A story has it that Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to man.” He described the fruit as “deliciousness itself.”
That’s pretty high praise for a fruit that’s up against mangoes, peaches, cherries and many more.
These pricey fruits aren’t very common in American households, but they are touted for their unique flavor and potential health benefits. Cherimoya is similar to soursop, as they are both members of the Annonaceae family, but cherimoya features more flesh for its size.
So if you want to try a new food and mix up your everyday fruit salad or yogurt parfait, consider giving sweet and smooth cherimoya a try.
What Is Cherimoya?
Cherimoya fruit (Annona cherimola) is a sweet tropical fruit that’s native to valleys of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. Today, Spain is the world’s largest producer of cherimoya, which is also called custard apple and anona fruta, but it’s also cultivated in areas including the Mediterranean regions.
It belongs to the same family as pawpaw fruit and sugar apple. Cherimoya literally means “cold seeds,” and its fruit has been used traditionally for the treatment of several health issues.
The fruit looks much like a green pinecone, and they are usually heart-shaped. When you cut the fruit open, it has white, juicy flesh and inedible black seeds.
Researchers found that different parts of the fruit possess an interesting phytochemical profile, with a high content of polyphenols and alkaloids. Not only is the flesh of the fruit consumed for its sweet flavor and beneficial properties, but the leaves are a source of bioactive compounds, which is why they were used in traditional medicine preparation and folk teas for the treatment of eye diseases, heart problems, skin issues and digestive complaints.
1. Provides Antioxidants
Custard apple contains antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C and kaurenoic acid. Although the peel of the fruit is made up of antioxidants, you should avoid eating the peel.
The flesh of the fruit has beneficial compounds that can help fight oxidative stress that leads to a range of health problems.
Research shows that flavonoids, for example, lower cardiovascular mortality rate and help prevent cardiovascular disease. They also have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects.
This goes for all antioxidants that we consume from our diets.
2. Rich in Fiber
This fruit is a good source of soluble fiber, so it can aid digestive issues and make you feel full longer. Soluble fiber adds bulk to stool, which helps it move through your digestive tract.
There’s plenty of research indicating that dietary fiber is a key component in healthy eating. As a bonus, the fiber found in cherimoya is actually fermentable and helps positively change the gastrointestinal tract flora.
Beyond that, we know that consuming fiber helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and more.
3. Fights Inflammation
Cherimoya contains several anti-inflammatory compounds, such as kaurenoic acid. When rats were treated with kaurenoic acid, researchers found that it improved symptoms of colitis, including mucosal damage and inflammatory cell infiltration.
Custard apple also contains anti-inflammatory carotenoids and flavonoids that help promote overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
4. Promotes Immune System Health
Custard apple provides vitamin C, a nutrient that’s linked to immune system function. The fruit of one cherimoya contains about 60 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, making it an excellent way to consume antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
5. Supports Eye Health
Because cherimoya contains the carotenoid called lutein, it may help to support eye health. Lutein has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s known to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease, which is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment.
Lutein may also help reduce eye fatigue, glare and light sensitivity. Is works to strengthen eye tissue, and it helps make vision more acute.
6. Provides Vitamin B6
Cherimoya is a good source of vitamin B6, which helps maintain healthy blood vessels, support brain function, regulate sleep cycles and reduce blood pressure.
Studies show that vitamin B6 deficiency can cause issues with memory function and cognitive health. Maintaining normal vitamin B6 levels is also important for your mood and ability to focus.
7. Boosts Heart Health
Cherimoya contains a number of compounds that help promote heart health. These include antioxidants like carotenoids, micronutrients like potassium and magnesium, and dietary fiber.
Research shows that potassium intake, for example, reduces high blood pressure in people with hypertension, and it’s associated with a 24 percent lower risk of stroke.
Cherimoya benefits come from the fruit’s antioxidant, fiber and micronutrient content. It comes anti-inflammatory properties and nutrients that are important for cardiovascular, digestive and cognitive health.
One cherimoya fruit, eaten raw without the skin or seeds, contains approximately the following:
- 231 calories
- 55.2 grams carbohydrates
- 5.1 grams protein
- 1.9 grams fat
- 7.2 grams fiber
- 35.9 milligrams vitamin C (60 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligrams vitamin B6 (33 percent DV)
- 839 milligrams potassium (24 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams riboflavin (22 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams thiamine (19 percent DV)
- 56.2 micrograms folate (14 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams manganese (13 percent DV)
- 49.9 milligrams magnesium (12 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams copper (11 percent DV)
- 1.8 milligrams niacin (9 percent DV)
- 81.1 milligrams phosphorus (8 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligrams pantothenic acid (7 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligrams iron (5 percent DV)
Risks and Side Effects
Although there are several potential health benefits of cherimoya, the fruit shouldn’t be consumed in high amounts. While the flesh of the fruit is safe in normal amounts, cherimoya seeds and the peel contain higher amounts of annonacin, a toxin that’s present in some fruits in the Annona species.
There is some research suggesting that annonacin consumption may be implicated in Parkinson’s disease. The toxin appears to affect the central nervous system.
It’s safe to eat the flesh of the fruit, but to avoid dangerous exposure to annonacin, make sure to remove the seeds — and don’t eat the skin.
How to Eat (Recipes)
Cherimoya is often called custard apple because of its creamy texture and sweet flavor. When it’s perfectly ripe, it can be scooped and eaten with a spoon, just like custard.
You know a cherimoya is ripe when it has a little give as you push into it. If it doesn’t feel ripe yet, wait a few days before eating it. You wan’t the flesh to be soft and juicy.
After opening the fruit with a knife, take out the seeds. Then scoop out the flesh or cut it into slices.
It can be eaten alone as a sweet treat or snack or added to recipes that call for fruit.
Try adding cherimoya to:
- fruit salad
- yogurt parfait
- smoothie bowl (like this Coconut Yogurt Chia Seed Smoothie Bowl)
- Overnight oats
- Baked oatmeal (like this Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal)
- pie filling
- Cherimoya is a heart-shaped fruit that looks like a pine cone but has a creamy, white flesh. It’s a soft, sweet fruit that’s often called custard apple.
- The fruit is rich in nutrients, including a range of antioxidants (like vitamin C), fiber and B vitamins. It’s touted for its anti-inflammatory, mood-boosting and heart-protecting effects.
- To eat cherimoya, simply scoop out the flesh and eat it alone or as a topping in yogurt, oatmeal or fruit salad.