Known by many names—including custard apple—the cherimoya (Annona cherimola) is a heart-shaped, green fruit from South America.
The unusual fruit’s inedible peel is scaly and similar in appearance to an artichoke. The flesh inside is creamy and soft like custard. When eating cherimoya, be careful to remove the dark brown seeds, which are toxic to humans.
Cherimoya has a strong, sweet flavor. Even Mark Twain was a fan of the fruit, calling it “the most delicious fruit known to man,” thanks to its very sweet taste. Some people say that cherimoya tastes like a mix of pineapple, strawberry, and banana.
In addition to tasting great, cherimoya also boasts a variety of nutritional and health benefits. For this reason, many people choose to make this unique fruit a part of their diet whenever it’s in season from fall to spring.
Cherimoya Health Benefits
Cherimoya provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important in a balanced diet. It also contains antioxidants that help prevent illnesses like cancer. The carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin C in cherimoya support health and wellness in various ways.
Here are some of the health benefits of cherimoya:
Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
Reduce the Risk of Cancer
The flavonoids in cherimoya can help support your immune system, and they might also help fight cancer.
Strengthen the Immune System
Cherimoyas are rich in vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. Getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin C can help your body fight off infections. One cherimoya contains 60% of your recommended daily intake.
Certain compounds in cherimoya may help reduce inflammation. By reducing chronic inflammation, you may be able to decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, bowel diseases, and diabetes.
Support Healthy Digestion
A cup of cherimoya contains 4.8 grams of fiber. Fiber helps support a healthy digestive system and can help lower your cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. High-fiber foods also make you feel fuller longer, which can be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight.
Maintain Eye Health
Cherimoya contains lutein—a carotenoid related to vitamin A and beta-carotene. Lutein is found in your eyes, and getting more of it may help protect against conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Cherimoya contains a range of nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The following vitamins and minerals are found in this fruit:
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin C
Nutrients per Serving
A half-cup serving of fresh cherimoya contains:
Things to Watch Out For
Only eat the pulp of cherimoya, and discard the skin and the seeds, which should not be crushed.
The seeds are toxic, and have even been used to create insecticides when crushed. Also, contact with the eyes can result in serious problems, such as toxic keratitis.
Eating too much cherimoya on a regular basis might be associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease because of acetogenins that may have negative effects on the nervous system.
How to Prepare Cherimoya
When buying cherimoyas, look for heavy, dark green fruits that are a bit soft when you apply some pressure with your fingers. If you buy a cherimoya that is too firm and not ripe yet, you can let it ripen at room temperature. The skin will become darker, and it will begin to feel a little softer when you press on it, similar to the way avocado ripens when it’s ready to eat.
You can eat ripe cherimoya with a spoon. Simply slice it in half, remove the seeds, and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. You can also peel the fruit, cut it into cubes, and remove the seeds.
Here are some other ways you can enjoy cherimoya:
- Blend cherimoya into a smoothie.
- Make homemade sherbet with cherimoya.
- Add cherimoya to a tropical salad.
- Create a fresh salsa with diced cherimoya and jalapeño peppers.
- Bake a cherimoya pie.