Ok ok! Some of you already know this but let’s spread some excitement to those who don’t. As you can tell by the title, today we will be exploring the world of sweet sop or as other people know it as- sugar apple!
What is sweet sop?
Sweetsop tree/ Annona squamosa
It was later spread to Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. It is considered to be semi-deciduous (meaning falling off at maturity, therefore it sheds some of its leaves, flowers, fruit seasonally) that has a height of 9.8 feet on average but can grow even up to 26 feet and pale green oblong leaves.
Sweetsop (the fruit)
The fruit has a yellow to green pebble-like (that’s about 2cm in size) segregated hard skin that is similar shaped to an apple that grows up to 4.5 inches long.
But the white pulp inside is sweet with about ½ inch dark brown/black seeds totaling around 30 seeds sometimes with one sweet sop. So, if you’re wondering ‘what does sweet sop/sugar apple taste like?’ then it has a sweet/sugary and milky flavor that is similar in taste to custard. Hence, the name sweet sop or sugar apple or sometimes referred to as custard apple.
Sweetsop is commonly known or referred to as:
- Sugar apple
- Custard apple
A few uses
- Eaten raw
- Treat colds
- Improve digestive health
- Relieve rheumatic pain
- Leaves used as a tonic
- Hair growth
- Skin health
How to eat sweetsop?
Wash the fruit, after this you can either use a knife to slice it open or your hands to break it in half. Scoop out the white pulp then discard the hard skin. Eat the pulp by chewing gently or suck until the seed is left.
Discard the seed. Enjoy! Please note unless you remove the seeds do not give it to children to eat. Store the fruit’s pulp in a zipper resealable bag and keep refrigerated. This should last for a few days.
Where to buy it and its season
Sweetsop can be bought at your farmer’s market if it is grown in your region, however, you can try online. Its normally in season during the spring and bears 3-4 months after its flowers bloom. The tree will bear for another 10 years if groomed right.
Health Benefits of Sweetsop
The fruit is very nutritious and is a great healthy snack that you can eat. Here is why I say that- it is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, manganese, a good source of thiamine and vitamin B6, but offers vitamin B2, B3 B5, B9, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fiber and zinc in reasonable proportions.
Let’s not forget that it is high in energy! So, if you need an energy booster, sweetsop gets the job done! It also contains kaurenoic acid, flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin), and carotenoids.
But what do these nutrients do?
Top 5 benefits of sweetsop
A powerhouse of antioxidants
If there are too many free radicals in your body, it causes oxidative stress that triggers chronic diseases like cancer and heart diseases.
Free radicals are formed due to too much exposure to toxins in the environment example, tobacco smoke, and ultraviolet light.
They are also formed by the body as byproducts of oxidation. But don’t stress, consuming this fruit there are great antioxidants that eradicate free radicals from your body. These include; kaurenoic acid, flavonoids, vitamin A and C, and carotenoids.
May assist with hypertension (high blood pressure)
Potassium and magnesium are wonderful for reducing high blood pressure. Magnesium and potassium reduce high blood pressure by increasing the production of nitric oxide- which is a signaling molecule- that helps relax blood vessels.
This is really crucial especially, for systolic pressure (this is the volume of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle). In addition, potassium is also known for reducing muscle cramping which is essential for diastolic pressure (the pressure when your heart muscle is between beats).
Improves eye and skin health
The fruit contains phenomenal levels of Vitamin A, lutein (carotenoid), Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, and Vitamin B6 that are all ideal for the eradication and repairing of damaged cells or tissues that are harmful to your eyes and skin. Vitamin A and C and lutein are known to be great antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
Many studies show that humans that intake food with lutein, thus having high levels of the carotenoid, have a 27% lower risk of developing eye diseases like cataract (Pubmed Central, 2015). Because sweetsop has high levels of Vitamin A, B3, B6, and C it improves your skin and hair giving it a natural glow and helps in anti-aging.
May boost your immune system
Sugar apple has an excellent source of Vitamin C and A. They both assist in the production of T cells that are the killer cells that fight against infection, viruses, and bacteria.
These cells also activate other helper cells to assist in the identification of bacteria and viruses to fight against infections or illnesses. Sweetsop also contains good traces of iron and zinc which also improves your immune system and assists in promoting fast wound healing. Hence, in some countries, the pulp is used as a balm to treat boils and ulcers.
May improve your mood and energy
Sweetsop has an exceptional source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin C. Therefore, 1 cup (160 grams) of the fruit contains over 30% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 plays an imperative role in the formation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate your mood as well as vitamin B1 (thiamine- which helps in brain protection too) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Hence, it may be a good mood stabilizer. Let’s not forget that even due to Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), iron, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) it gives the body an energy boost, thus making it an energy booster.
Other essential benefits:
- Improves digestion (due to nutrients like phosphorus, vitamin B1-thiamine, and B3- niacin).
- Prevents anemia (due to a good source of iron traces).
- Reduces cholesterol (due to catechin and others e.g., manganese).
- May have anti-cancer properties (due to catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin).
- Fights inflammation (due to vitamin B6, catechin, kaurenoic acid, epicatechin, and others).
- Relieves constipation (due to good amounts of fiber present).
- May prevent frequent asthma attacks.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes (due to fiber that reduces sugar and other nutrients/compounds).
- Improves bones, muscles, and teeth. (due to calcium and other mineral, nutrients, and compounds).
After reading all these amazing health benefits you must be wondering if there are any cons, right? Well, in sweetsop there is a toxin called annonacin that may lead to fatal effects on your brain and nervous system.
In research studies it is said to be mostly concentrated in the seed and skin of the fruit, despite it may be in all parts of the plant. Hence, for precautionary measures, it is recommended that you do not eat or consume the skin or seeds.
A few observational studies link high consumption of Annona fruits to increased risks of a specific type of Parkinson’s disease that does not respond to common medications (Pubmed Central, 2008). A recommendation is to consult your doctor before consuming if you are suffering from an ailment or pregnant (despite it may be beneficial for a fetus to develop due to certain nutrients).
With that out the way, don’t let that deter you from enjoying the fruit! It’s wonderful as a dessert, a healthy one at that! So, until next time Bon Appétit!
We just want to take the time and appreciate every one of you! Together we join this journey of taking healthier steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Pun very much intended! As I always say Bon Appétit! But for a little twist Afiyet Olsun! That’s the Turkish way of saying “enjoy your meal!”.
More Exotic Fruits
- Star Apple Caimito
- Tuna Fruit
- Black Sapote
- Ground Cherry
- White Guava
- Golden Kiwi
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