Passion fruit, also known as granadilla, is more readily available in supermarkets across the country today than in the past but, visually, although they’re unquestionably exotic, they’re rather unimportant looking. The exterior is rather like a hairless kiwi and a small grapefruit, but it’s when you cut the fruit in half that it gets really interesting.
NDTV describes passion fruit, aka Passiflora edulis, as a “type of berry which is sweet-sour, highly aromatic and seedy.” Ripe fruits are eaten by cutting them in half and scooping out the bright yellow contents with a spoon, avoiding the thin membrane similar to that in a grapefruit. Hungry Harvest describes the passion fruit’s unique flavor profile this way:
“Slightly wrinkled fruits are ripe and will have a sweeter taste than the smooth skinned passion fruit! If the skin is smooth, your passion fruit will taste tart … They also have a strong and characteristic perfume. You can absolutely eat them raw by themselves if you don’t mind the tartness. We recommend enjoying them with something sweet or creamy.”1
Besides eating them raw, the serving options are numerous for passion fruit. The pulp can be placed in a blender with a little stevia and orange juice, then placed back inside the rinds for a creamy, delicious fruit bowl. You can make passion fruit pudding, ice pops, tarts, sauces and vinaigrettes for salad, and that’s just the short list; researching recipe options will net a harvest of tasty results.
Native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, passion fruit is also grown in the tropical areas like India, Australia and South Africa. Inside the tough rind, the pulp is soft, but both are edible and often juiced to make a nutritious drink. Like so many other plant-based foods, the nutritional aspects are considerable.
Nutritional Aspects of Passion Fruit
According to Medical News Today,2 two of the most beneficial nutrients in passion fruit are vitamins; principally 229 IU of vitamin A (aka International Unit, usually used to measure fat soluble vitamins, and 5.4 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which, as an antioxidant, is well known for its ability to battle colds and flu. Vitamin A helps improve your skin, immune system and vision.
Raw passion fruit also provides minerals, including 63 mg of potassium, one of the seven essential macrominerals, which is significant because 100 mg of potassium are recommended per day to support your body’s functions. In fact, a high intake has been shown to reduce the risk of overall mortality by 20 percent;3 however, that’s predicated on balancing potassium with your sodium intake.
Further, a healthy potassium intake decreases your stroke risk, lowers your blood pressure, maintains your bone strength, decreases your chances of forming kidney stones, regulates your body’s fluids and controls the regular activity of your heart and other muscles.4
Passion fruit also brings significant amounts of magnesium (5 mg), important for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body, such as metabolizing the foods you eat and synthesis of proteins and fatty acids;5 calcium (2 mg), another essential element that’s the most abundant one in your body, critical for bone health and for vital brain communication to other areas of your body;6 and iron (.29 mg).
As for fiber, of which 25 grams are provided in 1 cup of passion fruit (or 1.9 grams when you eat one),7 top recommendations specify a daily intake of 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day for men, and 21 to 25 grams a day for women. Supporting a 2015 study reporting a 10 percent reduced risk for all-cause mortality for every 10 grams of fiber you add to your daily intake,8 I recommend 50 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed, ideally from fiber-rich foods.
Passion Fruit Shown to Reduce Anxiety and Sleeplessness
One little-known bonus associated with eating a whole passion fruit is decreased stress and anxiety, due to the 5 mg of magnesium it contains. According to a systematic review, not only are most people grossly deficient — 68 percent in the U.S. alone9 — but the results can lead to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The study concluded:
“The potential effect of (magnesium) in attenuating psychological response to stress merits further investigation since stress is a ubiquitous feature of modern lives. The modulation of the HPA axis by (magnesium), which has been demonstrated to reduce central and peripheral endocrine responses, suggests that behavioral effects of stress exposure such as anxiety could be attenuated by (magnesium) supplementation.”10
The HPA axis, incidentally, refers to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, and can trigger adrenal fatigue symptoms. While the above study is careful to note that the science is scant in regard to magnesium’s involvement in mental and emotional health, it’s worth noting that a deficiency can result in personality changes, not to mention serious illnesses from seizures to abnormal heart rhythms, the National Institutes of Health11 notes.
