommended intake of potassium
  • 18% of the daily recommended intake of iron

Furthermore, durians contain a range of other vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, and iron, which are important for maintaining overall health and wellness.

Side effects and other concerns

Consuming durian in moderation and with awareness will always be encouraged, particularly for individuals with underlying health conditions or allergies.7 While durians can offer numerous health benefits, they can also potentially cause significant side effects and concerns if consumed in excess or by individuals with specific sensitivities.

  • Strong odour: Some people may find durian's strong odour unpleasant. The smell has been compared to rotten onions, gym socks, or even sewage. While the odor is not harmful, it can be a turn-off for some people
  • Calorie-dense and high in sugar: Durian fruit is high in calories, with one cup containing over 350 calories. This means that it may not be the best choice for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. In addition, durians are also high in sugar, which can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, particularly in individuals with diabetes
  • Digestive discomfort: Consumers may experience abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea which may be due to the high fiber content of durians that is difficult for some people to digest
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to durian fruit. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itching or mild skin irritation, hives, difficulty breathing, and even a severe anaphylactic shock in extreme cases. If you are allergic to other fruits or have a history of allergies, it is important to talk to your doctor before trying durian fruit. The article also highlights the potential allergic reactions to durians, which can range from mild skin irritation to severe anaphylactic shock. These reactions are typically triggered by proteins in the fruit that can cross-react with other common allergens, such as latex or certain tree nuts
  • High in sulfur: Durian fruit is high in sulfur, which can lead to a distinct and pungent odour. This odour can be off-putting to some individuals and may cause headaches, nausea, or other symptoms of sensory overload. This may result in bad breath, digestive issues, and other problems in some people. If you have a history of sulfur sensitivity or have experienced sulfur-related symptoms in the past, it may be best to avoid durian fruit
  • Interaction with alcohol: Some people have reported feeling ill after consuming alcohol and durian fruit together. This may be due to the combination of sulfur in the fruit and the effects of alcohol on the body. If you plan on consuming both alcohol and durian fruit, it is important to do so in moderation and pay attention to any adverse effects

How to eat durian?

Eating durians can be a unique and enjoyable experience, but it can also be challenging for those who are not familiar with the fruit. Here are some simple steps to help you enjoy this tropical delicacy:

  • Choose a ripe durian: Look for a durian that is slightly soft to the touch, has a slightly cracked stem, and emits a strong and pleasant aroma. These are signs that the fruit is ripe and ready to eat
  • Prepare the durian: Using a sharp knife cut off the stem and make a shallow cut all around the fruit to create an opening. Then, use your hands to pry open the fruit and remove the flesh
  • Remove the flesh: Durian fruit is divided into sections, with each section containing two or three large seeds. Use your hands to gently pick up the flesh from each section
  • Enjoy the fruit: Durian can be eaten raw. Be careful not to consume the seeds as they are not edible. Some people also use durian pureé as a flavouring for cakes, ice cream, and other desserts
  • Dispose of the husk and seeds: After you have consumed all the flesh, dispose of the seeds in the trash. Durian husk and seeds are not edible and can be difficult to digest
  • Clean up: Durian has a strong aroma that can linger, so be sure to wash your hands, utensils, and cutting board thoroughly after eating

Summary

Durian is a unique tropical fruit that is renowned for its distinct aroma, spiky exterior, and delicious taste. Besides its culinary appeal, durian also boasts an impressive array of potential health benefits. This "King of Fruits" is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and fibre, which may help to reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Moreover, it is gifted with the ability to promote healthy skin and digestion. With its antibacterial and antifungal properties, durian may also have potential as a natural treatment or prevention agent for bacterial and fungal infections.

Despite the polarizing opinions on the taste and smell of durian, this fruit has gained popularity in many parts of the world, and its potential health benefits have captured the attention of both food enthusiasts and health experts alike. As more research is conducted on durian, new and exciting discoveries will likely emerge, and the popularity of this tropical fruit will continue to grow. Overall, durian is an intriguing and versatile fruit that offers a unique sensory experience and a wealth of potential health benefits that are worth exploring.

References

  1. Charoenkiatkul, S., & Thipayarat, A. (2018). Durian (Durio zibethinus Murr.): cultivation, uses, and economic benefits. In Tropical fruits: Volume 2 (pp. 43-64). Springer, Cham.
  2. Arancibia-Avila P, Toledo F, Park Y-S, Jung S-T, Kang S-G, Heo BG, et al. Antioxidant properties of durian fruit as influenced by ripening. LWT - Food Science and Technology. 2008; 41(10):2118–25. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0023643807004203
  3. Doraiswamy R, Saminathan V. Phytochemical analysis, antioxidant and anticancer activities of durian (Durio zibethinus Murr.) fruit extract. JRP. 2020; 24(6):882–92. Available from: http://jrespharm.com/abstract.php?id=850
  4. Alothman M, Bhat R, Karim AA. Antioxidant capacity and phenolic content of selected tropical fruits from Malaysia, extracted with different solvents. Food Chemistry. 2009; 115(3):785–8. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S030881460801457X
  5. Sa-nguanmoo, P., Tangwongchai, R., & Pongsawatmanit, R. (2019). Antibacterial activity of durian fruit (Durio zibethinus Linn.) extract against selected foodborne pathogens. Journal of food science and technology, 56(1), 164-172.
  6. Husin NA, Rahman S, Karunakaran R, Bhore SJ. A review on the nutritional, medicinal, molecular and genome attributes of durian (durio Zibethinus L.), the king of fruits in Malaysia. Bioinformation. 2018;14(06):265–70
  7. Tan CH, Yusof YA, Chan LW, et al. Side Effects of Durian Consumption: A Review. J Food Sci. 2019;84(10):2667-2675. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.14755

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Angeline Lee

Bachelor of Science – BSc (Hons), University College London, London

Angeline Lee is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Medical Sciences at University College London. As a penultimate-year student, she will be graduating with a firm accreditation from the Association for Nutrition (AfN) as an Associate Registered Nutritionist (ANutr) in a year. With a passion for exploring the latest advancements in medical sciences and a strong aptitude for research in nutritional studies, Angeline is dedicated to developing her skills in the healthcare industry. During her gap year prior to university, she worked on refining her experiences as a content writer with a demonstrated history of working in e-learning, fashion apparel, and philanthropical fields. She has volunteered with various organizations where she taught, managed projects, and organized fundraising activities in an effort to give back to the community.

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