Litchis are a treat for the senses—inside-out. They are as good-looking from inside as they are from the outside. Removing the bright red peel exposes a pearl white translucent flesh that covers a single seed. The flesh gives out an inviting fragrance. The treat to the senses is complete when you bite into the attractive flesh and the sweet and tangy juice gushes out to fill your mouth.
In India, fresh litchis flood the market from May to August. They have been prized for centuries in Asia and are important ingredients in Traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda. They are known to treat various medical conditions especially sore throat, cough, and chest congestion and pain relief.
The little fruits boast of an impressive nutritional profile that translates into numerous health benefits. A rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, the all-rounder litchi is loaded with antioxidants. The nutritional superstars of this fruit are vitamin C, B and essential minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Other minerals found in the fruit are iron, copper, selenium and zinc.
Why litchis are good for you?
Boosts energy levels: Litchi is a juicy fruit that not just keeps you hydrated but also boosts energy levels by preventing electrolyte imbalance.
Helps you maintain weight: Litchi is low in calories and fats and high in dietary fibre. Recent research suggests that a mixture of polyphenols extracted from litchis break down fats and prevents its accumulation, making it a great tool in the fight against obesity. It protects against inflammation and prevents fat deposition in the liver in type-2 diabetes.
Fights free radicals: The fruit is loaded with high concentration of polyphenols and vitamin C, both of which are potent antioxidants that fight the free radicals. Studies suggest that litchi contains two powerful flavonoids that are capable of inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. The compounds are most effective against breast cancer.
Promotes cardiovascular health: Litchi has high potassium content that helps in regulating heart rhythm, maintaining normal blood pressure and promoting cardiovascular health.
Fights infection: Vitamin C stimulates the production and functions of the disease fighting cells in our body. A decoction made from the roots and bark of the litchi tree is used for treating chest congestion and sore throat.
Promotes digestive health: The fibre and high water content of the fruit facilitates proper digestion, prevents constipation and piles. The flesh of litchi has antacid properties.
Protects the nervous system: The antioxidant arsenal protects the brain from free radical damage. Litchi also ensures a good supply of B vitamins that are important for various metabolic processes and a healthy nervous system.
Is good for the bones: Litchi supplies magnesium, phosphorus and calcium—all essential for building and maintaining strong bones in both children and adults.
Relieves pain: Traditional Chinese medicine uses powdered litchi seeds for treating inflammation and relieving pain, especially neuralgic pain.
Slows down skin ageing: The oligonol in litchi protects against UV light and free radicals. It benefits the skin by improving the blood flow to the deeper layers of the skin. The high concentration of vitamin C ensures good collagen production, fights free radicals, strengthens and maintains healthy skin and slows down the ageing process.
In your diet
Fresh litchis, served chilled taste yum.
- Litchis can be consumed fresh as well as canned. Fresh ones have a strong flavour.
- Litchi squashes are great thirst quenchers. Litchis can also be used for making jams and jellies.
- Add them to the fruit cocktails.
- They can also be added to other fruits to make a refreshing salad or even to vegetable salads.
- Litchis can be used for making smoothies, soufflés and ice creams.
- Fresh litchis also taste great with ice cream.
How to buy
- Select litchis that are fresh and bright red in colour.
- Choose ripe ones because once harvested, they do not ripen further. Make sure they are not over-ripe.
- Choose the ones with a small stem attached to them, as they remain fresh longer.
- Do not buy dull, dry and dark coloured litchis as they are over-ripe.
- Do not buy those with blemishes or cuts.
For the best taste, consume them within 7 – 8 days of buying.
How to store
- Fresh litchi can be kept at room temperature for 5 – 6 days.
- Chances of getting rotten are more in places with high levels of humidity. In such places store them unwashed in open pouches.
- If you want to enjoy litchis beyond their season, simply freeze them. Frozen ones are equally delicious. Put them with the skin on, in zip lock pouches and seal them.
- You can also freeze them in sugar syrup. Peel the litchi and cut it into two halves. Put them in sugar syrup and freeze. Stored this way, the litchis remain good for 8 – 10 months.
- Excess consumption can aggravate pimples and acne.
- If eaten in large amounts, it can also cause nose bleed.
- Some people are allergic to litchi. If you develop hives or experience skin rash and itching, swollen tongue or laboured breathing after consuming litchi, rush to the doctor. These symptoms indicate allergic reaction.
Litchi Smoothie recipe
- Litchi [peeled and de-seeded] 1 cup
- Milk 2 cups
- Crushed ice
- Sugar to taste
Blend the litchi flesh along with the sugar until smooth. Add milk and crushed ice. Blend well and serve chilled.
Did you know?
- Litchis are regarded a symbol of love and romance in China.
- India is the second largest producer of this fruit in the world.
- One cup of the fruit contains 136mg of vitamin C that is much higher than the daily requirement of vitamin C.
- Dried litchis, called litchi nuts, are eaten in China. They resemble raisins in taste and appearance. Litchi nuts are concentrated sources of essential minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and copper.
This was first published in the June 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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