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17 Unique and Nutritious Fruits

Health + Wellness
ThitareeSarmkasat / iStock / Getty Images

by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Every fruit lover has their go-to favorites. Bananas, apples, and melons are popular choices worldwide and can be purchased almost anywhere.


Although some people are happy eating the same fruits every day, you may want a bit more variety.

Interestingly, thousands of fruits grow around the globe, some of which you may have never heard of.

Here are 17 unique and nutritious fruits to try.

1. Rambutan

Rambutans are the reddish fruits of the Nephelium lappaceum tree, which is native to Southeast Asia.

Technically classified as berries, rambutans are small and grow in clusters. Their leathery skin is covered in hair-like spikes known as spinterns (1Trusted Source).

Their grape-like, gelatinous flesh tastes sweet, yet slightly tart.

Rambutans are particularly rich in vitamin C, providing 40% of the Daily Value (DV) per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. This water-soluble vitamin boasts powerful antioxidant and immune-boosting properties (2).

2. Pawpaw

Pawpaws (Asimina triloba) are the largest edible fruit native to the United States. Historically, they've been essential to several Native American nations and provided sustenance for early European explorers and settlers (3).

Pawpaws can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) long. They have a greenish-yellow hue when ripe and a sweet, somewhat tropical taste (4).

This bulbous fruit is packed with nutrients, especially vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It's also loaded with powerful polyphenol antioxidants (4, 5Trusted Source).

Its delicate flesh and short shelf life limit its availability. Nonetheless, you can get pawpaws from specialty growers or farmers markets in the United States when they're in season.

3. Kiwano (Horned Melon)

Kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus), also known as horned melon or jelly melon, is the delectable fruit from a vine native to Africa. It belongs to the same family as cucumbers and melons.

Its vivid, orange skin is covered in small spikes, while its flesh is jelly-like and vibrant green or yellow. Although the seeds are edible, some people prefer to eat only the flesh.

Kiwano is a good source of many nutrients, particularly vitamin C and magnesium. Plus, animal research suggests it may help lower blood sugar levels, which may be helpful for people with diabetes (6, 7Trusted Source).

4. Loquat

Loquats are the small, highly nutritious fruits of the Eriobotrya japonica tree. They're yellow, orange, or reddish, depending on the variety.

Loquats are particularly rich in carotenoids — plant pigments with powerful health-promoting properties. For example, eating a carotenoid-rich diet may help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).

These sweet, citrusy fruits can be eaten raw or incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. Loquats can be found at some specialty grocery stores.

5. Jujube

Not to be confused with the candies of the same name, jujubes — also known as Chinese dates or red dates — are nutrient-dense fruits native to Southeast Asia.

Though jujubes can be eaten fresh, they're more commonly eaten dried because they take on a sweet, candy-like taste and chewy texture.

Both fresh and dried jujubes are a nutritious choice. These small fruits are packed with fiber, vitamin C, and flavonoid antioxidants (10, 11Trusted Source).

6. Star Fruit

Star fruit, also called carambola, is a tropical fruit with a star-like shape. Its unique shape and bright color make it a popular add-in for fruit salads and cheese plates.

Yellow when ripe, this fruit has a juicy texture and slightly tart taste. Star fruit is a convenient, portable snack choice because the entire fruit is edible.

Carambola is low in calories, containing only 38 per large fruit (124 grams), but it also offers plenty of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and copper. In particular, its rich supply of insoluble fiber promotes healthy bowel movements and overall digestive health (12, 13Trusted Source).

7. Black Sapote

Black sapote (Diospyros nigra)is closely related to persimmons. Often called "chocolate pudding fruit," black sapote has dark brown, custard-like pulp that's somewhat reminiscent of chocolate pudding.

This tropical fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing over 200% of the DV per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving (14).

Native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, black sapote isn't frequently sold in stores but can be purchased online from specialty growers when in season.

8. Jackfruit

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) can weigh up to 110 pounds (50 kg). Native to India, this fruit is covered in tiny, cone-like projections (15Trusted Source).

Its flesh has a banana-like aroma and sweet flavor when ripe. Unripe jackfruit is often used as a vegan meat replacement due to its mild taste and meaty texture.

What's more, it's an excellent source of many nutrients, including vitamin C, several B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants. Some research even suggests that it may help lower your blood sugar (15Trusted Source).

9. Cherimoya

Cherimoya, or custard apple, is a unique fruit prized for its sweet, creamy flesh. It's native to South America but grown in tropical regions worldwide.

