Kiwano melon is an exotic, peculiar-looking fruit from the central and southern regions of Africa.
It’s formally known as Cucumis metuliferus but informally also goes by horned melonand African horned cucumber.
When ripe, the thick outer skin of a kiwano melon is bright orange and covered in small spiny projections or horns. The inner flesh consists of a gelatinous, lime-green or yellow substance that houses a multitude of edible seeds.
Though kiwano melon isn’t a fruit you’re likely to find in an average fruit basket, including it in your diet may be good for your health.
Here are 7 benefits of kiwano melon and tips on how to eat it.
Kiwano melon boasts an array of vitamins and minerals, many of which play a role in its ability to positively impact health.
A single kiwano melon (209 grams) provides the following nutrients (1):
- Calories: 92
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Protein: 3.7 grams
- Fat: 2.6 grams
- Vitamin C: 18% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 21% of the RDI
- Iron: 13% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 8% of the RDI
- Zinc: 7% of the RDI
- Potassium: 5% of the RDI
- Calcium: 3% of the RDI
Kiwano melon is mainly comprised of water and relatively low in calories, carbs, and fat. About 16% of its calories come from protein — which is relatively high compared to other fruits.
This unique nutrient distribution makes kiwano melon suitable for a variety of diet plans.
Summary Kiwano melon contains many vitamins and minerals that are essential to optimal health. It’s relatively low in calories, yet — for a fruit — high in protein.
Kiwano melon is not only nutritious but also offers several potent antioxidants — many of which are nutrients themselves.
Antioxidants are compounds found in certain foods that can protect against cellular damage caused by oxidative stress in your body.
Though oxidative reactions are a normal part of human metabolism, too much oxidative strain can result in inflammation and impaired cellular function over time.
You can minimize this potential damage by providing your body with an adequate supply of antioxidant-rich foods like kiwano melon.
The main antioxidants in kiwano melon are vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, and lutein. Together, these nutrients play a role in reducing inflammation and preventing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer (1, 2, 3, 4).
Moreover, the edible seeds found within the fruit’s pulp provide vitamin E — another nutrient with antioxidant properties (5).
Summary Kiwano melon and its seeds contain several antioxidants, including zinc, lutein, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Red blood cells store an iron-containing substance called hemoglobin, which is used to transport oxygen through your body.
Thus, an adequate supply of dietary iron is necessary for your body to produce enough healthy red blood cells for proper oxygenation (6).
Plant sources of iron — such as kiwano melon — contain a form of the mineral known as non-heme iron. This form isn’t absorbed as efficiently as iron from animal sources.
However, pairing non-heme iron with vitamin C enhances its absorption rate (7).
Coincidentally, kiwano melon supplies a significant amount of vitamin C as well. This can improve the absorption of the iron present within the fruit, making it more effective for supporting red blood cell production and oxygen transport (1).
Summary Kiwano melon is a good source of iron and vitamin C. These nutrients promote proper production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, which is necessary for oxygen transport.
Kiwano melon has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause a significant spike in blood sugar after you eat it.
Additionally, it’s a rich source of magnesium — a mineral that’s directly involved in the metabolism of glucose (sugar) and insulin (8).
A small study found that kiwano melon extract significantly reduced blood sugar in diabetic rats but not in animals with normal blood sugar levels (9).
Ultimately, more research is needed to determine whether kiwano melon affects blood sugar in humans.
Summary Kiwano melon is low-glycemic and contains nutrients necessary for proper sugar and insulin metabolism. Some animal research suggests that it may be useful for treating high blood sugar. However, this remains to be proven in human studies.
Snacking on a fruit like kiwano melon on a hot summer day or after vigorous exercise can help keep you fueled and well-hydrated throughout the day.
Summary Kiwano melon has a high water content and provides several electrolytes that are necessary for staying hydrated.
Kiwano melon contains magnesium and zinc — two minerals that are closely related to mental health and healthy brain function maintenance.
Both magnesium and zinc are involved in producing neurotransmitters that impact mood and are linked to some mood-related disorders, such as depression and anxiety (11).
One study evaluated the use of magnesium for treating mild depression and anxiety disorders in 126 people. Those who received magnesium reported significant improvements in their symptoms (12).
Overall, more research is needed to better understand the role of magnesium and zinc in improving mood or preventing and treating depression, but eating plenty of mineral-rich foods like kiwano melon certainly can’t hurt.
Summary Kiwano melon contains minerals involved in the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
Research that focuses specifically on kiwano melon’s effect on health is minimal. However, many of the nutrients it contains are well-known for supporting your body’s systems in other ways:
- Supports bone health: Kiwano melon provides nutrients that support bone remodeling and maintenance of bone strength, including magnesium, vitamin C, and zinc (13, 14).
- Encourages healthy skin: The vitamin C and water in kiwano melon may support collagen production, wound healing, and protection from sun damage (7, 15).
- Promotes heart health: Kiwano melon is a rich source of magnesium and potassium. These minerals can reduce inflammation, prevent the accumulation of arterial plaque, and help regulate blood pressure (16).
- Strengthens immunity: Kiwano melon also offers multiple nutrients that are vital for a healthy immune system, including vitamin C, zinc, iron, and magnesium (2, 3, 17, 18).
While kiwano melon contains many important nutrients, no single food holds the key to optimal health.
Consider including kiwano melon alongside other nutrient-dense foods to get the most benefit from your diet.
Summary Nutrients found in kiwano melon are key players in supporting your immune system, heart, skin, and bones.
Upon first glance, a kiwano melon may appear far from edible. In fact, it looks like it’s more likely to be something from outer space than a fruit.
The outer rind is thick and covered with tiny spikes. Before it’s ripe, the fruit is dark green, but as it ripens, it becomes a creamy shade of orange.
Though the rind is edible, most people stick to eating the gooey inner flesh, which is full of seeds. Many eat the seeds, too, as their sheer quantity makes them difficult to remove from the pulp.
If you’re bold enough to eat the rind, make sure you cut off the spikes first.
The flavor of kiwano melon is mild and slightly sweet. It tastes similar to its close relative, the cucumber. When it’s very ripe, you may be able to detect a hint of banana flavor, too.
The simplest way to eat a kiwano melon is to slice it open and spoon the pulp directly from the rind. Some people add a little salt or sugar to enhance its flavor. It may be eaten fresh or cooked.
If you’re feeling creative, you can add the pulp to smoothies or use it to top yogurt, granola, or an ice cream sundae. It also makes for a delicious addition to sauces and dressings.
Summary The simplest way to eat kiwano is to slice it open and spoon out the pulp. It can also be used in smoothies or on top of yogurt, cereal, or ice cream.
Kiwano melon is an exotic fruit, originating from Africa, that offers several health benefits due to its rich nutrient profile.
Its thick orange rind is covered in spikes, which can make it seem a bit intimidating. However, eating it is as simple as slicing it open and spooning out the pulp. You can even use the rind as a serving dish.
If you’re looking for a new way to mix up your fruit game, kiwano melon is a delicious and nutritious choice.