Lychee Fruit: Health Benefits of this Exotic Fruit | Signos

Lychees are high in several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin.

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Published:
April 16, 2024
March 14, 2023
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Lychee is a type of tropical fruit that is full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy antioxidants. Some studies suggest that the nutrients in lychee fruit may provide many health benefits, including healthy skin and hair and disease prevention. 

Lychees are generally considered a healthy fruit, but there has been also some evidence of potential downsides to eating lychee fruit. This article will explore both the benefits and possible risks of adding lychee to your diet.

What is Lychee?

The lychee (Litchi chinensis), or litchi or lichee, is a small tropical fruit from the soapberry family. Other well-known fruits in this family include rambutan and longan.

Lychees are grown in subtropical regions throughout the world and are especially popular in China, as well as Southeast Asia.

This fruit is known for its sweet and flowery flavor, and they’re typically eaten fresh and used in ice creams or made into juice, wine, sherbert, and jelly.

They’re a good source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy antioxidants.

Lychees have bright, pink-red, leathery skin, which is removed before consumption. The fruit's flesh is white and surrounds a dark seed in the center.

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Lychee Glycemic Index and Nutritional Facts

Lychees consist mainly of water and carbs but also provide a host of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of fresh lychees provides the following nutrients1:

  • Calories: 66
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Carbs: 16.5 grams
  • Sugar: 15.2 grams
  • Fiber: 1.3 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

The glycemic index of lychee is relatively low at 50, and the glycemic load of about ½ cup of lychee is 7.6. 

The glycemic index is a ranking given to carbohydrates depending on how they affect your blood sugar levels. Foods with a glycemic index lower than 55 tend to be digested slowly. They enable the slow release of sugar in the bloodstream, which prevents blood sugar spikes.

Carbs and fibers 

Besides water, lychees are mainly composed of carbohydrates. A single lychee has roughly 1.5–1.7 grams of carbs. Most carbs in lychees come from sugar, responsible for their sweet taste. Lychees provide some fiber, but not a significant amount1

Vitamins and minerals 

Lychees are a fairly good source of vitamins and minerals, including:

Vitamin C 

The most abundant vitamin in lychees is vitamin C. One lychee provides around 9 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).1

Potassium 

Potassium is an essential nutrient in lychees that may support better heart health when eaten adequately.2

Copper 

Lychees are a source of the essential mineral copper. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on heart health.3

Antioxidants 

Like other fruits, lychees are a good source of various plant compounds with antioxidant properties.

According to some research, lychees have been reported to have higher antioxidant polyphenols than several other common fruits.4

The antioxidants found in lychees include:

Epicatechin 

Epicatechin is a flavonoid that may improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing cancer and diabetes.5,6

Rutin 

Rutin is another flavonoid that might help protect against chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.6,7

Oligonol 

Oligonol is a dietary supplement made from a plant compound found in lychees. 

Oligonol is a mixture of antioxidants (proanthocyanidins) derived from lychee skin and green tea. The antioxidants are chemically altered to increase their absorption by the gut.

Several studies indicate that Oligonol supplementation may reduce abdominal fat, fatigue, and inflammation after exercise.8,9

Since Oligonol is not naturally found in lychees, these health effects might not be gained from eating lychees alone.

8 Potential Health Benefits of Lychee Fruit 

Although there is limited research on lychee's health effects, they contain several nutrients and antioxidants that are important for health. Evidence suggests that including various fruits and vegetables in your diet can improve health and lower the risk of developing several chronic diseases. 

May support heart health 

Many medical experts recommend potassium-rich foods to manage high blood pressure. Lychees are a good potassium source, so they could promote healthy blood pressure.

Lychees are also a good source of antioxidant-plant compounds, including epicatechin and rutin, which help protect against oxidative stress, decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Promotes liver health 

Some studies suggest that lychee-derived polyphenols may promote liver health. Some studies showed that lychee was associated with improvements in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFD) and ethanol-induced liver injury.10,11,12

May prevent cancer development 

Lychee extract has possible anti-cancer properties. It may likely stop the cell growth of different cancers. However, more research is needed in this area.13

Boosts your immune system 

Lychees are a good source of vitamin C. Lychees can help fulfill your daily requirement for vitamin C when consumed moderately with other foods rich in vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that prevents many chronic diseases and helps boost immunity.

May decrease diabetes risk 

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help lower the risk of developing diabetes. Lychees are also high in antioxidants, which help reduce oxidative stress. Evidence suggests there is a strong relationship between oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.14

Lowers blood sugar

Some studies show that lychee and lychee seeds have hypoglycemic effects. While these hypoglycemic effects could be dangerous in malnourished individuals, they may help lower blood sugar in those who live with diabetes.15,16

Has anti-inflammatory properties 

Chronic inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many diseases. The flavonols found in lychees are shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help aid in disease prevention.16

Promotes hair and skin health 

When used topically, lychees may improve skin and hair health. Vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds found in lychee may help treat hyperpigmentation, reduce visible signs of aging, and treat blemishes.17,18

Hair grows when the body is properly nourished, and hair follicles are healthy. Copper peptides enlarge the hair follicles, drastically reducing hair growth's resting phase. Since lychee is an excellent source of copper, it may stimulate hair follicles and increase hair growth.19

Are Lychees Good for Weight Loss?

Lychees alone are not a magical food for weight loss but combined with a balanced diet and exercise, they may help support a healthy weight. 

It is recommended that you eat at least 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit a day and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables. Eating more fruits and vegetables can support weight loss and promote a healthy weight.

Trying new fruits and vegetables like lychee can make your meals more interesting. Also, eating fruits for dessert may help decrease your caloric intake and promote weight loss. 

How Many Lychees Should You Eat?

One cup of lychee – about 10 lychees – will provide almost a day’s worth of vitamin C, plus a good serving of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), potassium, and copper. In terms of vitamin C content, this serving size is equivalent to eating a whole good orange. 

Eating 10 lychees daily may provide antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, liver-protective, and immune-boosting benefits.

Downsides of Lychee Consumption 

Eating lychees in moderation as part of a healthy diet does not seem to have any adverse health effects. 

However, there has been some suggestion that lychees may be linked to brain inflammation in South and Southeast Asia.

Whether lychees are responsible for these symptoms is unclear, but researchers believe the toxin hypoglycin A may be responsible.20,21

Additionally, lychees may cause an allergic reaction in rare cases.20

How to Use Lychee

You might find fresh lychee in some grocery stores. Asian specialty supermarkets typically sell canned and dried lychees. However, canned lychees usually have added sugars. Check the label to see if they are in sugar-sweetened syrup or their own juice. 

In the United States, the lychee season begins in late spring and runs through the summer. You can refrigerate fresh lychee fruit for 5 to 10 days. It can also be frozen whole with the peel on. Dried lychee can be stored for up to 1 year at room temperature.‌

Here are some ways to use fresh or canned lychee:

  • Add flavor to sparking water with fresh or canned lychee juice
  • Use fresh or canned lychee juice to make delicious tropical cocktails
  • Try stir-frying the flesh of the lychee with chicken, shrimp, or fish
  • Chop up lychee and mix it with avocado, lime juice, cilantro, and onion to make a salsa
  • Making a fruit salad with lychee, pineapple chunks, melon, and other fruits 

Learn More About Nutrition and Healthy Eating with Signos’ Expert Advice

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References

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About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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