Durian: How Good (or Bad) is it for You?
Mao Shan Wang, XO Durians, D24 Durians – these are some of the more popular durian cultivars many people will recognise. Between June and September – the durian season – durian harvests increase, giving more opportunities for durian lovers to enjoy the fruit at lower prices.
But besides being known as the King of Fruits, do you know that durian is a super fruit as well? Its creamy, buttery flesh is packed with nutrients:
|Durian Nutrition Facts*|
|(Based on a serving of 100 grams (g) of durian, or about three seeds)|
|Nutrient||Amount per 100g|
|Total lipid (fat)||5.33g|
|Total dietary fibre||3.8g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||19.7mg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||2µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||44IU|
|Fatty acids, total trans||0g|
|*National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 1 Release 2018|
The nutrients in durians have several health benefits for you:
- Full of healthy fats: Durians are a rich source of monounsaturated fats. According to Ms Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, the main benefit of monounsaturated fats lies in its ability to lower your bad cholesterol level, which in turn, reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Helps improve mood and sleep quality. Durians contain tryptophan, which has several important functions in our body. “During digestion, tryptophan gets converted to serotonin, which may induce feelings of relaxation and improved mood,” says Dr Stanley Liew, Specialist in Endocrinology & Consultant, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre. “Tryptophan is also converted to melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep cycle and may help you fall asleep easier.”
- Supports immunity. The fruit contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects against harmful free radicals, and supports your immunity against infections and viral attacks.
- Keeps blood pressure in check. Durians are rich in potassium, which is important in maintaining the balance of salt and fluid in the body to regulate blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure places less stress on your heart and blood vessels, which improves your heart health and reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Promotes digestion. The fibre content in durian provides roughage, which aids digestion and makes stools easier to pass. Additionally, the vitamins B1 and B3 can whet your appetite, as well as promote nutrient absorption.
Before you start organising durian feasts and going all out to indulge though, there are several downsides to eating too much durians:
- It has a high calorie content. Even though durians contain no unhealthy cholesterol or fats, the fruit is still high in calories. A small durian weighing about 602g has about 885 calories. This is equivalent to about 44 per cent of the daily 2,000 calories recommended for an average adult.
- It is high in sugar. Durians are high in sugars such as fructose and glucose. People with diabetes may experience a rise in blood sugar if too much of it is eaten. This may cause symptoms such as blurry vision and nausea. Hence, they will need to pay particular attention to how much durians they eat. As a guide, Ms Chia advises that diabetic patients can only eat up to two seeds a day.
- It is a “heaty” food. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, durian is considered as a “heaty” food. According to Physician Teo Pei Si, TCM Physician, Raffles Chinese Medicine, durians have a “warming” property. Eating too much of it puts you at risk of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as sore throat, mouth ulcers, constipation, or increase in phlegm.To counter the “heatiness”, you can consider pairing durians with these beverages:
- Salt water
- Mint tea
- Coconut water
- Chrysanthemum tea
- Green tea
However, Physician Teo cautioned: “While these drinks can reduce the durians’ heatiness, they are analogous to putting out a fire which could have been preventable. People with body constitutions that are predisposed to heatiness should limit their durian consumption to avoid the need to fire-fight.”
- It may cause unwanted temporary health effects when eaten with alcohol. Durians contain a sulphur compound, which slows down the metabolism of alcohol. In addition, your liver also has to process the sugar and fats in the durians at the same time. If you pair durians with alcohol and consume them in large amounts, you may experience bloating, ingestion, and a worse-than-usual hangover.
Despite its unappealing look and pungent smell, durians contain plenty of benefits for your overall health. Just be mindful of how the fat, calories, and other unwanted health effects can add up, especially when eating too much of the fruit in a single sitting. To get the most benefits out of durians, Ms Chia recommends eating about two to three durian seeds per day for an average person.