Properties and Benefits of Carambola: Star fruit or carambola (Averrhoa carambola) is a tropical fruit native to South-East Asia, where it enjoys great popularity. Carambola fruit have an overall poor nutritional profile, except for their extremely high vitamin C content which credits them with several wonderful health benefits.
For instance, regular consumption is recommended for artery health as well as good immunity. In addition to this, the fruit is a great source of antioxidants such as quercetin and gallic acid, both free radical scavengers which protect cells and DNA from damage buildup which may lead to cancer. With a good dietary fiber content, carambola helps lower blood cholesterol levels and contributes to colon health.
What does carambola (star fruit) look like? Carambola is a slightly elongated, plump yellow-orange tropical fruit made up of five pods, perfectly aligned so that a cross section of the fruit is starfish or star-shaped, hence its more popular name, star fruit. When unripe, carambola skin is bright green but changes to golden yellow when fully ripe. Color is the best indicator of ripeness and it should tell you exactly when the fruit is in its prime. Carambola flesh, seeds and skin are all edible.
What does carambola (star fruit) taste like? Flavor depends immensely on how ripe the fruit is. Unripe star fruit are lime-sour and very fragrant. Fully ripe ones are definitely sweet. Ripe carambola has a mild flavor and is quite fragrant, citrusy. To some it tastes a lot like apples and pears or peaches, to others like apples and oranges. Although ripe, the fruit should preserve a crisp texture, its flesh should be juicy and its skin firm.
Carambola (star fruit) tastes good and should make a good impression on anyone who is eating it for the first time. Popular carambola varieties include Arkin, Bell, King and Sri Kembangan.
Nutrition facts and health benefits of carambola (star fruit).
1) Cholesterol-lowering properties. Carambola contains 2.8 g of dietary fiber/100 g of fruit. Dietary fiber passes undigested through the digestive tract and binds to lipids (fat) from food, preventing their absorption at the intestinal level. This helps lower cholesterol levels, contributing to cardiovascular health.
2) Colon protection. The fiber in carambola (star fruit) is shown to protect the colon mucosa from prolonged exposure to the toxins in poop (via constipation). According to research, this can contribute to lowering colon cancer risks.
3) Encourages weight loss. As a result of its good fiber content, star fruit prevents the intestines from absorbing all the fat from the foods we eat, thus contributing to weight loss. As a general rule, a high fiber intake promotes weight loss. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits are highest in fiber, but also richest in calories. Legumes such as beans and peas or cereals are also a great source of fiber and thus a good alternative. Secondly, carambola has only 31 kcal/100 g of fruit, a low energy value which also encourages weight loss.
4) Excellent antiviral properties. Carambola has an overall poor nutritional profile, with low amounts of vitamins and minerals. However, it is a wonderful source of vitamin C, providing 57% of the RDA. Vitamin C is well-known for its excellent immunity boosting properties, increasing the aggressiveness of white blood cells and thus making them more efficient in dealing with viral and bacterial infections.
Taking vitamin C supplements in addition to having a high dietary intake of the vitamin is ideal for reducing the frequency, duration and severity of colds and flu.
5) Offers antioxidant protection. Carambola (star fruit) is rich in polyphenolic antioxidants such as quercetin, epicatechin and gallic acid, as well as vitamin C. All of these potent antioxidants hunt down and destroy reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals and prevent them from damaging cells and DNA structures.
The buildup of free radical damage occurs over time and presents itself in the form of neurodegenerative diseses (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease), heart disease, macular degeneration (loss of central vision), retina problems and even tumours.
6) Wrinkle prevention. Regular consumption of carambola may help in delaying wrinkles as a result of the fruit’s high vitamin C content. Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen, a protein responsible for skin (blood vessels and organs) structure. A high intake, paired with an overall healthy, natural diet and good lifestyle habits (no sleepless nights and no smoking, for example) should delay wrinkles greatly.
However, carambola (star fruit) contains oxalic acid, a natural compound which can be potentially fatal in large amounts. In healthy individuals, the kidneys can get rid of small amounts of oxalic acid, but people suffering from kidney problems, notably those undergoing dialysis, should abstain from consuming both the carambola fruit and juice. Oxalic acid can be found in raw spinach as well. Cooking the leaves for no more than a couple of minutes reduces their oxalic acid content considerably.
Caramboxin is a second toxin found in carambola, responsible for destroying kidney nerve tissues which is why it may cause death in individuals suffering from any form of kidney disease.