If you’ve ever visited Mexico, Central or South America, you may have been introduced to a delicious little fruit called the guava. Native to those regions, the guava is a very popular fruit, with a number of valuable health benefits.
Guavas are known for their sweet and tangy flavor and many uses, but there’s much more to this fruit than meets the eye. Many consider it a “magical” fruit because of its array of nutrients and medicinal uses. Recently dubbed “the ultimate superfood”, this tropical fruit is considered one of the top antioxidant foods, with loads of vitamin C, vitamin A and lycopene.
Aside from being a great snack when eaten raw, guava flesh can also be used as a cooking and baking ingredient. Its leaves, seeds, and even skin can also be eaten or used medicinally.
Today, the guava is grown in warm, tropical climates all over the world. Guava trees are gregarious and tend to grow easily and freely; often overgrowing pastures and fields. So much so, that most of the world’s commercial supply of guava comes from the wild. In countries where it is produced, it tends to be inexpensive due to its availability. It’s truly a food of the people.
Guava Nutrition Benefits
Guavas are low in calories and are incredible sources of vitamin C, lycopene, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber.
100 grams of guava fruit contains the following (1):
- 68 calories
- 14.3 grams carbohydrate
- 2.6 grams protein
- 228.3 milligrams vitamin C (381 percent DV)
- 5.2 milligrams lycopene ( 52 percent DV)
- 5.4 grams fiber (21.6 percent DV)
- 624 IU vitamin A (12.5 percent DV)
- 49 microgram folate (12.3 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram copper (11.5 percent DV)
- 417 milligrams potassium (8.8 percent DV)
- 22 milligrams magnesium (5.5 percent DV)
- 40 milligrams phosphorus (4 percent DV)
Health Benefits of Guava Fruit
Guava can be eaten whole, as the seeds, skin and flesh are all edible. Each part contains essential nutrients for optimum health.
Traditional folk medicine also used parts of the guava plant to make things like guava leaf tea and extracts to use medicinally. Many of the folk recipes and treatments have been proven to be successful today. Here are specific health benefits based on how the guava fruit is used or consumed. (2)
5 Benefits When Eaten:
1. Boosts the Immune System
Surprisingly, a serving of guava provides over 350 percent (!) of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, making it one of the best vitamin C foods. As a matter of fact, guava provides substantially more than an equal serving of oranges (87 percent DV).
Vitamin C has long been known for its immune system boosting benefits. As with other water-soluble vitamins, vitamin C does not get stored in the body, so it’s imperative to reach the dietary goals to maintain the supply. An adequate level of vitamin C in the body can ensure the vitality of a number of body functions, including the immune system.
Vitamin C helps in the prevention of cell damage thanks to its antioxidant qualities, which in turn helps prevent many diseases, even serious disorders like heart disease, arthritis and cancer. A 2012 study in Pakistan concluded that fully ripe guava had the most concentrated contents of vitamin C, so it’s best to enjoy the mature fruit to get the best levels. (3)
2. Great Source of Potassium for Lowering Blood Pressure
Thanks to its high potassium levels, guava fruit has been proven to naturally lower blood pressure and blood lipids. (4) Potassium is one of the most important minerals in the human body, for it’s an electrolyte and combats the negative effects of too much sodium, a common feature of the Western diet. High sodium intake leads to heightened blood pressure and, ultimately, heart disease.
In fact, potassium is crucial for healthy heart function. (5) It also plays a part in reducing kidney stones, risk of stroke and bone loss. (6) Just a few key reasons to get guava in your diet to avoid low potassium levels.
3. Great Source of Heart-Healthy Fiber
Guava fruit is one of the best high-fiber foods, for it offers over 20 percent of your daily value of fiber (even more if the skin is consumed) and is considered a great source of antioxidant dietary fiber by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Guava seeds are also edible and are packed with fiber.
Although most people associate fiber with digestive health and treatment, fiber can do so much more. Because fiber helps to remove fats, sugars, bacteria and other toxins out of the body, it can help prevent diabetes and heart disease by lowering blood pressure, as well as prevent or reduce diverticulitis and constipation. Because fiber makes us full faster, eating guava fruit can also be a useful weight loss tool.
4. More Powerful Antioxidants Than Almost Any Other Fruit
In 2011, a study by Hyderabad’s National Institute of Nutrition in India, investigated the antioxidant characteristics of a number of Indian fruits including apples, bananas, grapes and more. The study concluded that guava fruit packed the biggest antioxidant punch when compared to other fruit (7). Antioxidants are powerful tools in preventing free radicals from damaging cells and developing diseases.
