YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad MS, RDN, LD
Star fruit is an oddly beautiful and eye-catching fruit. Store-bought star fruit has a peculiar shape—oblong with rough sides and a smooth, shiny surface. When you cut it open in a cross-section, the sections resemble little stars. Ripe star fruit is sweet and tart with a texture similar to that of a grape. While shopping for one, choose a star fruit that is firm to the touch and bright yellow with some browning at the edges. Some green spots are okay, but a fully green star fruit is not yet ripe.
Star fruit, also known as Averrhoa carambola, is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, South Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka, South Pacific countries like Micronesia, and parts of East Asia. Because it is a tropical fruit, it is also grown in Latin American countries and Florida and is available at grocery stores there. In other parts of the United States, you may be fortunate enough to find it in season at a farmer’s market.
There are several reasons why someone would want to try star fruit. Star fruit has many nutritional benefits. It is low in calories—only about thirty per serving—and is a good source of vitamin C, which can strengthen your immune system and help you fight off colds or the flu. Star fruit is also low in carbohydrates with about six grams per serving, making it suitable for people with diabetes to enjoy. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties.
According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s food database, star fruit is also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, and potassium. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showed that the phytochemicals in star fruit decreased fatty liver risk and cholesterol levels in animals. Unfortunately, research on its effects on humans is still limited. Furthermore, in an article for the International Journal of Food Properties, See Wan Yan et al. note that the fruit has a high concentration of polyphenolic compounds, which act as antioxidants.
John Staughton at Organic Facts notes that even though allergies to star fruit are uncommon, they may result in digestive upset such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. If you are consuming star fruit for the first time, eat a small amount to assess how your body reacts. Star fruit also contains active ingredients known to interact with certain medications, making them ineffective. This can be dangerous if a person takes multiple prescriptions, so speak with your doctor before consuming star fruit to avoid any potentially negative side effects.
When it comes to toxicity, some compounds in star fruit can be dangerous—and even deadly—to people who cannot properly process them. Star fruit contains a high concentration of oxalic acid, which may increase your risk of developing kidney stones when consumed in excess (more than one to two servings daily). If a person has kidney disease and cannot filter out certain neurotoxins, star fruit can result in headaches, confusion, nausea, hiccups, numbness, weakness, disorientation, agitation, seizures, and even death. For this reason, individuals with kidney issues are advised to avoid star fruit.
Star fruit can be used in a variety of ways. To prepare it, start by washing the fruit well. Rinse it under running water and scrub it with your fingers to remove any loose dirt. The entire fruit is edible, so there is no need to peel or remove the seeds before eating it. You can enjoy star fruit as it is without adding it to anything else or use it in a recipe.
Emily Johnson at Epicurious has some suggestions for other ways to use star fruit:
According to John Staughton at Organic Facts, other ways to use star fruit include putting it in fruit shakes or smoothies or drying and sweetening it like candy. You may also use mashed star fruit in fruit bread instead of applesauce or use it in your next birthday or holiday cake. Star fruit can even be used in savory dishes and pairs well with seafood and poultry.
Next time you want to add a delicious yet exotic fruit to recipes, meals, or beverages, try star fruit. Look for it at your local farmers market or online and enjoy all that it has to offer.
YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad, MS, RDN, LD is an Atlanta-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Prescriptions, LLC, a consulting practice specializing in weight management, recipe development and analysis, and nutrition education. She empowers women to learn and apply healthy, mindful nutrition strategies while understanding the connection between food, faith, and health. Find her on Instagram @yaqutu_nutritionprescriptions.