Moderately sweet, rich in fiber, passion fruit is a natural cocktail of micronutrients. Although it has been used for centuries by various traditional medicines, it has so far only been the subject of few clinical studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Its fibers and some of its polyphenols could give it a particular interest in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Tangy and juicy, it can be eaten raw, “boiled” or incorporated into gourmet dessert recipes or sweet/salty salads.
Nutritional profile of passion fruit
Passion fruit has an average sugar content. It is rich in fiber, vitamins B9 and C and a source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and copper. It provides good proportions of vitamins B3, B5, B6, manganese and potassium. Its supply of polyphenols depends on its variety.
|Average intake per 100 g of passion fruit||Proportion of the nutritional reference value (NRV) for 100 g of passion fruit (the flesh and seeds of 3 medium fruits) (*)|
|Energy intake||101 kcal||5,1%|
|Lipids (fats)||3 g||4,3%|
|Of which saturates||0,5 g||2,5%|
|With sugar||8,5 g||9,4%|
|Organic acids||3 g|
|Vitamin A (as beta-carotene)||168,3 mg||21%|
|Vitamin C||25,6 mg||32%|
|Vitamin B3||1,37 mg||8,6%|
|Vitamin B5||0,56 mg||9,3%|
|Vitamin B6||0,17 mg||12,1%|
|Vitamin B9||101 mg||50,5%|
|Total polyphenols||0,02 mg|
Passion fruit has an average sugar content. 100 g (the net weight of approximately 3 passion fruits) is only 9.4% of the maximum daily intake. Its fructose content (sugar whose intake should be limited to 50 g per day, 2.5%, is low. Thanks to high proportions of fibers and organic acids (citric acid, as in citrus fruits and malic acid, as in apples), it has a low glycemic index: its sugars are digested slowly and do not lead to a sudden increase of blood sugar level. It can therefore be easily integrated into a balanced diet, including in cases of diabetes or overweight.
Passion fruit is rich in fiber: its intake is more than double the average fruit. It combines insoluble fibers (cellulose), useful for regulating intestinal transit, and soluble fibers (pectin), which moderate its glycemic index and promote satiation. Its seeds, which contain more fiber than its pulp, must be eliminated in cases of colonic diverticulosis.
Providing more than 50% of the nutritional reference value (NRV), passion fruit is rich in vitamin B9, which contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system, and which is increased in need in pregnant women. It is also rich in vitamin C, which participates in the immune system and is one of the antioxidant nutrients. It is a source of vitamin A, provided in the form of beta-carotene, an orange pigment which also has antioxidant activity. It also has good levels of vitamins B3, B5 and B6, of which it provides around 10% of the NRV.
Contribution of minerals and trace elements
Passion fruit is a source of copper, an antioxidant trace element which is involved in the immune system. It has good manganese content, with antioxidant activity and potassium, essential for the proper functioning of the muscles and in particular the heart. It provides many other minerals and trace elements: calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc in smaller proportions.
Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds, which can also have other effects: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial. Passion fruit with yellow skin has a very low content of polyphenols. However, the polyphenol content varies considerably between varieties. The purple-skinned passion fruit is rich in anthocyanins (a category of polyphenols), which are dark red to purple pigments. French researchers from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), who analyzed fruits produced in Réunion, have shown that passion fruit is more concentrated in polyphenols than pineapple and bananas, lychee, mango, and papaya.
Difference between the purple and the yellow passion fruit
Purple passion fruit has a diameter of about 4-6 cm. This passion fruit variety is most cultivated because it tastes the most delicious and has fragrant fruit aroma. Usually, this passion fruit can be found in places with a wet climate.
Yellow passion fruit is usually smaller than the purple passion fruit varieties and has bright yellow fruit skin when ripe or old. Usually, this passion fruit can be found in the lowlands or areas with warm climates.
The main difference, aside from the visual, is the taste. The purple fruit is larger – and sweeter (less acidic) than the yellow. The yellow fruit contains more citric acid (found in citrus fruits) and carotene (antioxidant). In the purple fruit there is more ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Health Benefits of Passion Fruit
Although passion fruit has been used for centuries by some traditional medicines, there are relatively few clinical studies (conducted in humans) demonstrating its effectiveness. Various laboratory studies, carried out on cultures of human cells or rodents, are nevertheless promising. Depending on the case, the researchers used pulp, seeds (which, within the fruit, are mixed with the pulp and are edible) or juice (pulp pressed without the seeds). There is also some work testing extracts from the skin of passion fruit, part of the fruit that is not usually eaten.
1. Cardiovascular prevention
Regular consumption of passion fruit could favorably influence certain cardiovascular risk factors.
Several studies have been carried out in rodents. After consuming passion fruit juice daily for a month, the rats saw their levels of “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and triglycerides decrease and “good cholesterol” (HDL) increase. Adding passion fruit pectin (fiber) to the diet of diabetic rats helps lower blood triglycerides. Adding fiber from passion fruit seeds lowers triglycerides and total cholesterol in hamsters (leading to more fat excretion in the stool).
In humans, a small study was published in 2020: 12 overweight men drank a large daily glass (25 cl) of passion fruit juice or a “placebo” drink. Consuming passion fruit juice quickly leads to an increase in their HDL-cholesterol levels.
