Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics

Blog

Colorful Flavors of the Tropics to Boost Your Health and Sweeten Your Life

 

The world’s tropical regions offer a rainbow of delicious fruits that are perfect for quick and easy, healthy recipes. Our food and travel guide is here to take you on a tasty tour of the tropics to discover some of the foods that can improve your health while turning your plate into a rainbow of colors. Click through to experience all the colors. 

 


RED

Lychee

Many tropical fruits come in vibrant shades of red. Lychee, found in the West Indies, has become increasingly popular among the health-conscious because they are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Lychee are particularly high in B-complex vitamins like niacin and thiamin that help keep your organs and nervous system functioning optimally. Lychee brings a delectable flavor to desserts like cheesecake, tarts, and ice cream — while also adding a little zing to savory dishes.

Lychee

Lychee

 

Dragon Fruit

The imaginatively named dragon fruit is another beautiful red tropical fruit (also sometimes yellow, or with yellow highlights) with healthful properties. Dragon fruit is high in metabolism-boosting fiber as well as Vitamins B and C, which fight disease and help protect your immune system. You can’t eat the skin, but the creamy inside makes it a favorite choice for healthy smoothie recipes.

Miracle Fruit

The aptly named miracle fruit is a tangy, red berry from tropical West Africa that derives its name from the impressive fact that it works so well as an artificial sweetener. In health terms, this makes it a particularly miraculous fruit for diabetics looking for a natural way to sweeten foods for healthy tasty recipes.

 

ORANGE

Kumquat

Next in the tropical rainbow, you can find the kumquat, which looks a bit like a small orange. Kumquats boast a mix of essential oils, minerals, and vitamins that can help with everything from lowering cholesterol to giving you healthier skin and hair. This versatile fruit can be found in healthy simple recipes for spring rolls, in salads, and in recipes for items ranging from pastries to meat dishes that call for candied kumquats.

Kumquats

Kumquats

Lulo

Lulo, also known as naranjilla, is a sumptuous Colombian fruit that is like its own self-contained tropical cocktail of pineapple, orange, lemon, and kiwi. It is often found in tasty recipes for drinks, such as the “Lulada,” which is made with lime juice, water, sugar, ice, and mashed lulos. It is also very popular as a marmalade and to prepare sauces where sweet and sour is called for, such as for pork or fowl. High in antioxidants and low in calories, the vitamin and mineral-rich lulo offers a refreshing way to improve digestion, increase circulation, and lower your stress levels.

 

YELLOW

Star Fruit

One of the brightest foods in the yellow part of the tropical rainbow is the delightful star fruit (or carambola). Originating in Southeast Asia – and now also found in tropical regions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean – star fruit comes in both sweet and tart varieties and is full of  Vitamin C and other antioxidants that can help keep your cells healthy and strong. Because star fruit slices into star shapes naturally, it can be a great novelty item for fruit salads and fruit plates, or sliced to go with meat dishes like a nice chicken breast.

 

1280px-Carambola_Starfruit

Star Fruit

Canistel

Also called egg fruit, the canistel is native to parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Canistel is an unusually dry fruit, with a consistency much like a cooked egg yolk (hence the fruit’s nickname) and a taste sometimes likened to that of a sweet potato. This makes it well-suited to recipes for custards and cheesecake, and it can even be used as a spread for crackers. Canistel is high in beta-carotene, which is good for healthy eyes and skin.

 

GREEN

Avocados

Green foods are abundant in the tropics and they range from the gorgeous to the bizarre. Avocados are widely enjoyed, though often in very different ways. Mexicans love to use this fruit for guacamole which is praised for being high in the healthy unsaturated fats that give your body needed energy. Blend with natural vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little water for a great salad dressing.  Conversely, in parts of South America and Southeast Asia avocados are more often found in easy healthy recipes for milkshakes and other desserts.

Guanabana

The leathery-looking, dark green guanabana (also called graviola and sour sop) is native to the West Indies and has creamy, juicy flesh that is great for a tropical drink or as ice cream with a little added sugar. Guanabana has plenty of B and C vitamins, essential for a strong, healthy body, and research has also suggested that it likely has cancer-fighting properties.

Guanabana (Photo Credit: Flickr Malcolm Manners)

Guanabana (Photo Credit: Flickr Malcolm Manners)



Jackfruit

The enormous jackfruit, which can be purchased canned for those who prefer easy healthy food recipes, is especially rich in B-6 vitamins that combat anemia. Also high in potassium the jackfruit could help reduce risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease. The jackfruit’s “meaty” insides make it ideal to create easy healthy food recipes for vegetarians, such as curries, “pulled pork” sandwiches, stir fry meals, and veggie tacos.

 

VIOLET

Jabuticaba

South American native jabuticaba grow on the trunks of trees and look much like large, dark purple grapes. The fruit is soft and sweet on the inside, with a tough, acidic skin. High in protein, jabuticaba is great for an energy boost, and it is a perfect ingredient for pies, jellies, and just to snack on as-is.

Star Apple

Finally in our flavorful rainbow, we have the violet-hued star apple. It’s best not to eat the pretty purple skin, but the milky, gelatinous flesh is juicy and delicious, with a mellow sweetness. A good source of calcium,to promote healthy teeth and bones, the star apple can be found in many good healthy recipes that are popular in the tropics. It is featured in a Jamaican specialty called “Matrimony,” which is a fruit salad made of oranges, grapefruit, and star apple, often with the addition of nutmeg and sweetened condensed milk to make it a yummy dessert.

Star Apple

Star Apple

Written by

Brooke Pierce is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She writes for a variety of websites and publications and is co-author of the musical “Sympathy Jones” (www.sympathyjones.com).