Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Many people from the Western part of the world are unfamiliar with the rambutan fruit, as it is native to Malaysia.1 It is primarily known for its similarities with the lychee and the longan fruit, particularly its transparent-whitish flesh and the seed in the middle. This is because all three are actually close relatives.2
Although they are similar, the outer cover or shell is what sets these three fruits apart. The rambutan fruit can be easily identified because of its green and red spikes that resemble hair, which is interesting because the name “Rambutan” comes from the Malay word for “hair.”3
The rambutan tree usually grows up to about 80 feet in height and thrives in tropical climates, mostly in Asia where these fruits are abundant. This plant has also been cultivated in different parts of the globe, such as Australia and Central America.4
Rambutan Versus Lychee: How to Distinguish These Fruits
Although rambutan and lychee come from the same family, there are distinct differences when it comes to their composition and nutritional content. Lychee has bumpy skin and the rambutan has a spiky appearance.
In terms of nutrients, lychee contains dietary fiber and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins D and C. It also contains oligonol, a polyphenol that helps in improving a person’s endurance and immunity.
Rambutan, on the other hand, is higher in dietary fiber compared to lychee. While rambutan does not contain oligonol, it boasts a high amount of iron, which can help lower the risk of anemia and gastrointestinal bleeding.5
When discussing flavor, some say that rambutan tastes blander and denser than lychee, while others claim that rambutan tastes similar or sweeter.6 Nevertheless, both of these fruits exude a sweet aroma and an even sweeter taste.
While lychee and rambutan may look alike when their outer skins are removed, they have distinct differences, which make the playing ground quite equal in terms of their health benefits.
Uses of the Rambutan Fruit and Plant
Rambutan’s uses don’t necessarily focus on the fruit alone, as the tree itself is useful in different ways. Here are some examples:
•Rambutan leaves can be used for basic hair care. Mash the leaves into a paste, add water and squeeze the extract. Apply the extract to your hair and scalp. This may promote better hair health.7
The leaves can be used to treat fever as well. Boil a few leaves in three glasses of water, and then strain. Drink this concoction three times a day to help your body recover. The leaves may also work for relieving headaches. Mash them and apply on your temples to help with migraines.8
•Rambutan seeds can help promote skin health. Mash the seeds into a paste and apply on your skin to achieve a clearer and a more even-looking complexion. Using the paste regularly may help your skin become softer and healthier in the long run.9
The seeds may also help diabetics, according to a news report published in the New Straits Times. Take the seeds, chop them into small pieces and allowed to dry for a few days. Grind the seeds into a fine powder and mix them with hot water. Drink once to thrice a day, before meals. This can help you maintain your blood sugar at healthy levels.10
Health Benefits of Rambutan
The rambutan fruit is a conglomeration of vitamins and minerals, all encased in a sweet and juicy little package. Despite its small size, it actually packs a considerable amount of vitamin C (40 milligrams11), which is important for helping keep your immune system healthy.12
It is also a good source of copper. Even though the body needs only a limited amount of it in the system, copper works together with iron in keeping your blood vessels, immune system, bones and the production of red blood cells at peak condition.13
Rambutan is also a good source of iron,14 which is why ingesting this fruit is especially useful for the maintenance and the production of red blood cells.15
Other rambutan fruit benefits include:
- Promotes healthy digestion — The high fiber content of rambutan aids in food metabolism, preventing constipation. Rambutan is also low in calories, which helps promote weight loss and restrain sudden hunger pangs.16
- Wards off pathogens — Rambutan is famous for its antiseptic properties that help the body fight off infections. The fruit also contains high amounts of antioxidants that may help kill microbes and reduce the risk of cancer.17
- Kills intestinal parasites — One study indicates that rambutan seeds have antibacterial properties, which may help eliminate parasits in your stomach.18 However, note that the seeds must be roasted or boiled before it is fit for human consumption.19
- Promotes bone formation — Rambutan’s phosphorus content is responsible for this., Phosphorus also helps in energy production and storage.20
- Helps scavenge free radicals — The rambutan rind contains a high amount of gallic acid, which functions as a free radical scavenger. This compound help may help reduce the risk of cancer and further oxidative damage.21
Tips in Growing Rambutan
Location and temperature are two things that should be taken into consideration if you’re planning to grow your own rambutan tree. Rambutan cultivation is not an easy task because of its sensitivity to temperature and humidity, since it’s primarily a tropical fruit.
Florida and California are among the best states where you can grow rambutan because of their warm climate, but you should still note that sudden dips in temperature may have an effect on its growth.22
If you’re planning on growing rambutan from seed, get a small pot with drainage holes, soil mixed with sand and organic compost. Cover the seed lightly with soil and wait 10 to 21 days for it to germinate. Because of its fragility, the tree should be kept indoors for about two years before it is ready to be transplanted outside.
Be very careful when planting rambutan because exposure to low temperatures for long amounts of time can be fatal.23 Keep these requirements in check and you’ll be a happy owner of a rambutan tree.
