Carambola, the star-shaped exotic fruit: properties, how to eat it

Carambola is an exotic fruit with a characteristic star shape: let’s find out its properties, how to use it and the possible contraindications.

Star fruit, or carambola, is a particular exotic fruit obtained from Averrhoa carambola, a plant belonging to the botanical family of Oxalidaceae.

Originally from Sri Lanka and widespread in the southern and eastern regions of Asia, the starfruit is now also known in our country, although it tends to be available only in the most assorted points of sale or in some ethnic food shops.

The fame of ” star-shaped fruit “, which is generally associated with the star fruit, is due to the peculiar features of its cross section, which visually refers to the shape of a star.

This distinctive feature, combined with the bright color of the fruit as it is, makes it very suitable for ornamental purposes. However, the starfruit does not lack interesting nutritional and healing properties, the details of which will be explained in the following paragraphs.

Carambola: calories and nutritional properties

Entering into the merits of the nutritional values ​​of star fruit, let’s start by considering the energy content.

Specifically, the calories of the starfruit are 31 kcal per 100 grams of fruit, while the same portion of the fruit consists mainly of water, containing just over 91 g.

As for the macronutrients, 100 g of carambola provide 4 g of simple sugars and about 1 g of low biological value proteins, while the low lipid component is characterized by traces of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Interestingly for the purposes of some aspects of health, the vegetable fiber content of star fruit is around 3 g.

Turning now to the composition in micronutrients, the starfruit boasts a good content of potassium and vitamin C, covering, in the case of this vitamin, an important share of the relative daily requirement: 100 g of starfruit provide about 34 mg of vitamin C, equal to over 40% of the recommended daily amount.

This fruit also contains trace B vitamins, such as pantothenic acid (or vitamin B5) and niacin (or vitamin B3). Among other things, there is no shortage of other micronutrients relevant to human health, such as vitamin A and magnesium, but also zinc , manganese and phosphorus. Finally, the carambola appears to be somewhat low in sodium.

For the sake of completeness, a table below shows the nutritional values ​​of the starfruit in detail.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of starfruit:

  • Waterfall: 91.4 g
  • Power: 31 kcal
  • Proteins: 1.04 g
  • Total fat: 0.33 g
  • of which saturated: 0.019 g (total)
  • of which monounsaturated: 0.03 g (total)
  • of which polyunsaturated: 0.184 g (total)
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Simple sugars: 3.98 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Soccer: 3 mg
  • Iron: 0.08 mg
  • Magnesium: 10 mg
  • Phosphorus: 12 mg
  • Potassium: 133 mg
  • Sodium: 2 mg
  • Zinc: 0.12 mg
  • Copper: 0.137 mg
  • Manganese: 0.037 mg
  • Selenium: 0.6 μg
  • C vitamin: 34.4 mg
  • Thiamine: 0.014 mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.016 mg
  • Niacin: 0.367 mg
  • Vitamin B5: 0.391 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.017 mg
  • Total folate: 12 μg
  • Vitamin A: 3 μg
  • Beta-carotene: 25 μg

Carambola: the health benefits

In addition to being a good source of fiber, some vitamins and mineral salts, the carambola seems to boast various healing properties, so much so that it is known and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.

In particular, some phytochemical and pharmacological studies conducted on the leaves and roots of Averrhoa carambola, attribute to the relative plant extracts a certain content of biologically active components. Among these substances stand out some components defined, overall, as saponins and alkaloids, although there are some tannins and flavonoids.

The benefits of carom, related to the bioactive components mentioned above, are different and are mainly associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Furthermore, it seems that carom extracts can act on some blood parameters of known importance, such as blood sugar and total cholesterol levels. Finally, carom extracts seem to act on stomach health, carrying out an anti-ulcer activity.

It may be interesting, at this point, to introduce some additional details on the properties just mentioned, which will now be considered point by point.

✓ Antioxidant properties

Oxidative stress can be defined overall as a condition of imbalance between the production of waste components known as free radicals and the human body’s ability to dispose of these substances. Significantly, this condition is very often associated with various pathological conditions.

Some experimental observations attribute to carom strong antioxidant properties, correlating this beneficial effect to its nutritional and bioactive components. In addition to vitamin C, carom contains in fact tannins known as proanthocyanidins, which together with vitamin C and other antioxidant micronutrients, acts on reactive oxygen species (free radicals) limiting their negative effects at the cellular level.

✓ Anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is a defense reaction put in place by the body in order to respond to various damage factors. Although there are physiological mechanisms behind it, inflammatory processes sometimes need to be managed and, in this regard, investigations into anti-inflammatory substances of natural origin are quite fruitful.

Experiments conducted on laboratory animals attribute to the leaf extracts of Averrhoa carambola a clear anti-inflammatory effect in relation to specific skin problems, in particular against dermatitis. Specifically, the bioactive components of the plant showed a positive effect on the inflammation levels of the affected tissues, reducing, overall, the dermatitis in place.

