The lychee (Litchi chinensis), also known as litchi or lichee, is a small tropical fruit from the soapberry family.
It is closely related to other fruits, such as rambutan and longan.
Lychees are grown in subtropical regions throughout the world, and are especially popular in China (where they are native) and southeast Asia.
Known for their sweet and flowery flavor, they are typically eaten fresh, and are sometimes used in ice creams or processed into juice, wine, sherbert, and jelly.
They are a good source of several vitamins, minerals and healthy antioxidants.
The lychee is covered by an inedible, pink-red, leathery skin, which is removed before consumption. The flesh is white, and surrounds a dark seed in the center.
The table below shows the main nutrients in fresh and dried lychees.
Besides water, lychees are mainly composed of carbohydrates.
A single lychee (either fresh or dried) contains 1.5-1.7 grams of carbs (1).
The majority of the carbs in lychees comes from sugars, which are responsible for their sweet taste. They are relatively low in fiber.
Bottom Line: Lychees are primarily composed of water and carbohydrates, most of which are sugars. They are relatively low in fiber.
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 (1).
- Copper: Lychees are a decent source of copper. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on hearth health (2).
- Potassium: An essential nutrient that may improve heart health when eaten in sufficient amounts (3).
Bottom Line: Lychees are high in vitamin C, and contain decent amounts of copper and potassium.
Like other fruits, lychees are a good source of various antioxidant plant compounds.
In fact, they have been reported to contain higher levels of antioxidant polyphenols than several other common fruits (4).
- Epicatechin: An antioxidant that may improve heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes (5, 6).
- Rutin: A powerful antioxidant. Studies indicate that it may help protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (6, 7).
Oligonol is a dietary supplement that is often mentioned with a reference to lychees.
It is a patented mixture of antioxidants (proanthocyanidins) from lychee skin and green tea, developed by the Amino Up Chemical Corporation in Japan.
The antioxidants are chemically altered to increase their uptake from the gut (8).
However, Oligonol is not found naturally in lychee fruits, so its health effects do not apply to lychees.
Bottom Line: Like most fruits and vegetables, lychees are a good source of antioxidants and other healthy plant compounds. These include epicatechin and rutin. They do not contain any Oligonol, as is often claimed.
The health effects of lychees have not been studied yet.However, they are a fruit, and studies suggest that eating fruits and vegetables may improve health and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases (13, 14, 15).
In fact, lychees contain several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin, which may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (3, 6, 7, 16).
Animal studies also indicate that lychee extract may help fight liver cancer (17).
Further studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of lychees in humans.
Bottom Line: The health effects of lychees have not been studied directly. However, they contain several nutrients and antioxidants that are important for health.
When eaten in moderation as a part of a healthy diet, lychees do not have any known adverse health effects.
However, in rare cases they may cause allergies (18).
Lychees are popular in southeast Asia and China, but less common in other countries.
They taste good, and are also a good source of vitamin C and several beneficial antioxidants. This makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.