Rambutan Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

rambutan

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

If you’ve never tried a rambutan, don't let its exterior scare you away. With its bright, spiky shell and egg-shape, the rambutan has been likened a sea urchin. Underneath its tough exterior, however, rambutan has a creamy, sweet flesh that's rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Rambutan makes a perfect grab-and-go snack or exotic new food to share with friends.

Rambutan Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (150g) of canned rambutan, packed in syrup and drained.

  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 16.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 31.3g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Sugars: (not specified)
  • Protein: 1g

Carbs

Like most fruits, rambutans are primarily composed of carbohydrates. There are 31 grams of carbs in a cup of canned rambutan, with 1.4 grams coming from fiber. Sugar content is not currently listed by the USDA for rambutan, however, a portion of its total carbohydrates is attributed to natural sugars.

Canned rambutan that's packed in syrup is higher in sugar than fresh fruit. Fresh rambutan varies in sugar content based on its level of ripeness. When the outer spines are still green, rambutan tastes sour. As rambutan turns from green to red or yellow, the sugar content goes up by 20%.

Fats

Rambutan is very low in fat, with less than 1/2 gram per cup.

Protein

Rambutan is not a significant source of protein. A cup of rambutan provides just 1 gram of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Rambutan provides vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate, and vitamin A.

Health Benefits

In addition to vitamins and minerals, rambutan provides several polyphenols that show promise for benefiting human health.

Lowers Diabetes Risk

Oftentimes, people with diabetes believe that fruit is too sweet to be included in their diet. However, fruits like rambutan offer various health benefits and relatively low sugar counts (especially when compared to other sweets or processed foods). Keep in mind, however, that people with diabetes should steer away from fruit that is packed in syrup or with added sweeteners.

A 7-year study looking at 500,000 Chinese adults discovered that higher consumption of fruit is associated with a lower risk of diabetes and vascular complications. Embracing a whole foods mentality that includes fruit could benefit those who are predisposed to diabetes.

May Support Cancer Prevention

Rambutan contains several antioxidants, including anthocyanins, phenolic compounds, and methanolic compounds. Although no long-term human studies have confirmed the anti-cancer effects of rambutan, antioxidants in fruits and vegetables have long been associated with cancer prevention. Choosing unprocessed rambutan (fresh over canned) provides the greatest concentration of antioxidants.

Promotes Bone Health

To some extent, bone loss is inevitable with age. However, healthy eating and physical activity make it possible to reduce the rate and severity of this issue. Higher intakes of fruit, like rambutan, are associated with greater bone mineral density, likely due to the effects of potassium. By reducing urinary calcium excretion, rambutan may help prevent bone turnover and osteoporosis.

May Reduce Risk of Kidney Stones

In the same way that eating patterns that are higher in fruit support bone retention, they may also prevent kidney stones. The most common forms of kidney stones contain calcium. Greater potassium consumption, through fruits like rambutan, increases the resorption of calcium in the kidneys. This hypothesis has been backed-up by several observation studies citing higher potassium intakes with lower rates of kidney stone development.

Supports Heart Health

Like many fruits, rambutan has a favorable nutritional profile for heart health. Rambutan provides potassium (which lowers blood pressure) along with cholesterol-reducing fiber. The folate and other B-vitamins in rambutan damper inflammation (homocysteine) levels, thereby reducing the risk of stroke by up to 25%.

Finally, rambutan's vitamin C content helps scavenge free radicals that damage arteries over time. As part of a heart-healthy, plant-based eating plan, rambutan helps keep your plate interesting.

Allergies

Rambutan allergies are rare but have been reported. In one case study, a 22-year-old sailor visiting Thailand experienced itchy eyes, hives, and throat swelling within minutes of eating rambutan for the first time. Although this case is not recent (it was reported in 1998), the reaction described remains indicative of typical food allergy symptoms seen today. The patient was eventually diagnosed with both rambutan and environmental allergies via skin prick testing.

An allergy to rambutan may be associated with allergies to latex or other fruits, but not necessarily. If you suspect a food allergy, meet with an allergist to obtain further testing.

Adverse Effects

For certain people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), natural fruit sugars can trigger a flare-up. Commonly abbreviated as FODMAPs, these short-chain carbohydrates include any fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Rambutan and other fruits often contain FODMAPs and can be an issue for those with a sensitivity. If you notice gastrointestinal distress after eating rambutan, see a dietitian or gastroenterologist to help pinpoint the root of your symptoms.

A common misconception about rambutan is that the seeds are toxic. However, rambutan seeds are nutritious and safe for human consumption when cooked.

Varieties

There are several varieties of rambutan, with 22 varieties in Indonesia alone. Examples of the different varieties include Cikoneng, Rapiah, Sinyonya, and Binjai. Rambutan starts out green and turns either red or yellow when mature. It is generally sold fresh or canned.

When It's Best

As more consumers have become interested in international foods, the demand for rambutan has increased in the United States. Once only available at Asian markets, these unique, spiky-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside fruits have made their way into the produce departments of some mainstream grocery stores.

Rambutan is ripe when its spines (spinterns) turn red or yellow. If they're still green, the fruit is unripe. Rambutan has passed its prime when the spinterns start to turn brown and dry up. Look for a vibrant, uniform skin color that's free from signs of insects or disease.

Storage and Food Safety

The ideal storage conditions for rambutan are between 46–59 degrees Fahrenheit with 90–95% humidity. Although the exterior color may change slightly, the inside remains fresh for 14–16 days. In warmer or more dry conditions (68 degrees Fahrenheit and 60% humidity), rambutan only lasts for 3–5 days.

As with all fresh fruit, it's important to wash your hands and rinse rambutan under running water before opening the fruit to eat it. Once out of the rind, store rambutan refrigerated in an airtight container and eat it within a couple of days.

How to Prepare

To eat fresh rambutan, slice apart the exterior shell with a sharp pairing knife and remove it. Next, slice open the fruit to pull out the bitter interior seed.

You may not find recipes for rambutan in standard American cookbooks, but there are plenty of ways to use this exotic fruit. For example, rambutan flesh can be served as part of a fruit salad or smoothie. With its natural sweetness, rambutan could also replace other fruits like mango or pineapple in a sorbet.

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