Dreaming of tropical beaches, lush palm trees, and exotic eats? The benefits of international travel reach beyond the stress reduction that comes with a much needed vacation. Travel helps us to experience other cultures, connect with others, see different perspectives, and find a new purpose. In fact, studies show that travel can have a positive effect on your health, well-being, relationships, and career.
Oh, and another benefit: food! That includes tropical fruits, many of which happen to be chock full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help to fight disease and boost health. Read on to discover nine new fruits you may never have heard of, but are definitely worth traveling for (even if it’s only to a specialty food store)!
Where to find it: Southeast Asia, in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Nutritional benefits: Revered in Southeast Asia as the “king of the fruits,” the durian is also famous for its distinct pungent odor. If you can get past the smell, you’ll find that its creamy inner flesh is rich in potassium, fiber, iron, and B vitamins. Studies show that the fruit is best eaten when ripe, thanks to its high antioxidant content. Studies also show that its thorny outer shell has cough relieving and antibiotic properties. If you are watching your weight, be careful not to eat too much of it, as it’s also got a high calorie count.
Where to find it: While native to Malaysia and Indonesia, this fruit can now be found all over Southeast Asia.
Nutritional benefits: A close relative of the lychee fruit, the diminutive rambutan — seeds, skin, and pulp — contains high levels of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which can help to protect against diseases such as cancer. At first glance, this fruit resembles a sea urchin with a spiky red outer shell. However, the white flesh is creamy in texture, and also happens to be rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorus, all minerals that help to build strong bones.
Where to find it: While native to Central America, pitaya (or dragon fruit) is now one of the most profitable crops in Vietnam. Pitaya is also grown in Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii.
Nutritional benefits: The pitaya is an incredibly nutritious superfood, chock full of antioxidants such as carotenoids, as well as fiber and vitamin C. A 2010 study found that the antioxidants in pitaya may help lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. The bright pink peel of the fruit also contains lycopene and polyphenols, which can help to prevent cancer.
Where to find it: Camu (or Myrciaria dubia) grows in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.
Nutritional benefits: This sour tropical berry is lauded for its high vitamin C content, giving camu antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A study in the Journal of Cardiology found that when consumed for seven days, the juice from this berry lowers oxidative stress. Camu flavored ice cream and drinks are popular in Peru, but it’s usually consumed as a powder, which you can add to smoothies, yogurt, or juice.
Where to find it: Native to southern China, lychee is now grown throughout Asia, Africa, Central and South America, as well as in the United States.
Nutritional benefits: This sweet, fragrant fruit is known for its powerhouse punch of polyphenols, vitamins, and fiber. In fact, one study found that lychee may actually help to trim belly fat: A compound found in the fruit called oligonol may help to prevent obesity and reduce visceral fat. The fruit has a bumpy red outer shell and white inner flesh that can be eaten fresh or dried, giving it a consistency similar to raisins.
6. Goji Berries
Where to find it: Native to China, goji berries can now be found all over Asia and in parts of Europe.
Nutritional Benefits: The bright reddish-orange berry packs a powerful nutritional punch, thanks to its high vitamin and mineral content. One study found that consuming a goji berry-derived juice can help to reduce fatigue and stress, increase focus and alertness, and also improve feelings of general well-being, due to its high antioxidant levels. The berries can be consumed raw, dried, or in juice form, and they can be added to smoothies, cereal, trail mix, and more.
Where to find it: This fruit can be found primarily in Southeast Asia, in countries such as China, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Nutritional benefits: The distinctive hard purple rind, sweet white flesh, bitter seeds, and bark have all been used for medicinal purposes. In traditional Asian medicine, it’s been used to fight infections and heal wounds, and is purported to help with everything from urinary tract infections and diarrhea to eczema. Packed with vitamin C, this fruit can be enjoyed raw.
Where to find it: The ancient fruit has its origins in South and Central America, in countries such as Brazil and Belize.
Nutritional benefits: This bold berry has been a food staple for native Amazon tribes for centuries, but has recently gained superfood status for the health-conscious, as seen by the latest “acai bowl” trend. And it’s no wonder: The fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some claim that the acai berry works as a metabolism booster and weight reducer, although those claims are unsubstantiated. Studies do show that the high levels of antioxidants found in the acai plant are beneficial, and one study has found that the berry counters oxidative stress and lengthens the lifespan of fruit flies. While this does not mean that it will lengthen the life of humans, another study from the American Chemical Society did find that consuming berries such as acai may help to keep the brain healthy and prevent mental decline.
Where to find it: While jackfruit is indigenous to India, it can now also be found in Southeast Asia. The fruit is grown in central and eastern Africa and Brazil as well.
Nutritional benefits: As one of the largest tree-borne fruits in the world (fun fact: one jackfruit can grow to weigh more than 80 pounds!), this tropical snack is full of fiber, which aids in healthy digestion and also keeps you full. The sweet, buttery flesh of the fruit also possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. The seeds, meanwhile, are a good source of B vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin, which help to keep skin, hair, and nails healthy. While the seeds of the fruit can be eaten raw, the fruit itself can be put on top of ice cream, or made into crunchy jackfruit chips.