by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Although only a tad bit bigger than an olive, the kumquat manages to provide a powerful punch of nutrients. Hailing from the same family of plants as the orange, kumquats are one of the best sources of vitamin C and fiber that you can get in your diet.
It also has a very unique taste and can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways. Sweet on the outside yet sour in the middle, a few wedges of this delicious fruit can spice up everything from main dishes to marmalades and beyond. Plus, it’s the only citrus fruit that requires zero effort — just rinse it off and enjoy, no peeling required.
Need a few more reasons to grab this delicious fruit next time you’re at the grocery store? Keep on reading to find out more about the kumquat fruit.
What Is a Kumquat?
The kumquat, also sometimes called cumquat, is a type of tree that belongs to the citrus family of plants and is native to south Asia. The kumquat tree produces a small fruit that resembles a small orange. The fruit is oval-shaped with the same vibrant color as an orange, and the kumquat size is typically just a little over an inch long.
Many describe the kumquat taste as very sour and slightly sweet. This is because, unlike other citrus fruits, kumquats can be consumed with the skin. Although the pulp has a distinctly sour flavor, the skin actually provides an extra dose of sweetness. In addition to consuming this tasty fruit as is, it also makes a great addition to marmalades, salads and baked goods.
Plus, not only does the kumquat taste delicious, but it’s also been associated with a wide range of health benefits. Rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, the kumquat may help increase weight loss, enhance immunity and promote digestive health, giving you all the more reason to give this tasty citrus fruit a try.
5 Kumquat Benefits
- Rich in Antioxidants
- Boosts Immunity
- Supports Digestive Health
- Aids in Weight Loss
- Associated with Lower Cancer Risk
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, preventing oxidative damage to the cells and decreasing the risk of chronic disease. Antioxidants also play a central role in health, with some research showing that free radicals could be involved in the development of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and autoimmune disease. (1)
Kumquats are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants that can help promote better health. Additionally, kumquats are also the only citrus fruit that can be consumed with the peel, which contains an even more concentrated amount of antioxidants than the pulp. (2) Consuming a serving or two per day can help ward off disease and improve overall health.
2. Boosts Immunity
Like other citrus fruits, kumquats are loaded with vitamin C, an important nutrient that brings some big benefits when it comes to boosting immunity. In fact, one study conducted in Switzerland showed that getting enough vitamin C could help improve the outcomes for conditions such as diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia. Plus, vitamin C was able to improve symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory infections, such as the cold, as well. (3)
Kumquats are also rich in antioxidants, which can prevent the buildup of free radicals to reduce the risk of chronic disease. According to a review published in Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, dietary antioxidants can also improve immune function and protect against infections caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites to help maximize your health. (4)
3. Supports Digestive Health
One of the biggest kumquat benefits is its impressive fiber content. Fiber helps add bulk to the stool to keep you regular and prevent problems like constipation. Fiber may also benefit other aspects of digestive health as well, with some research showing that it could protect against inflammatory bowel disease and prevent intestinal ulcers. (5, 6) Not only that, but some studies have also found that a high-fiber diet is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer as well. (7)
With a whopping 6.5 grams of fiber per serving, kumquats top the charts as one of the best high-fiber foods available. Include a serving or two in your daily diet along with other fiber-rich foods to keep your digestive system running smoothly.
4. Aids in Weight Loss
Kumquats are low in calories yet high in fiber, making them an excellent addition to a weight loss diet. In fact, a single serving of kumquats can meet up to 26 percent of your daily fiber requirements and provides just 71 calories. Fiber moves slowly through the body undigested, helping to slow the emptying of the stomach and keep you feeling fuller for longer to reduce food intake and help you lose weight fast. (8)
Adding kumquat to your diet is an easy way to curb cravings and boost weight loss. Try swapping out high-calorie snacks for a serving of kumquats or sprinkling sliced wedges over your salads to bump up the fiber content and help the pounds slide off.
5. Associated with Lower Cancer Risk
Thanks to their incredible antioxidant content, it’s no wonder that eating citrus fruits like the kumquat has been associated with a lower risk of cancer. In fact, citrus fruits like kumquats, oranges, lemons and limes are often considered some of the top cancer-fighting foods that you can add to your diet.
According to one study out of Korea, frequent consumption of citrus fruits was linked with a 10 percent lower risk of breast cancer. (9) Other studies have had similar findings, showing that eating citrus fruits has been associated with a lower risk of pancreatic, esophageal and stomach cancer as well. (10, 11, 12)
The kumquat is a very nutrient-dense food, meaning that it packs in plenty of vitamins and minerals for a low amount of calories. In particular, kumquats are very high in fiber and vitamin C, but they also contain a good amount of manganese, calcium and vitamin A.
