Rambutan Fruit: Benefits, Nutrition, How to Eat Rambutan And More

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Rambutan Fruit: Benefits, Nutrition, How to Eat Rambutan And More
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Rambutan is a red-skinned fruit with soft spikes that has a delicious taste similar to lychee. Peeling a rambutan fruit reveals a translucent flesh that tastes sweet and creamy with a hint of sourness. Rambutan fruit (also called “hairy fruit” or sea urchin fruit) is packed with vitamin C which makes it a very healthy fruit. Rambutan fruit also has a lot of fiber which makes it good for your digestive health.

Although you can safely eat the raw flesh of rambutan fruit, you should avoid the peel and seeds. Rambutan seeds contain a poisonous compound and are not recommended to eat. Even though some studies show that rambutan peel contains antioxidants, it is also not recommended to eat it.

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In this article, you will find out about the many benefits of tropical rambutan fruit. You will also learn about the best ways to eat this red hairy fruit.

What is Rambutan Fruit?

Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) is a tropical fruit that originates in Southeast Asia but also grows in other hot climates. The rambutan fruit is about the size of a golf ball and has a red skin with soft green/reddish spikes.

The rambutan is related to the lychee and its flesh has a similar taste and look. Rambutan fruit grows on a tree of the same name and the tree grows to between 50 and 80 ft (15-25 m) tall. Even when the fruits are young, they still have a “hairy” appearance. In fact, their name comes from the Malay word “rambut” which means “hairy.” (1)

Rambutan is also called Chom Chom fruit (meaning the “messy hair” fruit in Vietnamese) or the orangutan fruit. Because rambutan is also related to the longan fruit, some people call it a “furry longan.”

The average weight of one rambutan fruit is about 1 oz. or 28 grams, but can range from 22.4 to 34.7 g. (9)

How Rambutan fruit looks

From the outside, rambutan fruit looks like a sea urchin. Even though rambutan fruits have a spiky appearance, the spikes are more like hair than sharp thorns.

Although rambutan is described as a red fruit with spikes, the color of the peel can be various shades from pinkish-red to maroon or orange-yellow.

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After peeling away the hairy skin, you will find that the flesh looks creamy white, similar to how a lychee or pickled onion looks. Inside the white rambutan flesh, you will find a seed which should be discarded as it is toxic. Studies have also shown that the seeds can have a narcotic effect. (1)

What does rambutan taste like?

The flesh of rambutan fruit looks like a lychee and also tastes like a lychee. Some people describe the taste of rambutan fruit as sweet and creamy that is very juicy when you bite into it.

The texture and taste of fresh rambutan fruits is nothing like the kind you buy canned in the supermarket. Preserved rambutans from the can tend to be mushy and most of the taste is from the sweetened syrup. However, fresh rambutans straight from the tree have a crispy texture and a delicious natural sweet juicy taste.

Researchers say that rambutan fruits contain aromatic compounds that give the flesh a tropical aroma. The aromas of raw rambutans are fruity-sweet with spicy and woody overtones giving it an exotic aroma. (2)

How to Eat Rambutan

If you are fortunate enough to buy these sea urchin-looking fruits, you are no doubt anxious to eat them. You don’t have to worry about handling ripe rambutan fruits as the “spikes” are soft and “hairy.”

One of the ways to tell that a rambutan is good to eat is when the skin is a red, yellow, or orange color and the hairy spines are green. After picking, the fruit will stay fresh for about 2 weeks if kept in the refrigerator. The spikes will gradually turn black, after which, the fruit should still be good for a few days.

The best way to eat rambutan is to make an incision in the peel with a sharp knife along the middle of the fruit. Try not to cut the flesh when doing this. You can also use your thumbnail to split the peel. The skin is considered inedible and has a bitter taste that may leave an unpleasant aftertaste if you eat it.

Split the skin open to reveal a juicy-looking, translucent edible fruit that may resemble the shape of a small egg. Before eating the fruit, you need to remove the poisonous rambutan seeds. Cut through the flesh to the seed and try and pull it out. If you are able to cut out the inedible seed, just pop the fruit in your mouth and enjoy its tropical goodness.

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Some varieties of rambutan have edible flesh that sticks to the seed.  If you have the “clingstone” variety where you can’t cut out the seed, carefully bite off the flesh around the seed. The rambutan seed is covered with a papery coating. Or, you can pop the fruit into your mouth, eat the flesh and then spit the stone out at the end.

Rambutan Nutrition Facts

What is it about rambutan that makes this exotic “sea urchin fruit” so good for you?

Studies into the nutritional value of rambutan fruit show that it is rich in vitamin C. There are 36 grams of vitamin C in a 100 g of the fruit which is about 40% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). (3)

How many rambutan fruits would you need to consume to meet your vitamin C daily requirements? Research has found that eating 10-12 fruits gives you the recommended vitamin C amount. (3)

Rambutan fruits are also a good source of other vitamins and minerals. For example, 100 g of fresh rambutans have 20% of your copper RDI, 10% of manganese RDI, and also traces of magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. (3)

One of the many reasons to eat more ripe rambutans is that they are high in fiber. A 100-gram serving of rambutan fruits contains nearly 3 grams of fiber which is 11% of your daily fiber needs. Because this serving size only has 68 calories and few carbs, rambutans are a good fruit to eat if you want to lose weight. (4)

Although the rambutan peel and seed may contain some nutrients, they also contain toxins and are potentially harmful to health, especially if consumed in large doses. (5, 6)

Rambutan vs. Lychee: How to Tell the Difference Between Them

Rambutan and lychee belong to the same family, and there are some similarities when comparing rambutans with lychees. Both of them contain good amounts of vitamin C, with rambutans having a slight advantage.

