What Are the Health Benefits of Sapodillas?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 26, 2022
5 min read

In the United States, sapodilla is considered an exotic and rare fruit that's hard to find, but it's a popular and common fruit in other parts of the world, especially in the tropics. 

Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) is a fruit that’s thought to be native to Mexico and Central America. Today, though, it can be found in many parts of the world, such as the Philippines, India, South Africa, Australia, and South America. In the United States, this plant is found mostly in Florida.

Sapodilla is sometimes called sapodillo. It's also known by many other different names around the world, like:

  • Chikoo
  • Chiku 
  • Dilly
  • Naseberry 
  • Chicle
  • Chicozapote
  • Níspero
  • Zapote 
  • Zapotillo

The sapodilla fruit is round or egg-shaped. It grows to about 2 inches to 4 inches in diameter. It has brown skin, and its flesh can be yellow, brown, or reddish-brown. Its flesh may be grainy or smooth textured. The fruit usually has three to 12 flat black seeds in the center of the fruit. Some fruits may be seedless. 

In Florida, peak sapodilla season is in June and July. In some tropical countries, though, some sapodilla cultivars may bear fruit all year round.

The milky latex that seeps from the tree is known as chicle. It was once the main ingredient of chewing gum.

Sapodilla fruit is rich in fiber and some vitamins and minerals. One sapodilla (about 170 grams) contains:

Calories: 140

Dietary Fiber: 9 grams

Calcium: 36 milligrams

Magnesium: 20 milligrams

Potassium: 328 milligrams 

Vitamin C: 25 milligrams

Folate: 24 micrograms

Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): 0.4 milligrams

Iron: 1.4 milligrams

In folk medicine, sapodilla has been used to treat a variety of illnesses, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Rheumatism
  • Fever
  • Ulcers
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation 

Different parts of the sapodilla plant are used in traditional medicine. The bark is made into a tea that's said to stop dysentery. The leaves are boiled into a drink to help with diarrhea, colds, and coughs.

Limited research on sapodilla has been largely conducted via lab or test-tube studies. More studies are needed to find out whether these effects benefit people.

High in Antioxidants

Sapodilla, like many other fruits and vegetables, are a good source of antioxidants. Sapodilla fruit extracts have been found to have 10 different compounds with antioxidant activity, such as gallic acid and quercitrin.

Your body’s cells face many different threats. Among these are viruses, infections, and free radicals. Free radicals are created naturally when food is converted into energy. They’re also generated after exercise and when you’re exposed to sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution.

High amounts of free radicals can cause cell damage and are linked to chronic illnesses such as:

  • Cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease 

Your body produces some antioxidants. It also extracts antioxidants from the food you eat. Scientists say that taking antioxidant supplements doesn’t help protect from heart disease or cancer. Instead, taking beta-carotene supplements may actually lead to a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Experts say that antioxidants work better when combined with other plant nutrients and antioxidants. A diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and fruits like sapodilla may therefore provide protection against diseases and aging.

High in Fiber

A study of 37 different fruits commonly found in Thailand found that sapodilla fruits had the highest fiber content. The other fruits studied included durian, guava, Chinese pear, and star fruit.

Sapodilla is a great source of dietary fiber. One sapodilla fruit gives you 9 grams of fiber. 

Fiber helps promote bowel health. It also keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps control your blood sugar. Experts say that you should get a variety of fiber in your diet. This means eating different vegetables and fruits, as well as whole grains and legumes.

Adults should aim for at least 21 grams to 38 grams of fiber a day, but most Americans only eat about 16 grams a day. If you don't get enough fiber, you have an increased risk of getting cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Early studies have found that sapodilla fruit may also provide protection against diarrhea and gastric ulcers. This may be due to plant chemicals called flavonoids that are found in the fruit.

Good Source of Nutrients

Sapodilla is packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health. 

Sapodilla is a good source of potassium. This nutrient helps lower your blood pressure, but most people don’t eat enough potassium. The daily amount recommended is 4,700 milligrams to 5,000 milligrams of potassium.

Vitamin C has many benefits for your body, including:

  • Fighting infections
  • Healing wounds 
  • Making collagen
  • Antioxidant activity

Women need 75 milligrams a day, and men need 90 milligrams. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll need more vitamin C. One sapodilla fruit gives you 25 milligrams of vitamin C.

In the United States, sapodilla may be hard to find. Try checking with specialty grocers or online fruit stores. Choose fruit that has smooth skin. It shouldn’t have wrinkles, bruises, or cracks. When ripe, the fruit will budge slightly when pressed with your thumb. You can store unripe fruit at room temperature for up to 10 days. Once it’s ripe, store it in your fridge for up to 1 week.

The sapodilla fruit is sweet and has a noticeable fragrance when ripe. Sapodilla tastes like a combination of cinnamon, brown sugar, pears, and peaches.

You can eat the fruit fresh. Wash a sapodilla and slice it in half, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Be careful with the seeds. They have a protruding hook and might get stuck in your throat if swallowed. Eating more than six seeds has been known to cause vomiting and stomach pain.

Sapodilla fruit can also be used to make desserts. The peeled and mashed pulp can be baked into a pie or a souffle. You can blend the flesh with honey and milk for a sapodilla smoothie. Try making kulfi or Indian ice cream with sapodilla puree by blending evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream, soaked white bread, and sapodilla puree. Then, pour the mixture into ice cream molds and freeze.

Sapodilla fruit can also be made into jams, juices, and wines. In the Bahamas, sapodilla puree is added to pancakes and breads. In Indonesia, you can find fried sapodilla. In Malaysia, ginger or lime juice is added to sapodilla.