100 grams of kumquat (or about five small fruits) contains approximately: (13)
- 71 calories
- 15.9 grams carbohydrates
- 1.9 grams protein
- 0.9 gram fat
- 6.5 grams dietary fiber
- 43.9 milligrams vitamin C (73 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (7 percent DV)
- 62 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
- 290 international units vitamin A (6 percent DV)
- 186 milligrams potassium (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (5 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligram iron (5 percent DV)
- 20 milligrams magnesium (5 percent DV)
- 17 micrograms folate (4 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, kumquats also contain a small amount of pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and niacin.
Kumquat in Ayurveda and TCM
Citrus fruits like the kumquat are used extensively throughout holistic medicine practices, such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks to their health-promoting properties and impressive nutrient profile, they are considered an invaluable part of the diet and are often used to treat a variety of ailments.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kumquat is thought to help relieve coughing and remove phlegm from the throat. It is also believed to reduce cold symptoms and soothe sore throats, which is why it’s often made into a delicious and flavorful tea to provide relief.
The Ayurvedic diet, meanwhile, promotes eating seasonally, so it’s best to enjoy kumquats between November and March when they’re at their peak. Like other citrus fruits, the kumquat is considered refreshing, alkalizing and highly nutritive. It’s also thought to aid in detoxification, promote proper hydration and stimulate the production of saliva.
Kumquat vs. Loquat vs. Orange
Kumquats and oranges are both considered citrus fruits and belong to the Rutaceae family of plants. There are several different varieties of oranges available, ranging from blood oranges to navel oranges and common oranges. They certainly share some similarities in terms of appearance but are consumed differently. Although the peel of the orange is sometimes grated to make orange zest or used to produce essential oils, such as neroli essential oil, it’s not commonly consumed alongside the fruit. When you eat kumquats, on the other hand, it’s actually recommended to eat the peel as well to add a bit of sweetness and extra fiber.
The loquat, meanwhile, is a type of fruit that comes from a flowering shrub or tree. Much like the kumquat, loquats are oval-shaped and range in color from yellow to orange. However, they actually belong to the rose family of plants and are more closely related to strawberries and pears than kumquats.
In terms of nutrition, kumquats are the highest in calories but are also significantly higher in fiber as well, and while both kumquats and oranges are rich sources of vitamin C, loquats are actually higher in vitamin A. All three, however, can be included and enjoyed in moderation as part of a well-balanced and healthy diet.
Where to Find and How to Use Kumquats + Kumquat Recipes
Wondering where to buy kumquats? The kumquat season runs from November to March, and depending on where you live, you may be able to find this fruit in the produce section of your local grocery store during these months. Kumquats can also often be found at farmers markets and online retailers as well.
Unlike other citrus fruits, kumquats can be consumed as is, skin and all. Many people actually recommend cutting the kumquat open first and then squeezing out some of the juice before eating it to reduce the sourness.
Kumquats can also be added to your favorite recipes, from main courses to desserts and beyond. In fact, kumquats can bring a burst of nutrients to salads and can perfectly complement savory meat dishes. Many people also sprinkle it with a bit of sugar or use it to make kumquat marmalade for a tangy topping for sweet dishes.
Looking for a few new ideas for how to eat kumquat? Here are a few delicious recipes that you can try at home to take advantage of the many benefits that this citrus fruit has to offer:
- Kumquat Tagine
- Kumquat Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
- Basil Chicken with Kumquats
- Kumquat Vanilla Marmalade
- Kumquat Kale Salad
The kumquat tree is native to south Asia but has been cultivated in many areas, such as India, Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, throughout history. The earliest mention of the kumquat fruit can be traced all the way back to the 12th century in China.
The fruit wasn’t actually introduced to Europe, though, until 1846 by Scottish botanist Robert Fortune, the same scientist who was also credited with stealing the tea plant from China and bringing it to India on behalf of the British East India Co.
Interestingly enough, the fruit was considered part of the citrus family until 1915, when a new system of taxonomy placed the kumquat in its own genus, Fortunella. However, recent research shows that the kumquat does, in fact, belong to the citrus family, giving them their scientific name, Citrus japonica.
Although safe for most people, allergic reactions to citrus fruits have been reported. If you experience any food allergy symptoms, such as hives, redness, itching or swelling, discontinue use immediately and consult with your doctor.
Additionally, kumquats are very high in fiber. While this is definitely beneficial in terms of health, increasing your fiber intake too quickly can lead to unwanted side effects, such as bloating, cramps and diarrhea. Be sure to increase your intake gradually and drink plenty of water to assess your tolerance and reduce the risk of side effects. If adverse symptoms do occur, you may want to consider decreasing your intake.
- The kumquat plant is a type of tree that belongs to the citrus family of plants. It produces an oval-shaped orange fruit that looks similar to a small orange.
- Unlike other citrus fruit, the kumquat can be consumed with the skin, giving it a very distinct sour yet sweet flavor.
- Kumquats are low in calories yet high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Including this fruit in your diet can aid in weight loss, improve digestive health and boost immune function. Regular consumption of citrus fruits like the kumquat has also been associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer.
- Kumquats can be easily incorporated into a health-promoting diet. Eat them as is for a healthy snack, or add them to salads, savory dishes and desserts for an extra zip of flavor and nutrients.
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