Lychee; Types, Nutritional Value, Uses, Lychee Health Benefits

Lychee; Types, Nutritional Value, Uses, Lychee Health Benefits

Lychee which has the scientific name Litchi chinensis is in the soapberry family, but is the only member of its genus, meaning that it is quite unique in the world. It is a fruit tree that can grow in tropical and subtropical climates and is native to China[1]. It smells very much like a flower and is often used to flavor cocktails and dishes because of its unique scent, which is lost if not consumed fresh. The fruit is primarily eaten as a dessert in Asian nations and is growing popular in other parts of the world too.

Lychee tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes. Since the perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, the fruit is usually eaten fresh. Lychee contains many phytochemicals. The seeds have been found to contain methylenecyclopropylglycine which can cause hypoglycemia, while outbreaks of encephalopathy in Indian and Vietnamese children have also been linked to its consumption.[2]

Types of Lychee

There are three subspecies, determined by flower arrangement, twig thickness, fruit, and the number of stamens.

  • Litchi chinensis subsp. chinensis – is the only commercialized lychee. It grows wild in southern China, northern Vietnam, and Cambodia. It has thin twigs, flowers typically have six stamens, fruit is smooth or with protuberances up to 2 mm (0.079 in).
  • Litchi chinensis subsp. philippinensis (Radlk.) Leenh –  It is common in the wild in the Philippines and rarely cultivated. It has thin twigs, six to seven stamens, long oval fruit with spiky protuberances up to 3 mm (0.12 in).
  • Litchi chinensis subsp. javensis – It is only known in cultivation, in Malaysia and Indonesia. It has thick twigs, flowers with seven to eleven stamens in sessile clusters, smooth fruit with protuberances up to 1 mm (0.039 in).[3]

Nutritional Value of Lychee

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 276 kJ (66 kcal)
Carbohydrates
16.53 g
Sugars 15.23 g
Dietary fiber 1.3 g
Fat
0.44 g
Protein
0.83 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Thiamine (B1)
1%

0.011 mg

Riboflavin (B2)
5%

0.065 mg

Niacin (B3)
4%

0.603 mg

Vitamin B6
8%

0.1 mg

Folate (B9)
4%

14 μg

Vitamin C
86%

71.5 mg

Minerals Quantity%DV
Calcium
1%

5 mg

Iron
1%

0.13 mg

Magnesium
3%

10 mg

Manganese
3%

0.055 mg

Phosphorus
4%

31 mg

Potassium
4%

171 mg

Sodium
0%

1 mg

Zinc
1%

0.07 mg

Lipids Amount % DV
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.188 g N/D
Myristic acid  14:00(Tetradecanoic acid) 0.004 g N/D
Palmitic acid 16:00 (Hexadecanoic acid) 0.133 g N/D
Stearic acid 18:00 (Octadecanoic acid) 0.046 g N/D
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.228 g N/D
Palmitoleic acid 16:1 (hexadecenoic acid) 0.002 g N/D
Oleic acid 18:1 (octadecenoic acid) 0.226 g N/D
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.251 g N/D
Linoleic acid 18:2 (octadecadienoic acid) 0.127 g N/D
Linolenic acid 18:3 (Octadecatrienoic acid) 0.124 g N/D
Amino acids Amount % DV
Tryptophan 0.013 g 2.95%
Lysine 0.078 g 2.33%
Methionine 0.017 g N/D
Link to USDA Database entry
Vitamin B6/Folate values were available
[4]
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Health Benefits of Lychee

Along with helping you enhance your appearance, lychee also helps in treating digestive issues, increasing blood circulation, cancer prevention, and much more. Let’s explore its benefits in detail.

Lychees are a decent source of several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C.

