Rambutan fruit is an unusual looking tropical fruit from Southeast Asia. The literal translation of the Indonesian name ‘rambutan’ is ‘hair’.
The fruit grows in tropical countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Australia. It grows on a medium-sized tree, Nephelium iappaceum, which is related to the lychee.
Rambutan grows in clusters on evergreen trees and is hairy-looking colourful balls. The name rambutan means hairy, referring to the spikes on the skin of the fruit. The spikes aren’t sharp; they are fleshy and pliable.
Like the lychee, under the rind, there is the tasty white flesh of the fruit and single inedible seed. The fruit can be eaten fresh, without cooking. Most rambutans are red when they are ripe, but in Malaysia, you can also find a smaller, yellow rambutan.
The flavour of rambutan is a little like grapes with a slight strawberry quality, slightly acidic and sweet. It has a pleasant fragrance that may be desired in some cooked dishes. It’s not as sweet as the lychee and also is a little less acidic.
Health Benefits of Rambutan
Like all fruit, the health benefits are mostly down to the vitamin C content.
It is also possible that the polyphenol content may boost the functioning of several biological processes.
Be wary of marketing-focused articles exaggerating the benefits of the fruit though.
For example; 2.8 g of fibre doesn’t mean rambutan “may prevent heart disease,” and nor are the tiny quantities of most vitamins worth shouting about.
4. Rambutan Provides a Polyphenol Called Gallic Acid
Gallic acid is associated with several health benefits, and it is part of the phenolic acid class of polyphenols (1).
Perhaps the most famous source of gallic acid is green tea, and the compound is believed to have cardioprotective properties.
However, yet again, these claims are a little misleading because the vast majority of gallic acid is located in the rambutan peel (2)
Furthermore, studies that show benefit use highly concentrated extracts from the peel, and such levels of polyphenols are not found in the flesh.
3. There Are Claims That Rambutan Has Anti-bacterial Properties
The claim that rambutan has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial benefits is quite common.
Just a quick Google search brings up hundreds of results.
Firstly, this is technically true.
In clinical studies, various compounds within rambutan have shown antibacterial activity against pathogens (3)
However, the compounds that are responsible for this effect are an extract from the fruit’s peel (which we can’t eat).
In other words, this benefit may have some future use in medicine, but you won’t get it from simply eating the fruit.
2. Rambutan Provides a Decent Amount of Manganese
Rambutan provides around 10% of the RDA for Manganese per 100 g (4).
Manganese is another essential mineral that we need to consume from our diet, and it plays an active role in several biological processes.
It also acts as an ‘activator’ of various enzymes, and these compounds are dependent on a sufficient supply of manganese (5).
Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) is dependent on adequate dietary manganese. MnSOD is the primary antioxidant enzyme within our mitochondria (DNA cells).
Manganese supports the healthy formation of new cartilage and bone.
The consequences of manganese deficiency include impaired glucose tolerance and regulation, growth and reproductive problems, and skeletal abnormalities.
Although it is great that rambutan contains some manganese, it is worth noting that other foods provide far higher amounts.
For instance, cocoa provides 189% of the manganese RDA per 100 grams. This means that even a tablespoon of cocoa supplies double the amount in 100 grams of rambutan fruit (6).
1. Rambutan is rich in Vitamin C
The vitamin C content of rambutan is very high, and the fruit provides approximately 66% of the RDA per 100 grams (7).
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human health, and it plays a number of key roles within our body.
Higher amounts of vitamin C are especially important if you eat a higher carbohydrate diet since vitamin C and glucose compete for cell uptake (8).
Some important roles of vitamin C include;
Vitamin C is believed to act as an antioxidant in the body, and it helps to strengthen the immune system in times of illness (9).
The vitamin plays a primary role in the synthesis of collagen, making it important for our joint, hair, and skin health (10).
Glutathione is known as the body’s ‘master antioxidant’, and it is the key to our body’s natural antioxidant defence system. Our body makes this compound, and it is essential for our immune health. Markedly, higher vitamin C levels boost the rate at which our body can make glutathione (11).