An alkaloid compound in passion fruit known as harman has also been noted as good for people suffering from insomnia, as well as restlessness, tension and nervous anxiety. Harman actually functions as a sedative, noted by Vanguard12 as imparting “blood pressure-lowering, sedative and antispasmodic” actions.
Passion Fruit: Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Most people don’t consider that eating certain fruits can raise your glycemic index, which can result in a rapid and steep increase in blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association13 calls it the GI value, and reveals that most fruits, among them pineapples and melons, have a low GI value. However, passion fruit does not, making it a great fruit option for people with diabetes. News-Medical addresses several related issues:
“Modern lifestyle diseases, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, may lead to many complications, including hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease. They also accelerate the aging processes. Appropriate dietary interventions may help to regulate glucose and energy metabolism, and thus improve the outcome for affected individuals.
Among the interventions are caloric restriction, which helps reduce insulin resistance by preventing sustained hyperglycemia. This often requires long-term control of dietary choice and portion size, which is difficult to maintain for a majority of overweight subjects. For this reason, functional foods, such as passion fruit are being studied for their potential contribution to reducing weight and insulin resistance.
One compound in passion fruit, which has garnered plenty of interest is piceatannol, an analog of resveratrol. The latter is a polyphenol, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, and to increase stamina, in several rodent studies.”14
The aforementioned piceatannol found in passion fruit was identified in a 2017 randomized, placebo-controlled study as a substance that could improve your metabolism. According to the study authors, 39 participants, men and women, half being overweight, were given 20 mg of piceatannol per day for eight weeks.
Assessing the blood pressure, heart rate, inflammation, endothelial function, lipids, oxidative stress and mood of the subjects beforehand, the researchers found that while the nonoverweight men and women, and some overweight women, showed no overwhelmingly beneficial effects, the overweight men did. They concluded that piceatannol supplementation can improve metabolic health, including insulin sensitivity and other aspects of metabolic health.15
Additional Perks From Eating Passion Fruit
Another advantage you get from eating the exotic passion fruit has to do with your skin. Besides the vitamins A and C, riboflavin and carotene are additional antioxidants that bring about a remarkable renovation in your body through the eradication of free radicals. One of the fringe benefits is what that process does for slowing the aging process, including that of your skin.
Antioxidants also boost your health by flushing harmful toxins from your body, which not only affects the appearance of your skin, but fights inflammation to help stave away many forms of infection. Working with potassium and vitamin C, antioxidants help retain your skin’s moisture and elasticity and improve your blood flow. According to one study:
“Most dermatologists agree that antioxidants help fight free radical damage and can help maintain healthy skin. They do so by affecting intracellular signaling pathways involved in skin damage and protecting against photodamage, as well as preventing wrinkles and inflammation.”16
One of the most desired results found in terms of health benefits from eating passion fruit is its anticarcinogenic potential with their ability to render free radicals impotent in their attempt to mutate healthy cell DNA into cancerous ones.
A 2012 study published by the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research indicates that different concentrations of passion fruit extract were tested to see which would be most effective against Streptococcus mutans, a common dental bacteria causing caries, tooth cavities and root canal infections, and a 40 percent to 45 percent concentration was found to be the most effective, exerting a “significant antimicrobial effect against S. mutans,” and better than commonly used drugs.17
The same publication noted that several powerful polyphenols and carotenoids in passion fruit have been shown to initiate apoptosis in cancerous cells, also known as programmed cell death, especially in leukemia, according to a thesis presented at the University of Florida in 2003.18
With all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and obscure compounds such as piceatannol and harman loaded in passion fruit, it’s no wonder that so many studies have shown improvement in people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Those results have also been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular issues, as well, as a natural result.