Health Benefits of Litchi (Lychee)
“The one who gifts the pleasures of life” (English translation of the Chinese phrase ‘Lee Chee’)
The litchi (Litchi Chinensis Sonn) is a subtropical fruit belonging to the soapberry family, originating in South China. The fruit, red in color, has a rough and bumpy skin, which, upon peeling, exposes the crisp juicy flesh which is “white or slightly pink in color; translucent and glossy, having a floral smell and a fragrant sweet flavor”.
NUTRITIONAL FACTS AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF LYCHEES
|Nutrient Value||RDA %|
|Dietary Fiber||1.3 g||3.5%|
|Vitamin C||71.5 mg||11.9%|
Nutritional value of litchi per 100 gm serving (Source: USDA)
The litchi fruit is a fundamental and essential part of Traditional Chinese medicine. It is a rich source of Vitamin-C, Potassium, Calcium, magnesium and copper. In the Chinese book, ‘Fruits as Medicine’, the health benefits of litchi fruit are described as “the nature of the flesh is warm and it can help improve the blood”.
Recent studies by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute suggest that the pulp of the litchi could “inhibit the growth of cancer cells” in experimental animals. The powerful antioxidants, Quercetin and Kaempferol, found in abundance in the pulp of this fruit is thought to have cancer preventive properties, is useful in preventing heart diseases, and also has anti inflammatory and anti histamine properties which help control asthma and allergies. The phytochemical, Kaempferol, is particularly useful in neutralizing harmful free radicals which prevent oxidative damage to the DNA cells.
Vitamin B Complex:
The litchi fruit contains a number of B Vitamins, including Thiamine, Niacin and Folates, which play a vital role in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates; thereby helping to sustain a healthy nervous system and enhanced brain functions, and also helps in rejuvenation of skin, hair and nails. (Fruits for glowing skin)
Containing 40% more Vitamin C than orange juice, litchis help to boost the body’s immunity, and develop a high resistance to fight infections. It also helps
- Fight cancer
- Sustain a healthy skin
- Prevent frequent colds, flu, sore throat
- Relieve pain and inflammation
A vital component of cells and body fluids, potassium helps to maintain healthy cells, stabilize blood pressure and ensures a healthy heart function. Litchis provide 3.5% of required Daily Percentage Value of potassium, and are therefore good for overall health of the heart.
The Litchi is an excellent aid for proper digestion as it is a good source of dietary fiber (a serving of 100 gms provides 3.5% of the Recommended Daily Value). It
- Helps prevent constipation and piles. [Lifestyle tips to prevent piles]
- Clears the digestive track of harmful toxins, thus reducing the risk of cancer, specifically, cancer of the colon.
- Having high water content, this fruit is a natural diuretic.
- Eaten frequently, it relieves pain caused by kidney stones.
Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium:
Being a rich source of Calcium, Phosphorous and Magnesium, the litchi fruit is great for all kids. Calcium helps in the development of bones and teeth while Phosphorous and magnesium are essential for the overall development of a growing child.
CULINARY USES OF LITCHI
Litchis are a welcome sight, especially in China, where street vendors hawk them from overflowing bamboo baskets. June and July is the prime season for fresh litchis, but they are also available canned or dried at most supermarkets around the world. Dried litchis are generally referred to as litchi nuts.
In most Chinese homes fresh litchis are chilled and served after dinner to cleanse the palate. However, this summer fruit finds a place in traditional Chinese cuisine as well. Found in Cantonese stir fries, they are best used to accompany chicken, shrimps, pork or beef. They can also be added to salads and desserts, sweet and sour sauces as well as dessert sauces. Litchi juice, litchi ice cream and litchi jams and marmalades have of late become a craze and are a common sight at most ice cream parlors and supermarkets.
COOKING AND SERVING TIPS:
- Litchis complement cheese and are best served with a cheese platter.
- Add peeled litchis with their seeds removed to salads to enhance taste and texture.
- Stuff litchis with cream cheese and orange rind for a refreshing finger food.
- Overcooking can destroy the delicate flavor of the litchi fruit.
Litchi Wine: Made of 100% litchi fruit, this is a Chinese dessert wine, having a rich sweet taste. It is usually served cold and is commonly paired with shellfish and Asian cuisine.
BUYING AND STORING LITCHIS
Lychees are a seasonal fruit and highly perishable. In fact, by the time the fruit is plucked from the tree and transported to the market, it is already past its best. While buying litchis, make sure that the fruit is having part of the stem, is not cracked and is with its skin intact. Select litchis which are brightly colored, light to deep red and with no injury marks. Though the skin is naturally tough and leathery, it should be pliable upon slight pressure from your fingers.
Litchis should be stored in perforated bags in the refrigerator where they will last for up to one week. Freezing litchis is also a good idea which will ensure a longer shelf life and prolonged pleasure. Place the fruit, along with its skin, in zip lock bags and store in the freezer compartment.
The litchi fruit, according to the Chinese is an extreme Yang fruit. Yang, (as in Yin and Yang), is one half of the two symbolic polarities in Chinese philosophy, described as masculine in principle in Chinese cosmology. According to a Cantonese saying, “one litchi = three torches of fire”. Therefore, eating too many litchis might lead to dried lips and nose bleeds in some people and may also trigger formation of pimples and mouth ulcers.