  • Vitamin C The most abundant vitamin in lychees. One lychee provides around 8% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C (5).
  • Copper – Lychees are a decent source of copper. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on heart health (6).
  • Potassium – An essential nutrient that may improve heart health when eaten in sufficient amounts (7).
  • Antioxidant Protection – Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with an adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals. If you don’t have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage. Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play in maintaining good health and reducing your risk of heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. [ 8 ]Antioxidants also help slow down the aging process, which can have immense effects on your skin health. Lychees are rich in antioxidant vitamin C, with more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in one cup.
  • Source of Oligonol – Oligonol is a molecular compound found in abundance in lychees that further breaks down into many antioxidants. This promotes blood circulation and also protects the body from harmful UVA and UVB  rays. This is also very effective in reducing fat as it targets fat directly while increasing stamina.
  • Aids in Digestion – The significant amount of dietary fiber in lychee, as in most fruits and vegetables, helps add bulk to your stool and increases your digestive health. This helps bowel movements move through the digestive tract smoothly, and fiber also stimulates peristaltic motion of the smooth small intestine muscles, increasing the speed of food passing. It also stimulates gastric and digestive juices, so the absorption of nutrients is efficient. This can reduce constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Boosts Immunity – Perhaps the most significant nutrient in lychee is vitamin C, and this fruit has more than 100% of the daily requirement of ascorbic acid in a single serving. This means that your immune system gets a major boost, as vitamin C is a major antioxidantcompound and is known to stimulate the activity of white blood cells, which are the main defensive line of your body’s immune system. The presence of vitamin C in litchi makes it very effective in strengthening our immunity (9). This water-soluble vitamin is full of antioxidants that protect our body from foreign germ invasion. Hence, it is a highly recommended fruit for young kids.
  • Prevents Cancer – The polyphenolic compounds and proanthocyanidins found in lychee are actually even more powerful than vitamin C in neutralizing free radicals and protecting the body from various diseases and afflictions. Free radicals are the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause cancer, heart disease, cognitive disorders, and premature aging, among many other undesirable conditions. Lychee is a rich source of these organic compounds, so it can be consumed as an effective preventative measure of various cancers.[ 10]
  • Antitumor Properties of Litchi Peel-Derived Components – Litchi peel (pericarp), although not edible, is an important portion of the fruit that can be considered as a source of biologically interesting compounds. In particular, the pericarp has been shown to contain bioactive flavonoids and anthocyanins. The major flavonoids contained in this portion of the fruit are proanthocyanidin B2, proanthocyanidin B4, and epicatechin, while cyanindin-3-outside, cyanidin-3-glucoside, quercetin-3-rutinoside, and quercetin-3-glucoside represent important anthocyanins isolated by Litchi pericarp [11].
  • Anti-aging – As time progresses our bodies’ age physically and internally. A diet rich in antioxidants and vitamin C can ensure a slower aging process while promoting overall health. Lychees are a good source of vitamin C, which is a necessary component of the anti-aging diet regime. Vitamin C can improve elasticity and production of collagen leading to better radiant and supple skin.
  • Vitamin B – Often thought is found only in animal products, vitamin B contributes largely to our energy levels. Lychees are rich in B-vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and folates, which have a huge effect on viruses and the body’s nutrient absorption. Beta-carotene is also a derivative of vitamin B that strengthens the immune system along with strengthening the hair nails and protecting the eyes. [ 12 ]
  • Nutritional Strengths – Lychees contain plenty of vitamins and minerals that can help you plow through all that pollution and daily stress. Being vitamin deficiency can lead to a slew of medical problems and expensive treatment plants. Just eat a couple of lychees before or after lunch or dinner and you will be able to incorporate a healthy dose of vitamin C, phytonutrients, vitamin B-complex and various antioxidants. [13 ]
  • Antiviral – The proanthocyanidins in lychee have been studied extensively, and they have also demonstrated antiviral capabilities. Litchitannin A2, a compound found in lychee, has been closely connected to preventing the spread or outbreak of viruses, including herpes simplex virus and coxsackievirus. [14]
  • Controls Blood Pressure – Lychee has a wealth of potassium, meaning that it can help your body maintain a fluid balance; it is also low in sodium, which helps too. Fluid balance is an integral part not only of metabolic functions but also in hypertension. Potassium is considered to be a vasodilator, meaning that it reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering the stress on the cardiovascular system. Potassium levels are almost three times higher in dried lychee rather than in fresh lychee! [15]
  • Anti-influenza – This powerful phenolic compound found in lychee has been connected to a number of important health benefits, including anti-influenza activity, an improvement in blood circulation, reduction in weight, and the protection of your skin from harmful UV rays when exposed to the sun. It also demonstrates considerable antioxidant capabilities, just like ascorbic acid, and other proanthocyanidins in lychee.[16]
  • Improves Blood Circulation – Copper is another essential mineral found in considerable quantities in lychee, and although iron is most commonly associated with red blood cells, copper is also an integral part of RBC formation. Therefore, the copper content in lychee can boost blood circulation and increase oxygenation of the organs and cells.[ 17]
  • Prevent Cataract – Cataract is a visual impairment that is caused due to the clouding of the lens in the eyes. Since cataract affects millions, there have been numerous studies conducted regarding it. One study concluded that litchis might help inhibit cataract. Litchis contain phytochemicals that exhibit antioxidant and antineoplastic properties. This means that they help prevent abnormal growth of cells, which helps prevent cataract (18).
  • Act Against Influenza – Influenza is caused by viruses and is an extremely communicable disease. Due to certain strains of these viruses showing resistance to traditional antiviral drugs, there is a need to develop new medications. Litchi fruit extracts have shown to be effective against these viruses. Litchis exhibit antiviral properties due to the presence of oligonol that stops the virus from multiplying (19).
  • Aid Weight Loss – Being a low-calorie fruit, litchi is ideal for those who are looking to lose weight. Litchis don’t have too many calories, with 100 grams containing only 66 calories (20). They also contain a lot of water, a significant amount of fiber, and have negligible fat content. This makes them ideal for those looking to lose weight.
  • Provide Stronger Bones – Consuming litchis regularly can make your bones stronger. Litchis are full of essential compounds required for healthy bones, such as magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iron and many others. These minerals actually increase the calcium absorption in the bones, thus making them healthy.
  • Prevent Anemia – Litchis play an important part when it comes to the prevention of anemia. This fruit contains an essential amount of copper, which increases the RBC count in the blood. We all know that anemia occurs due to a decrease in the hemoglobin levels. This can be avoided by consuming litchis (21).
  • Increase Libido – Many studies have concluded that litchi can enhance sexual desires in humans. Litchi is known to stimulate the libido because of the abundance of important components like potassium, copper, and vitamin C (22).

Lychee

References

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