The creamy flesh of these green, heart-shaped fruits is commonly scooped out with a spoon.

Cherimoya is loaded with fiber, vitamin C, several B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. This nutrient-dense fruit also provides antioxidants that may protect against cellular damage (16, 17Trusted Source).

10. Soursop

Soursop (Annona muricata) is an oval-shaped fruit covered with tiny spines. It can reach upwards of 15 pounds (6.8 kg) and takes on a yellow-green hue when ripe. It has a distinctly sweet-and-sour flavor (18).

Test-tube and animal studies demonstrate that soursop may provide anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, and anticancer effects, though human research is limited (19Trusted Source).

Though cultivated in tropical regions, soursop can be purchased online through specialty fruit distributors.

11. Husk Cherries

Husk cherries, also known as golden berries, Cape gooseberries, Inca berries, or Peruvian groundcherries, are small, yellow fruits with a sweet, grape-like flavor.

Wrapped in an inedible papery husk, they resemble tomatillos and are often used to make jams, sauces, and desserts. They can also be eaten raw as a tasty, low-calorie snack.

They're packed with compounds like vitamin C, numerous B vitamins, and beta carotene — a potent carotenoid antioxidant (20Trusted Source).

Husk cherries are grown in many parts of the world and may be available at your local specialty grocery store or farmers market.

12. Sapodilla

Manilkara zapota is an evergreen tree native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America that produces fruits known as sapodillas.

The fruit is egg-shaped with brown, rough skin. Sapodillas are prized for their exceptional sweetness, with the flesh usually eaten raw straight from the rind. Depending on the variety, sapodillas are either smooth or granular.

Sapodillas have been shown to be high in disease-fighting polyphenol antioxidants, as well as vitamin C (21Trusted Source, 22).

13. Cloudberries

Cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus) grow wild in cool, temperate regions like Canada, Eastern Russia, and the Northeastern United States. They're sought by foragers due to their unique sweet and tart taste.

These yellow-orange berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 176% of the DV per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. What's more, they're high in ellagic acid, an antioxidant that may improve metabolic health and combat cancer (23, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).

As cloudberries aren't typically cultivated, they're difficult to find. Yet, products made from cloudberries, such as jams and preserves, can be purchased online.

14. Longan Fruit

Related to rambutan and lychee, longan fruit (Dimocarpus longan) is native to Southern Asia. Also known as dragon's eye, its gelatinous, translucent flesh encases a black seed and resembles an eyeball when shelled.

This fruit is enjoyable fresh or cooked but often preserved by canning or drying.

Longan fruits are high in vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. Due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, they're used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve appetite, reduce fever, and fight parasitic infections (27Trusted Source).

15. Beach Plums

each plums (Prunus maritima Marsh.) are a wild plum that grows along the eastern coastline of the United States. The plants thrive in sandy soil and are salt-tolerant, which is why they appear near coastal dunes and beaches (28).

Similar to a cherry in size and shape, this fruit ranges from blue to blackish-purple.

Beach plums are sweet when ripe and commonly used in desserts or made into jams, jellies, and preserves. Like other wild plums, they're low in calories but a good source of several nutrients, including provitamin A and vitamin C (29).

16. Prickly Pear

Prickly pear (Opuntia), also called nopal, is a cactus native to Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

Its fruits vary from bitter to incredibly sweet. The skin is covered in sharp hairs and must be peeled before eating.

Prickly pears are particularly high in vitamin C and magnesium, a mineral that's essential for muscle control, immune function, and heart health (30).

These fruits can be enjoyed fresh but are also made into juice and syrup. You can shop for raw nopal or prickly pear syrup at natural food stores or online.

17. Japanese Persimmons

Though many types of persimmons exist, the Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is the most widely cultivated. These range in color from orange to brownish-red and have soft, sweet flesh when ripe.

Japanese persimmons are highly nutritious, packing plenty of provitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, copper, and manganese (31).

They're also rich in powerful plant compounds and may provide numerous health benefits, including reduced cholesterol, lower inflammation, and protection against cellular damage (32Trusted Source).

Persimmons are sold in specialty grocery stores when in season.

The Bottom Line

Rambutans, black sapote, star fruits, sapodillas, and beach plums are just a few of the thousands of unique, nutritious fruits grown around the world.

Their distinctive flavors and wealth of nutrients may benefit your health in an assortment of ways.

Try out some of the interesting fruits on this list to add variety to your snacks and meals.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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