Durian: The ‘King of Fruits’ May Be Smelly, but It’s Packed With Nutrients


This heavy, spiky fruit boasts myriad benefits, protecting the heart, fighting cancer, alleviating depression, and reducing cancer-drug resistance.

Durian has high nutritional value and offers significant health benefits.

Due to its rich nutritional content, durian is known as the “king of fruits” in Southeast Asia. However, its unique and strong smell makes it pretty polarizing. Fans enjoy its sweet, custard-like flavor, while detractors avoid it because of its sulfur-like odor. This distinct smell comes from various volatile sulfur compounds, including thiamine, a sulfur-containing vitamin (B1).

Durian is rich in nutrients, including beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, and B vitamins such as folate (B9), niacin (B3), thiamine (B1), and riboflavin (B2). It also provides essential minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and phosphorus. Additionally, durian is a good source of water, protein, fat, and dietary fiber. One cup of durian pulp provides 83 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B1 and 64 percent of vitamin C for adult women, and 76 percent of vitamin B1 and 53 percent of vitamin C for adult men. Durian is also high in potassium, with 1 cup of pulp containing about 23 percent of the daily recommended intake for adults.

Durian is rich in polyphenols, including flavonoids like anthocyanins. These compounds possess antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-mutagenic, and antibacterial properties. Like the fruit’s flesh, durian seeds are also edible and have medicinal value.

Reducing Cancer Risk and Cancer-Drug Resistance

The polyphenols in durian exhibit antioxidant effects but also, according to a 2023 review, may enhance chemotherapy effectiveness and prevent multidrug resistance in cancer cells.

In recent years, academia has shown a growing interest in finding natural compounds with anti-cancer properties. Components in durian, especially polyphenols, have been found to possess such properties. One of the major challenges in cancer treatment is drug resistance, where cancer cells develop tolerance to treatment, leading to disease progression in patients.

Multiple studies have shown that polyphenols can “inhibit the activation of procarcinogens, cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and angiogenesis (blood vessel formation).” They can also inhibit transporter proteins that pump active drugs out of cancer cells, thereby reducing cancer cell resistance to treatment. Furthermore, polyphenols have the ability to modulate immune responses, reduce inflammation, and induce cell death in cancer cells.

Flavonoids, a type of polyphenol compound, have been proven to lower the risk of various cancers. An Italian study involving over 10,000 cancer cases and more than 16,000 controls found that several flavonoid compounds, particularly flavonols, had a significant impact on cancer. Specifically, flavonols reduced the risk of laryngeal cancer by 36 percent, and flavanones reduced the risk of esophageal cancer by 62 percent. These flavonoid compounds are found in relatively large quantities in durian.

Durian extract can also kill human leukemia cells. An in vitro study using durian pulp extract to treat human leukemia cells indicated that even at the lowest concentrations, treatment with durian extract resulted in cancer cell death. The study identified that the mechanism by which durian extract exerts its anti-cancer effects is through inducing DNA damage and cell death in leukemia cells.

Durian extract has also been found to scavenge free radicals, including nitric oxide, which can promote tumor blood vessel growth.

Lowering the Risk of Heart Disease

Dr. Jingduan Yang, CEO of the Northern Medical Center in New York, outlined three reasons why durian lowers the risk of heart disease in his video program on Ganjing World. They are as follows:

  1. Durian contains healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  2. It is rich in fiber, especially insoluble fiber, which helps prevent constipation and regulate blood sugar.
  3. It contains carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids, all of which protect cardiovascular endothelial cells from free radical damage and reduce inflammation, thereby contributing to a lower risk of heart disease.

One review indicated that rats fed durian experienced a 14.9 percent reduction in postprandial plasma total cholesterol and a 21.6 percent reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol compared to those not fed durian.

Furthermore, durian is rich in potassium, containing 436 milligrams per 100 grams of fruit pulp, which is higher than the potassium content in high-potassium fruits like bananas. This essential mineral helps regulate blood pressure and maintain cardiovascular health.

A study published in 2022, which followed over 20,000 participants for nearly 20 years, found that higher potassium intake was associated with a 13 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events. Notably, women with high sodium intake benefited the most from increased potassium intake in terms of reduced systolic blood pressure.

Professor Liffert Vogt, the study’s lead researcher from the Amsterdam University Medical Centers in the Netherlands, highlighted in a press release that consuming more potassium-rich foods can protect heart health. Potassium helps the body excrete more sodium through urine, thereby reducing the risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke caused by high salt intake.

Alleviating Depression and Improving Sleep

Tryptophan, also found in durian, is an essential amino acid that the human body cannot synthesize and must obtain through the diet. This amino acid is crucial for synthesizing serotonin, which regulates various bodily functions, including behavior, memory, emotions, and gastrointestinal homeostasis. Serotonin plays a significant role in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and controlling appetite.

Furthermore, serotonin is a key regulator of sleep and a precursor to melatonin, a hormone essential for a good night’s sleep.

Managing Blood Sugar Level

Despite its sweet taste, research has confirmed that durian is a low-glycemic index fruit, with a glycemic index lower than watermelon, papaya, and pineapple. Durian is rich in fiber and fats, which help slow glucose absorption, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels.

Dr. Yang pointed out that due to its low glycemic index, durian is a suitable choice for individuals looking to prevent or manage diabetes and those who are insulin-resistant.

Considerations for Eating Durian

While durian boasts high nutritional and medicinal value, it is also calorie-dense (147 calories/100 grams) and can be difficult to digest, so people with poor digestion should moderate their intake.

Additionally, those with kidney disease should avoid consuming durian in large quantities due to its high potassium content, which could lead to hyperkalemia, where the kidneys are unable to effectively excrete potassium.

For those who do not enjoy the taste of durian, Dr. Yang recommends opting for durian extract, as some have undergone processing to reduce the fruit’s odor.

Remove Odors With Durian Endocarp

After eating durian, the smell may linger in the mouth. Hu Naiwen, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner in Taiwan, suggested to The Epoch Times that filling the durian endocarp, the hollow encasing the seed, with water and then drinking or using it to rinse the mouth can help eliminate the odor.

A Malaysian study revealed that the oral temperature increases after eating durian. Drinking water from the durian endocarp helps the mouth’s temperature return to normal more quickly than drinking plain water.

Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.theepochtimes.com by Ellen Wan where all credits are due.


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