Promoting Digestion With Durian

  • Yanjing ZhangMaster of Science in Infection and Immunity – University College London (UCL), England

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Introduction

As we all know, a “balanced diet” normally includes ingesting vegetables and fruits daily – but why? In addition to the minerals, vitamins and other bioactive compounds (crucial for mechanisms inside our bodies to take place), plants serve as essential sources of fibre. Fibre is most known for promoting the process of digestion. However, meals including high contents of dietary fibres are also seen to promote a healthier digestive system.

Moreover, diets high in bioactive compounds (such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols and phenolic compounds) are shown by epidemiological studies to reduce the risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.1,2

Why durian? 

Why did ancestors in Southeast Asia look at durian, decide to ingest it and incorporate it into their culture and diet? What are the benefits of eating durian, and how does it promote digestion? 

Durians, widely known for their pungent smell, have very high nutritional values compared to the majority of other fruits. In addition to the unique tastes of its sweet fruits inside their hard and spikey shells, durians are known to have a long list of benefits – including the ability to boost immunity, prevent cancer, improve digestion, strengthen bones, improve anaemia, prevent premature ageing, lower blood pressure, and protect against heart diseases. 

Cultural and culinary significance of durian

  • Durian, also known as the king of fruits, is a popular fruit native to Southeast Asia, where it is known to grow best in the Nonthaburi province within the suburbs outside of Bangkok
  • Durians are notoriously known for their distinctively strong smell, making them banned from being brought onto public transport in Singapore. Despite this, the fruit inside the spikey shells and smell are sweet
  • Durians are deeply embedded in Southeast Asian culture and have cultural and culinary significance. The naturally sweet flavour of the durian fruit can be blended into cookies, candies and wafers – in addition to bestowing a wide range of health benefits such as increased vitality, reinforced immunity, improved skin and hair texture, and ameliorated digestion
  • Durians are notably known to have high nutritional values containing minerals, vitamins C and E, carotenoids, fatty acids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, serving as tropical fruits with great potential for digestive health – a topic we will focus on in this article3 

Nutritional composition of durian

Fiber content and digestive health 

Fibre are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. They add bulk to the stool, prevent constipation, and promote bowel movement. Like other plants, durians have high-fibre contents – making it a useful fruit for regular bowel cleansing.

Furthermore, dietary fibres can help digestion by promoting peristaltic movements (series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract), such as alleviating constipation, excessive flatulence, heartburn, and other symptoms. As a result, the fibres in durian can also aid in improving nutrient absorption in the digestive tract by promoting a healthy gut environment.4 

Antioxidants and gut health 

However, durians contain more than just fibres. They also contain prebiotics that promote beneficial bacteria in the gut that play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Moreover, durians are known for their high nutritional value and long list of benefits – including decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. This is demonstrated to be associated with the antioxidants they contain: phenolic compounds and, to a smaller extent, dietary fibres.

Phenolic acids are often the most abundant compound in plants. Interestingly, these compounds reduce the damage done to our organs by oxidants and free radicals, thus protecting our cells, tissues and organs – reducing the risk of diseases. Hence, a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables promotes the digestive system and reduces oxidative stress.5

Alkaline properties and digestion 

One interesting fact about durian is that it is considered alkaline-forming in the body. This means they help balance the body’s pH levels, thus creating an environment conducive to optimal digestion by maintaining a slightly alkaline pH (believed to be beneficial for overall health).6 

In summary, durians have high nutritional value as tropical fruits that are heavily incorporated into Southeast Asia’s culture with benefits of promoting digestion and more. To read more, there is also an interesting study of comparative investigations of durian, snake fruit, and mangosteen, including experiments on laboratory animals.7

Precautions 

As with any food, moderation is key, especially with food you have never had. Hence, it is advisable to start with small amounts to see how your body reacts. If you have existing digestive issues or allergies, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.8

Summary

Durian, the revered "king of fruits," hails from Southeast Asia, particularly thriving in the Nonthaburi province near Bangkok. Despite its pungent aroma, durian's sweet flesh holds cultural and culinary significance, being a versatile ingredient in various Southeast Asian delicacies. Nutrient-rich durians boast vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, offering benefits like enhanced vitality, strengthened immunity, and improved digestive health. 

Durian's high fibre content aids digestion by facilitating regular bowel movements, while its prebiotics promote gut health, and its alkaline properties contribute to balanced pH levels for optimal digestion. However, moderation and consultation with a healthcare professional are advisable, especially for those with digestive issues or allergies.

References 

  1. Hu FB. Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview23. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 2003 Sep 1 ;78(3):544S-551S. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000291652203355X
  2. Riboli E, Norat T. Epidemiologic evidence of the protective effect of fruit and vegetables on cancer risk23. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Internet]. 2003 Sep 1 ;78(3):559S-569S. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916522033573
  3. . Charoenkiatkul S, Thiyajai P, Judprasong K. Nutrients and bioactive compounds in popular and indigenous durian (durio zibethinus murr.). Food Chemistry [Internet]. 2016 Feb 15 ;193:181–6. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814615002988
  4. Haruenkit R, Poovarodom S, Leontowicz H, Leontowicz M, Sajewicz M, Kowalska T, et al. Comparative study of health properties and nutritional value of durian, mangosteen, and snake fruit: experiments in vitro and in vivo. J Agric Food Chem [Internet]. 2007 Jul 1 [cited 2024 May 27];55(14):5842–9. Available from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf070475a
  5.  Dauchet L, Amouyel P, Hercberg S, Dallongeville J. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of cohort studies1. The Journal of Nutrition [Internet]. 2006 Oct 1 ;136(10):2588–93. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022316622084838
  6. Vinson JA, Su X, Zubik L, Bose P. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: fruits. J Agric Food Chem [Internet]. 2001 Nov 1 [cited 2024 May 27];49(11):5315–21. Available from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf0009293
  7. Mattioli R, Francioso A, Mosca L, Silva P. Anthocyanins: a comprehensive review of their chemical properties and health effects on cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 Aug 21 [cited 2024 May 27];25(17):3809. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7504512/
  8. El-Beshbishy HA, Singab ANB, Sinkkonen J, Pihlaja K. Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of Morus alba L. (Egyptian mulberry) root bark fractions supplementation in cholesterol-fed rats. Life Sciences [Internet]. 2006 May [cited 2024 May 27];78(23):2724–33. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0024320505011215

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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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Yanjing Zhang

Master of Science in Infection and Immunity – University College London (UCL), England

Yanjing has a strong interest in infectious diseases and their interactions with host immune systems to cause pathogenesis, in particular in those with immunodeficiencies. At UCL, she conducted research on topics of immunotherapy, E. coliinfections, and human cytomegalovirus infections. With a background in BSc Biotechnology, she has also conducted data-based projects on genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of resistant traits in African rice species. She is currently working on diabetes research in London, exploring medical writing while exploring different medical topics and is dedicated to improving public healthcare by contributing to therapeutic advancements.

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