How to Eat Rambutan Properly
Rambutan fruits are usually eaten raw, sometimes freshly picked from the tree. Simply remove the skin by lightly pinching the fruit until the peel breaks in the middle. Discard the peel and eat around the seed in the middle. You can also use a knife to separate the flesh from the seed.24
Rambutan Nutrition Facts
This fruit offers a wide variety of nutrients that could help your body maintain or improve its performance. The table below shows the nutritional value of rambutan:25,26
|Calories from Fat||2.7|
|Total Fat||0 g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrates||16 g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber||2.8 g||11%|
|Vitamin B11%||Vitamin C||66%|
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Rambutan Healthy Recipes: Summer Rambutan Curry
Rambutan can also be added to recipes to give them a hint of tropical sweetness. It’s even incorporated into traditional desserts like gelatos and pudding. In fact, rambutan recipes have become more complex over the years, as the fruit became more known throughout the world. Here is a recipe from Jake Cohen, which incorporates rambutan into curry, an age-old dish many people love:27
|1 teaspoon ground turmeric||1 2-inch piece galangal root, peeled and thinly sliced||2 1?2 cups coconut milk||Cilantro leaves, to garnish|
|4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped||8 rambutan||2 cups homemade chicken broth||Lime wedges, for serving|
|4 kaffir lime leaves, torn||2 tablespoons coconut oil||1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced on a bias||3 red Thai chiles, stemmed|
|1?2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes||1tablespoon fish sauce||1 stalk lemongrass, smashed, fibrous outer layers removed, and inner core thinly sliced||1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced|
|2 teaspoons honey|
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, lime leaves, chiles, lemongrass and galangal with the turmeric until a coarse curry paste is formed.
- With a small paring knife, halve the rambutans and peel away their outer shell. Separate the soft flesh from the seed, avoiding the papery skin that surrounds it, and place the flesh in a bowl.
- In a 6-quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the pineapple and cook, stirring until slightly caramelized, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pineapple to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and then add the onions. Cook, stirring until golden brown for four minutes. Add the curry paste, and keep stirring until fragrant, about two minutes more.
- Pour in the coconut milk and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, stirring until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken, and continue to simmer until the meat is cooked through, about eight minutes. Add the reserved pineapple and rambutan, and cook until the fruit is warmed through, about two minutes.
- Remove the curry from the heat, and stir in the fish sauce and honey. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately with the lime wedges and brown rice.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Rambutan
Although not everyone may be familiar with rambutan, it is loved by many for its sweet flavor. While it may seem like a good alternative to processed sugary treats, remember that excessive consumption of rambutan may also have adverse effects on your health. Rambutan contains fructose, which can promote insulin resistance and cause a wide array of negative effects. Make sure to eat rambutan in moderation, so you will receive the benefits it offers without risking your health.
- 1,3,16 “In Fruits of Warm Climates” 1987
- 2,6 Huffpost, January 30, 2014
- 4,22,23 Gardening Know How, “Rambutan Growing Tips: Learn About Rambutan Tree Care”
- 5 World Journal of Gastroenterology, 2010 June 14;16(22):2720-2725
- 7,8,9 Style Craze, December 22, 2017
- 10 New Straits Times, April 19, 2015
- 11,13,26 Heal With Food, “Rambutan Fruit: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits and Culinary Uses”
- 12 Medizinische Monatsschrift fur Pharmazeuten, 2009 Feb;32(2):49-54
- 14 ”I Love Superfood Smoothies: With Over 100 Fast, Delicious and Healthy Recipes” April 19, 2016
- 15 University of California San Francisco, “Hemoglobin and Functions of Iron”
- 17 Annual Research & Review in Biology, 2014;4(24):3869-3874
- 18 Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, 2013 June;13(2):149-157
- 19 International Journal of Food Properties, 2018;21(1):1091-1106
- 20 Oregon State University, “Phosphorus”
- 21 Antioxidants, 2014 June;3(2):371-386
- 24 Rambutan.com
- 25 SELFNutritionData, “Rambutan, Raw”
- 27 Saveur, July 9, 2015
Originally published at mercola.com and reproduced here with permission.
About the author:
Born and raised in the inner city of Chicago, IL, Dr. Joseph Mercola is an osteopathic physician trained in both traditional and natural medicine. Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Mercola served as the chairman of the family medicine department at St. Alexius Medical Center for five years, and in 2012 was granted fellowship status by the American College of Nutrition (ACN).
While in practice in the late 80s, Dr. Mercola realized the drugs he was prescribing to chronically ill patients were not working. By the early 90s, he began exploring the world of natural medicine, and soon changed the way he practiced medicine.
In 1997 Dr. Mercola founded Mercola.com, which is now routinely among the top 10 health sites on the internet. His passion is to transform the traditional medical paradigm in the United States. “The existing medical establishment is responsible for killing and permanently injuring millions of Americans… You want practical health solutions without the hype, and that’s what I offer.”
Visit Mercola.com for more information, or read Dr. Mercola’s full bio and resumé here.