2. Protect the arteries
Some of the components of passion fruit could help protect the arteries. This is the case with piceatannol, its main polyphenol, which in laboratory studies protects human endothelial cells (cells lining blood vessels) from oxidation and inflammation and promotes dilation of blood vessels. Piceatannol or other components could in particular modulate the expression of genes involved in inflammation.
3. Lowers blood pressure
Certain components of the passion fruit seem to have an impact on the level of blood pressure. The administration of passion fruit, at a dose of 8 g per kilo and per day (an easily consumable quantity) made it possible from 5 days to decrease the systolic pressure (the first figure of the tension) of hypertensive rats. The mechanisms are not yet elucidated. In humans, supplementation with purple passion fruit peel extracts has shown a significant decrease in blood pressure, but there are no studies yet with pulp or juice.
In general, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is encouraged in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. While waiting to learn more, passion fruit can be integrated into your diet alternately with other fruits.
4. Helps prevent type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a cardiovascular risk factor. In several studies in mice or rats made diabetic, the administration of passion fruit juice or seeds has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. This effect could be attributed to several components of passion fruit:
Pectin: added to the diet of diabetic rodents, pectin extracted from the skin of passion fruits (but also present in the pulp and seeds) can by itself reduce blood sugar. This so-called “soluble” fiber is known to reduce the glycemic index (their speed in raising blood sugar) of meals.
Piceatannol: administered to mice on a fatty diet, this polyphenol (abundant in passion fruit) improves insulin sensitivity, thus reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Piceatannol also appears to decrease the efficiency of an enzyme that is used to digest starch, resulting in less carbohydrate uptake.
It was tested in a small clinical study in 39 volunteers: 10 overweight men, 9 thin men, 10 overweight women and 10 thin women. After 8 weeks of treatment, the overweight men saw their insulin sensitivity increased and their blood pressure reduced. No change was observed in the other participants.
The authors of the study suggest that the impact of piceatannol could vary according to body composition and in particular the percentage of body fat. They indicate that although their results are encouraging, larger studies are needed to conclude on the interest of piceatannol or passion fruit in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
While waiting to learn more, whether it is to prevent or contain diabetes through a balanced diet, passion fruit can be consumed alternately with other fruits (2 to 3 servings of fruit per day).
5. Prevention of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (“NASH”)
Several laboratory studies suggest a protective effect of passion fruit. Administration of passion fruit seed extracts prevented rats on a high fat diet from developing fatty liver.
Piceatannol (polyphenol from passion fruit) could prevent the progression of fatty liver disease to NASH, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been successfully tested in cultures of human liver cells and in mice fed a high-fat diet.
6. Cleans out the colon
Passion fruit contains soluble fiber. These fibers help eliminate toxins stored in the colon, which are often responsible for colon cancer. 100g of passion fruit provide about 28g of fiber, the amount recommended by the FDA as optimal daily fiber intake. As such, passion fruit turns out to be one of the best fruits for cleaning the colon.
7. Good for eye health
Due to many changes in lifestyle, television, computer, nutrition, vision problems are increasing day by day. Vision loss is usually due to a lack of nutrition in food. The good news is that vision loss can be reversed by including healthy foods in your diet.
Passion fruit is one of the healthiest foods and has many benefits for the health of the eyes. It contains a large amount of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C and flavonoids. These nutrients protect the eyes against damage caused by free radicals.
8. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Some research suggests that a compound found in passionfruit seeds may improve insulin sensitivity, which may help reduce the risk of many diseases including diabetes. A 2017 study in humans found that the piceatannol found passion fruit may improve metabolism after animal studies found the same results.
9. Strengthens the immune system
The benefits of passion fruit also help to strengthen the immune system. This is due in part to vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant and thus protects the body from free radicals. In addition, vitamin C boosts immunity by helping the body to absorb more plant iron and may improve the body’s ability to fight infections.
10. Promotes relaxation and cure Insomnia
Drinking a glass of cold passion fruit juice relaxes the nerves and has a calming effect on your mind. Passion fruit is often used to cure digestive and gastric diseases. This fruit is especially beneficial for people with difficulty sleeping or sleep disorders. It has somniferous properties, which when taken before bedtime, will help you relax and have a peaceful sleep. A glass of passion fruit juice before bedtime is quite effective in this regard.
11. Counteracts angina
According to a scientific study, beta-carotene can reduce the risk of angina pectoris. Those with the highest levels of alpha and beta-carotene in their blood halved their risk of suffering compared to those with the lowest levels. Passion fruit also contains a lot of beta-carotene.
12. May help against asthma
The shell of the passion fruit is rich in antioxidants. Since we cannot eat the shell, a health food company has developed an extract from the shell that has been tested on a small group of asthmatics for four weeks. At the end of the test period, the test subjects stated that they had easier breathing and coughed less.
Passion fruit is an exotic fruit, imported throughout the year. The most common on the shelves is the purple granadilla, a dark-skinned, almost brown variety that is quite thick. The more acidic yellow-skinned variety is less popular.
The more wrinkled and bumpier the skin, the riper and juicier it is. When buying, the skin should therefore be slightly wrinkled. But you have to make sure that it is not too light in weight, a sign that it is at an advanced stage of maturity and that it has started to become dehydrated.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.