Properties and Benefits of Lychee, Litchi: Lychee, or litchi, botanically known as Litchi chinensis, is a fragrant, refreshing pink tropical fruit, rich in vitamin C. Although litchis boast an average nutritional value, similar to that of grapes, they are a good source of polyphenols with powerful antioxidant activity.
Litchis are a safe fruit if you need to keep your cholesterol levels and sodium intake under control and help strengthen the immune system. They are low in calories and contain an antioxidant polyphenol called oligonol which is said to limit kidney and liver damage in diabetic people. Moreover, litchi consumption is believed to prevent the infection with the influenza virus.
Where does litchi come from? Litchi, or lychee, is a tropical fruit, meaning it can only grow in hot, humid climates such as India, China, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Florida, parts of Australia and Africa. It is rather perishable so it should be consumed as fresh as possible.
What does litchi (lychee) look like? Litchi are either round(ish) or heart-shaped, with a hard pink rind when ripe. Unripe lychee fruit are green. Depending on the variety, litchi may have a smooth rind or small, red-pink prickles all over it. Lychee rind is both inedible and really thin so it can be peeled off easily before eating the fruit. The flesh of the litchi fruit is white, glossy, juicy and fragrant and covers one shiny, red-brown seed the size of an almond.
What does lychee (litchi) taste like? In my opinion, lychee has a grape-textured flesh and a strong grape fragrance. Unlike grapes, lychee is significantly more fragrant and sweet, which is why it would make a great dessert on its own.
Tip: if you are looking to lose a few pounds or kilograms, cut down on candied sweets or maintain your figure, you can substitute your regular dessert with 5-6 lychee. Not only are they low in calories, but they will also satisfy your craving for something sweet and their juiciness will help keep you hydrated.
Dried or canned litchi (lychee) is also available in supermarkets. The dried version is sometimes called litchi nut because of its nut-like proportions and dried, darker flesh. Litchis can be refrigerated in which case their rind turns brown just like the peel in frozen bananas. However, fresh litchis are always better.
Health benefits. Overall, litchi is a fruit of low to medium nutritional value, meaning it is slightly more nutritious than apples and grapes. Nevertheless, 100 g of fruit provides 119% of the RDA of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamin. Being rich in vitamin C (71.5 mg), lychee helps develop resistance against infectious agents by strengthening the immune system.
Moreover, it helps prevent wrinkles and saggy skin because the vitamin C in the flesh stimulates the production of collagen. Last but not least, litchis provide antioxidant protection against free radicals, reactive oxygen molecules which cause damage to cells and help in the prevention of chronic diseases.
Litchi contains small amounts of other essential nutrients such as folate, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin (B vitamins), potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus. Eating litchi thus contributes to a good overall health. Being juicy, lychee fruit add to our daily fluid intake, meaning they help us stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of juicy fruits helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids as well as dehydration during summertime, which can prove hazardous to our health.
Litchi is cholesterol-free and sodium-free, making it an excellent fruit for anyone suffering from cardiovascular problems, who is also on a strict, low-fat, low-sodium diet. Oligonol, a potent polyphenol found in litchi, adds to the health benefits of the fruit. Oligonol appears to reduce inflammation, thought to be the preliminary form of chronic disease. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and almost all forms of cancer have been linked to high inflammation levels.
Although the mechanisms have not yet been fully or even partially understood, it appears that keeping inflammation markers under control can prevent the installation of chronic disease. Litchi and other vitamin C-rich foods are ideal for reducing inflammation.
Also, preliminary research has found oligonol to significantly limit the spread of the flue virus, or at least of common flue virus strains and stimulate circulation. Moreover, due to its powerful antioxidant activity, this polyhenol in lychee is said to promote loss of fat around the belly area, called visceral fat. While having healthy thighs might not agree with you, most studies show that belly fat is hazardous because it wraps around your internal organs. Litchi is also a rich source of flavan-3-ols (flavans) and anthocyanins, other potent antioxidants which promote good overall health and offer antioxidant protection.
Overall, litchi is a deliciously-flavored and fragrant fruit with considerable health benefits. Although it is of moderate nutritional value, it is a valuable tool in the fight against modern disease. If accessible and not very pricey, it would make a great dessert for the entire family.