Why It’s Good to #FearNoFruit: 10 Reasons You Should Eat a New Fruit That Scares You

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My latest column for U.S. News Health: Get Over Your Fear of Fruit with These 10 Exotic Choices

We simply don’t eat enough fruit. Even though cold-pressed juices are all the rage, and we’ve become a nation obsessed with smoothies, it’s become rare for people to pick up a piece of whole fruit and bite into it.


The recently released 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report revealed that fruit intake remains low in this country. Only about 15 percent of the overall population in the U.S. is meeting fruit recommendations – which is about 2 cups daily.

Looks like only young children (ages 1 to 8 years) come close to eating enough fruit, although about half of that is juice.

One intriguing way to get kids interested in eating more fruit was identified in a new study that suggests hands-on activities with unfamiliar or unusual fruits during playtime will enhance their willingness to try these fruits at mealtime. Maybe we all need some new inspiration to eat more fruit.

Sometimes unfounded fears keep diet-conscious adults from eating more fruit. I still hear worries about the sugar in fruit, even though this is the naturally-occurring kind. No, it’s not the same as high fructose corn syrup or a candy bar. Other fruit disparagement involves concerns about acid-alkaline balance. Forget that. We shouldn’t fear fruit. We should look for ways to add more fruit to our plate – and not just in our glass. Whole fruits are valuable contributors of fiber and potassium, two “problem nutrients” that still remain vastly under-consumed in this country, according to the recent Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Maybe checking out some new exotic fruits will inspire you to eat fruit more often. That’s why I love this campaign from Frieda’s: “Eat one fruit a day that scares you.” The specialty produce company is asking people to share their #FearNoFruit adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

According to Frieda’s website: “We want to encourage you to be brave, be bold, be adventurous and put those scary-looking fruits in your shopping basket and order them at your favorite restaurant. We want to expose your palate to new flavors, expand your epicurean horizons and excite your senses with exotic deliciousness.”

That’s a good mission to have. Here are some of the scary fruits Frieda’s wants you to get to know. How many of these have you eaten before?

Buddha’s Hand

This strange hand-like fruit, also known as the Fingered Citron, is one of the oldest citrus fruits. Sometimes described as a “lemon with fingers,” Buddha’s Hand (pictured above) is treasured for its sweet floral fragrance and mild zest. Inside the fruit there is little to no flesh or juice – it’s all rind and pith. For this reason, Buddha’s Hand isn’t really for eating whole, although the rind can be candied, used in baking or added into liqueurs and other spirits.

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Cactus Pear

Also known as prickly pears or tunas, cactus pears are the fruit of the nopal cactus. The fruit’s smooth skin has very fine spines, and the inside flesh has a juicy, watermelon-like texture and contains many small, crunchy edible seeds. The fruit’s color can range from green to yellow to pink and red. Using gloves, slice in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or peel and slice and add to salads, smoothies and cocktails.  The picture above is from my trip to Lebanon, where cactus pears are abundant. I love this shot I took at a fruit stand with the cactus pears piled high.

Cherimoya

Cherimoyas are native to the mountains of Ecuador and Peru. Now they’re grown in most tropical areas around the world and in Southern California. Cherimoyas have a wonderfully sweet, custard-like, banana-pineapple flavor when ripe. The inner flesh is soft, moist and creamy-white with large, inedible seeds. They’re also known as custard apples and are a close relative to Atemoyas.

dragon fruitDragon Fruit

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is a beautiful cactus family fruit with bright magenta or white flesh speckled with small, edible seeds. The flavor is mild with a slight earthy flavor. The texture of dragon fruit is often compared to kiwifruit. Although it’s the fruit of a cactus, it does not have any spines or needles on the outer skin, unlike its cousin, the cactus pear.

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Durian

Durian is native to Southeast Asia, where it’s regarded as the “king of fruits.” Known for its thorn-covered husk and strong odor, the fruit can reach the size of a basketball. The interior sections contain thick, yellow, soft and sweet flesh, but it has a really foul smell. It’s only available in frozen or canned form in the U.S.

Mangosteen

Primarily grown in Thailand and Southeast Asia, the mangosteen is a special little fruit about the size of a plum with a firm purple shell and a beautiful creamy-white inner flesh that is separated into citrus-like segments. The flesh has a mouthwatering, silky smooth juicy texture – similar to a lychee. The flavor is a tropical combination of ripe peach, strawberry and citrus.

kiwano

Kiwano

Also known as horned melon or horned cucumber, Kiwano® have a unique appearance that makes them a favorite among children and a conversation piece for dinner guests. The pulp is lime-green, jelly-like and filled with tender, white, edible seeds, similar to those found in cucumbers. Slice into wedges, or cut in half lengthwise and eat directly from the shell with a spoon.

Passion Fruit

Native to Brazil, passion fruit is considered the largest berry of all plants. The passion fruit’s thick purple skin wrinkles when ripe. Inside, it has small, black edible seeds surrounded by an aromatic, jelly-like pulp that has a lemony, sweet-tart flavor.

rambutan

Rambutan

Native to Malaysia, this punky relative of the lychee has a spiky red shell covering a sweet and juicy grape-like flesh that surrounds an inedible woodsy seed. The name is derived from the word for hair, a reference to the hair-like spines that cover the fruit’s skin. The aromatic sweet-tart flavor is perfect for desserts or just enjoyed out of hand.

Starfruit

Also known as carambola, starfruit is an oblong golden-colored fruit with five deep ridges or “wings” running down its length. When cut crosswise, starfruit has a beautiful star shape. The thin waxy skin covers a golden flesh with a refreshingly crisp, chewy texture and lightly sweet and tangy flavor. Without peeling, slice crosswise for a perfect star-shaped presentation.

Images: Buddha’s Hand by .imelda on flickr, Cactus Pear by Janet Helm, Dragon Fruit by Su-Hwan Pyo on flickr, Kiwano by Jessica Lucia on flickr, Durian by Francis Chung on flickr, Rambutan by 16:9clue on flickr

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1 Comment

  • E2Dietitian

    I love this idea and as a result during National Nutrition Month I’m going to devote a full week to sampling new fruits in our hospital cafeteria. Thanks for the suggestion!

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