✓ Antimicrobial properties

Some experimental observations correlate the starfruit, and the bioactive components derived from the plant, to rather versatile antimicrobial effects.

Specifically, the plant extracts tested at various concentrations showed a clear natural antibacterial effect, inhibiting both the growth of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium and the proliferation of bacteria belonging to the Klebsiella genus. Similarly, the extracts in question seem to have the same effect on other bacterial species, among which the species Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Bacillus cereus are noteworthy.

✓ Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic properties

As anticipated above, the carambola contains a fair amount of vegetable fiber, making it beneficial, among other things, in the management of some blood parameters.

More specifically, the consumption of the fruit, and therefore also of the fiber contained in it, seems to be able to act positively on blood glucose levels, slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates within the body.

In addition, it seems that the consumption of star fruit is associated with a lowering of blood levels of total cholesterol, making it favorable for cardiovascular health.

✓ Anti-ulcer properties

In traditional healing applications, carom is used in the treatment of gastric disorders. In particular, some studies associate the phytochemical composition of the relative leaf extracts with a marked anti-ulcer activity, which is one of the best known properties of the starfruit.

This curative potential is attributed to some of the chemical components already mentioned above and to other substances extractable from the plant, defined, on the whole, as mucilage. These substances of a “sticky” nature are capable of creating a protective layer at the level of the gastric mucosa, preserving the tissues from damage related to gastritis. In this context, carom seeds are classified as a good natural expedient for the well-being of the stomach.

Carambola: how to eat and how to use it in the kitchen

After having seen its beneficial properties, let’s now see how carom is eaten and how it is used in the kitchen.

How to eat carambola

In order to appreciate all its qualities, it is preferable to consume the exotic star fruit par excellence only when it is ripe: a fruit that is still unripe has a greenish color and a somewhat sour taste; the state of ripeness of the carambola is instead recognizable by the dark yellow color of the external casing and by the brown veins of the relative crests.

A particularly intense aroma also distinguishes the ready-to-eat carambola. In general, the flavor of the starfruit refers to that of other more commonly used sour fruits, such as pineapple.

The carambola is also characterized by a decidedly thin skin which, usually, is not removed. It is therefore possible to eat the fruit together with the outer peel. In this regard, it is therefore advisable to resort to a careful washing of its external surface.

How to use carom in the kitchen

Given the edibility and the pleasant organoleptic characteristics, the carambola can be consumed as it is, without further additions of sugar.

Like any other fruit, carambola can be used for the preparation of fruit salads and sorbets, as well as for making juices and jams.

In a relatively common way, the carambola is used for ornamental purposes, to decorate sweets or drinks with deliberately exotic features. The preparations that include carambola among the basic ingredients range from simple salads to vegetable couscous. In both cases, nothing prevents you from experimenting with various combinations of vegetables and fruits.

More imaginative recipes, and with a decidedly oriental touch, involve the association of the starfruit with some second seafood dishes, combining different types of molluscs, crustaceans and fish.

The use of raw and thinly sliced ​​carambola lends itself excellently to various preparations, although, in some cases, short cooking steps are required.

Furthermore, it is possible to use this fruit for the preparation of delicious fruit and vegetable extracts with an exotic flavor, combining it, for example, with pineapple, apple, mango or lime. If you have an extractor, you can experiment with the fruits and vegetables you like best to find the perfect combination and use the starfruit more often in the kitchen.

Where to find the starfruit

As can be easily understood, the carambola is therefore an exotic fruit with a marked particularity and, although it is now widespread and appreciated, it is not always easy to find it immediately.

To facilitate research, it is in fact advisable to opt for points of sale of a certain size, which do not resort only to zero kilometer production. Where possible, it may be useful to refer to the multi-ethnic markets and / or shops that may be present in the home area and dedicated to the sale of products from abroad.

Sometimes, it is possible to find the starfruit at wholesalers of fruit and vegetables, which are often equipped with a home delivery service. Alternatively, you can opt for online stores that sell exotic fruits.

Contraindications of starfruit

Although the benefits associated with the consumption of this tropical fruit are varied, both in nutritional and, in some cases, curative terms, there are potential contraindications to be taken into account.

First of all, due to the important content of oxalates, the consumption of starfruit is widely discouraged for individuals suffering from kidney diseases.

Some observations also suggest that the consumption of star fruit may be contraindicated during some drug therapies. In fact, concomitant intake could increase drug-associated toxicity and side effects by known mechanisms occurring in the intestinal tract and liver.

Lastly, although not least, it is a good idea to pay particular attention to the consumption of star fruit in case of pre-existing allergies.

In any case, and for all the reasons mentioned, it is always advisable to seek the advice of the attending physician, in order to resolve any doubts about particular interactions and, in general, about adverse effects.


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