Rambutans and lychees both have non-edible seeds that contain the toxin saponin.

Although rambutan and lychee look similar when their peels are removed, one of the main differences is in their visible appearance when it comes to the skin: Rambutans have a red spiky skin resembling a sea urchin whereas lychees look more like a strawberry with bumpy hard skin.

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Images of Rambutan and Lychee

rambutan and lychee

Rambutan and Lychee

Rambutan Fruit Health Benefits

Let’s look in more detail at why consuming fruits from the rambutan tree is good for you.

Rambutan Fruit Helps Strengthen Your Immune System

One of the health benefits of rambutans is that they help strengthen your body’s immunity due to high levels of vitamin C.

Consuming 5 or 6 rambutan fruits counts towards 50% of your daily vitamin C needs. Doctors say that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is necessary to increase the number of white blood cells that help you fight infections easier. (7)

Vitamin C in rambutan also boosts your immune system because it helps your body produce glutathione. This is one of the most important antioxidants you need to boost your body’s defenses. (8)

Apart from boosting your immune system with eating more rambutans, find out about other ways to reduce your chances of getting an infection, and which other foods and herbs can help you.

Rambutan Fruit is Good for Your Digestion

Eating more rambutan fruits benefits your digestive health because they contain fiber and water.

Eating 5 fresh rambutans gives you about 4 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber which is 12% of your RDI.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that dietary fiber is essential for good health and digestive habits. Getting enough fiber helps keep bowel movements regular and softens your stool. Fiber also helps to keep your bowels healthy and prevent various gastrointestinal diseases. (10)

Another reason why eating a few rambutan fruits promotes good digestive health is that they are a good source of fluid. Rambutan fruit consists of 82% water. (1)

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Doctors from the National Health Service say that water is necessary to aid digestion. Getting enough fluids and fiber from fruits such as rambutan helps prevent constipation. (11)

If you feel your digestion isn’t working as it should, try increasing the number of rambutans or other fiber-rich fruits in your diet. You can also learn about other natural ways to improve your digestive health and treat an upset stomach.

Rambutan Fruit Could Help You Lose Weight

Eating rambutan is good for you because this delicious tropical fruit promotes weight loss and can help maintain a healthy weight.

Of course, rambutan fruits aren’t unique in the fact that they may help you lose weight. The journal PLoS Medicine reports that increasing fruit and vegetable intake can help shed extra pounds of body weight. (12)

The main reasons why rambutans are good for helping to lose weight is their fiber and water content.

Various studies show that increasing fiber content has a positive effect on weight loss. Scientists warn that most Western diets are lacking in adequate amounts of fiber, and that each of us should be trying to increase our fiber intake to the recommended 25-30 grams a day. (13)

Fiber also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Foods that encourage feelings of satiety help prevent snacking which is another factor in helping to lose weight naturally. (14)

The fact that the weight of rambutan fruit is mostly water also keeps you hydrated which further benefits weight loss as is may prevent overeating. (15)

Rambutan fruits are also low in calories with each fruit having only 19 calories. You also get nearly a gram of fiber in each of these red spiky fruits.

If you want to lose weight, find out about some of the best foods that burn belly fat. You can also improve the effectiveness of any weight-loss program by walking more.

Other Potential Benefits of Rambutan Fruit

There are some other health benefits that rambutan fruit offers. It is good to remember that these other rambutan fruit health benefits are from peel extract or the seeds, however neither of these parts of the fruit are recommended to consume. These studies were done on rats or in laboratory conditions.

May promote good heart health

One study involving diabetic mice found that rambutan peel extracts could prevent heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels. (16)

Could help manage diabetes symptoms

Extracts from rambutan seeds and peel have shown to have potential use for treating some diabetes symptoms. Rambutan extracts are high in antioxidants that can help to manage blood glucose levels. (17, 18)

Rambutan skin and seeds might have anticancer properties

Laboratory trials have found that rambutan seed extracts can help to inhibit the growth of tumorous cells. Other studies have found that peel extracts from rambutan fruits have powerful antioxidants. (19, 20)

Rambutan Side Effects and Potential Risks

The raw flesh of rambutan fruits is very healthy for you because they contain good amounts of vitamin C and fiber. Most of the side effects of consuming rambutan come from the peel or seeds.

As studies in this article have shown, the rambutan peel and seeds contain toxic compounds and shouldn’t be consumed.

Where Can You Find Rambutan?

Depending on where you live, some supermarkets stock fresh rambutans where you may find them in the exotic fruit sections. You may also find rambutans in Asian markets or stores selling fruits and vegetables.

If you can’t find these spiky red fruits locally, then some online stores sell rambutans.

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