Native to Sri Lanka, star fruit now grows in southeast Asia, the Caribbean, South America and Hawaii, and has long been used in Brazil.
If you’re lucky enough to wander past a few in the grocery store produce aisle or your neighborhood fruit stand, don’t hesitate to pick some up.
Star fruit: A primer
The star fruit – also known as the star apple, bilimbi and carambola – is one of nature’s most beautiful fruits. The star shape is especially noticeable when the fruit is sliced crosswise, and the bright yellow color makes it as appealing as a sunny summer day.
It tastes similar to a lemon, pineapple or pear, depending on the variety (there are sweet and sour versions, and it’s tricky to tell them apart), and the fruit is crisp and juicy, making it a refreshing treat that will bring a touch of the tropics to your taste buds no matter how far away from a palm tree you live. (Ref. 1)
Not only that, the health benefits found in star fruit are off the charts.
Naturally low in sugar
Star fruit is low in sugar, so it has a low glycemic index, making it a perfect fruit option for people sensitive to sugar, who often have to avoid fruits that have a high sugar content such as watermelons, dates and figs.
It also has a high fiber content, so when eaten with other foods, it helps support the digestive process, which also slows the release of glucose into the blood, preventing dangerous spikes.
Plus, one cup of fruit only has about 33 calories, so you can indulge in this nutrient-dense fruit. (Ref. 2)
A free radical warrior
Star fruit is packed with antioxidants, so adding the superfood to your diet can help defy the aging process by fighting off damage to the proteins associated with sagging, loose skin, including collagen and elastin. Free radicals love these two, but antioxidants such as those found in star fruit can stop them in their tracks.
A cup of star fruit offers almost 60 percent of your day’s vitamin C, which is a good scavenger of free radicals supporting inflammation management. (Ref. 3)
A 2005 study from the National University of Singapore found that one specific antioxidant in star fruit, epicatechin – the same one found in dark chocolate, red wine and green tea - was particularly high in star fruit, as well. (Ref. 4)
Heart health support
If you’re looking to get support for healthier cholesterol levels and manage better artery and heart health, try adding star fruit to your next grocery list. (Ref. 5)
Improved athletic performance
There’s a reason why runners and cyclists choose banana as their go-to fruit after a race. Sweet, easy-to-eat bananas are rich in potassium, which helps injured muscles recover faster.
While eating a mix of protein and carbs is important for muscle building, potassium is the building block to muscle repair.
“Potassium is the key to recovery of muscle strain,” say the experts at bodybuilding.com.
And while bananas are good sources of the essential nutrient, star fruit is also packed with potassium, and it brings something different to the table when it comes to flavor.
Star fruit has been used in Brazil for hundreds of years thanks to properties that may help support the immune system.
A 2012 study that appeared in the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research suggested that learning more about the properties in star fruit could lead to new ways of managing viruses and bacteria, especially given the resistance to antibiotics the widespread use of the medications have caused. (Ref. 5)
Star fruit is an excellent source of B vitamins including folate, riboflavin and vitamin B6, all of which help the enzymes related to metabolism work better.
By consuming star fruit – which has fiber to fill you up, even though it offers only a handful of calories, you can rev up your metabolism while keeping extra weight from creeping on. (Ref. 1)
How to add star fruit to your diet
As we’ve said, the sweet variety of star fruit is a beautiful addition to any fruit salad – and also can be tossed in a juicer, eaten like an apple or frozen to make pretty ice cubes from a tropical-themed cocktail party - but the tart variety is a diverse addition to any kitchen pantry.
It can be quick pickled to use as a condiment alongside meat and poultry, added to other fruits or vegetables to make a sweet-sour chutney or sauce that’s packed with nutrients or used as a garnish for fish dishes alongside the similarly-tart lemon. (Ref. 1)
A precautionary note
For those who have kidney problems, including kidney disease or kidney dialysis, star fruit contains a neurotoxin that has the potential to be fatal. The reason is that Tthe amino acid in star fruit can cause an array of symptoms including hiccups, vomiting, weakness, mental confusion, seizures, coma and death. (Ref. 6)