The study was a revelation in India, where the fruit is considered a “poor man’s food.” If you are looking for the fullest range of guava’s antioxidant free-radical scavenging, the Pakistani study mentioned earlier recommends consuming an unripe fruit.
5. Prevent and Treat Cancer
Lycopene is also a powerful antioxidant, and there is a lot of it available in guava. One serving provides over half of your daily supply of lycopene. Known more commonly for being a beneficial ingredient in the nutrition-rich tomato, lycopene is available in many forms. It has a strong and proven reputation as a cancer fighter, due to its ability to inhibit the growth of multiple types of cancer cells (8).
Studies have proven inverse relationships between increased levels of lycopene and the risk of prostate cancer (9, 10). There has also been positive studies showing that diets containing lycopene can slow the progression of cancer (11). And if a natural cancer treatment wasn’t good enough, lycopene has recently been linked to protection from stroke (12).
Benefits from Leaves (Tea and Extracts):
Guava leaves can be used in multiple ways. The most common is by drying the leaves for tea, using the leaves to make an extract, or by simply chewing on them.
1. Treat and Prevent Diabetes
Guava leaf has long been used in traditional folk medicine to reverse diabetes naturally and, specifically, treat type 2 diabetes in East Asia (13). Aside from the fruit being an overall healthy snack for diabetics, guava leaf extract can lower glucose levels in the blood and fight against type 2 diabetes (14). Drinking guava leaf tea can benefit diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals, as it can improve diabetes symptoms and insulin resistance (15).
2. Prevention of Gastroenteritis and Diarrhea
Guava leaf extract, tea or essential oil has shown outstanding results in treating infectious diarrhea (16, 17, 18). This method has been used in rural communities all over the world to treat gastrointestinal infections and illnesses and is successful in part because of the plant’s astringency.
There is not a definitive reason for why guava leaf can prevent and treat these issues, but it most likely has to do with guava’s antimicrobial and antibacterial capabilities (19).
Guava leaf extract has anti-inflammatory qualities thanks to flavonoids (also an antioxidant) contained in the leaves (20). Inflammation is at the core of most illness and disease, and including foods and supplements that work as anti-inflammatories helps to keep body systems working properly.
4. Prevent Fatty Buildup in Arteries
Because of guava leaf’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidative qualities, it’s a strong fighter against atherogenesis (fatty deposits and degeneration of arteries). The tea leaves inhibit an enzyme responsible for the onset of atherogenesis (21). This condition can lead to numerous other cardiovascular issues.
5. Antimicrobial and Antibacterial
Thanks to guava’s extensive flavonoids, guava leaves have proven to be antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial when up against a number of invaders. A study in 2010 explained that the traditional uses for guava leaf are valid and successful as treatment for illness such as cough, diarrhea, oral ulcers and inflamed gums (22).
Other studies have shown successful examples of antibacterial activity from the guava leaf in cases of bacteria-caused diarrhea, where antibiotics may not have been available (23). In folk medicine, guava leaves were even crushed and used on open wounds and ulcers.
Purchasing and Preparing Guava
Guava can be found at most major grocery stores in the fruit section. You will find that guava come in a variety of shapes and colors, ranging from round to oval, green to yellow, pink to dark red. It’s recommended guava be selected like a pear: firm but slightly squishy. They are typically sold when they are still very firm, so ripening at home for a few days after purchase may be necessary. Make sure to wash the outer skin of the guava if you plan to eat it.
The best part about guava is that along with it being available at your local grocery store, you can even grow a tree in a pot in your home. When grown from seed, the plant will produce fruit in as little as two years and continue for up to 40!
Guava can be prepared in many ways:
- Dried snacks
- Fruit bars
- In a salad
- Jams & jellies
- Made into a rich paste and turned to cheese
Recipes made with guavas:
History and Interesting Facts
Although the guava’s origins are uncertain, it is believed to have developed in an area in Southern Mexico and into Central America. In the 1800s, Early Spanish and Portuguese colonials carried it the East Indies (East Asia), and it only took a short time for the plant to reach most of the tropical regions of the world.
The guava tree is very unusual. If grown on a pasture, they tend to overcrowd and overgrow as they reach heights of 30 feet or more. The plant can live decades, producing fruit once or twice a year.
Potential Side Effects
There are no known side effects when guava fruit is eaten as a food. When used as medicine (in larger amounts), the only potential dangers are to pregnant or nursing women. There is not sufficient evidence to ensure safety.
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