Litchi chinensis or litchi is a very tasty fruit with many nutritional benefits. The litchi has been getting a lot of attention lately for the many health benefits that it has, not only in the fruit but also in its peel and seed. The fruit litchi has a thin peel that peels quite easily to reveal a white jelly-like pulp, which is very tasty. They contain substances that are antioxidant, cancer-preventive, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.
Litchi or lychee has a high content of micronutrients including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, and K. The fruit also has minerals like potassium, calcium, sodium, zinc, manganese, and selenium. They also contain carotenoids and polyphenols. Studies show that the lichi fruit pulp has a lot of bioactive polysaccharides with antioxidant properties. These compounds may be responsible for their antitumor and immunomodulatory properties.
7 Amazing Health benefits of litchi fruit
1. Builds Immunity
Litchi has a high concentration of vitamin C, which is very essential to boost immunity. Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant that stimulates your white blood cell to fight any disease. 100 grams of Litchi has around 71.5 grams of vitamin C, which is almost equal to the total daily requirement of vitamin C.
2. Helps Control Blood Pressure
Litchi contains a lot of potassium, which is a vasodilator that reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries thereby lowering the stress on the cardiovascular system. The proanthocyanidins in litchi may help prevent serious heart problems. Studies show that Oligonol, a polyphenol found in litchee, “might act as a vasodilator and be an effective treatment for a variety of vasoconstriction symptoms such as cold hands and feet, shoulder discomfort, and diabetes-related vascular problems.”
Oligonol has shown favourable effects on various chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.
3. Aids Digestion and Constipation
Litchi is a fruit with a high concentration of dietary fibres. These fibres regulate bowel movement by ensuring its smooth passage through the digestive tract. It also adds bulk to the stool and is very helpful for people with irregular bowel movements and constipation. It stimulates gastric and digestive juices promoting efficient nutrient absorption. In Chinese medicine, litchi has been used to treat stomach ulcers, diabetes, diarrhea, and to kill intestinal worms.
4. Hypoglycemic Effect of Litchi
Lychee seed extract helps reduce insulin resistance. The polyphenol oligonol found in the lychee fruit may help with diabetes-related vascular problems. The fruit also helps fight inflammation and oxidative stress-related to diabetes and obesity.
The glycemic index of litchi is about 50. Glycemic index is a ranking given to carbs depending on how they affect blood sugar levels. Foods with a glycemic index lower than 55 get digested slowly, thus enabling the slow release of sugar in the bloodstream thereby preventing blood sugar spikes. Since Litchis are also high in fibre, they may also help prevent abrupt blood sugar spikes. Litchi does have sugar so it is better to practice moderation in the consumption of litchi and it is always better to consult with your doctor first if you have diabetes.
5. Improves Cognition
The litchi seeds have neuroprotective effects. In one study, researchers have found that the litchi seed extract helps to significantly improve cognitive function and prevent neuronal injury in rats affected by Alzheimer’s disease, “through inhibiting apoptosis of the neuronal cells in the hippocampus. LSS is similarly, or even more, effective against AD than donepezil (a classic drug for AD treatment clinically) in the model system.”
6. Fights Cancer
Studies show that lychee fruit can fight the growth of cancer cells as it contains flavonoids in its pulp, which is effective against breast cancer. Litchi fruit extract induces apoptosis and inhibits cell proliferation of breast cancer cells. Research has also revealed that litchi seed extract can be used for the treatment of prostate cancer. A study conducted on mice treated with litchi seed extract in vivo showed a significant decrease in tumor size without toxicity. They found Litchi seed extract to have the potential for development into a safe and potent alternative therapy for prostate cancer patients.
It must be noted that most of these are animal studies and human studies are yet to be done.
7. Litchi benefits for skin
Litchi juice has a good amount of biochemical constituents such as polyphenols, oligonol, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and other antioxidants. The high water content makes litchi a good source of hydration for the skin, restoring its moisture content. The phenolic content in the leaves and peel of the litchi has skin whitening properties.
The compound oligonol, which is present in litchis, protects the skin from UV light and free radicals that can damage the skin cells. The antioxidant properties in litchi stimulate the skin cells and improve the blood flow to the deeper layers of the skin. They also protect the skin from oxidative damage, which leads to fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. The vitamin C in litchi ensures good collagen production which strengthens the skin and slows down the aging process. That is the reason why litchi extracts are used in formulations that help slow down the aging process, and hydrate the skin while restoring its elasticity and natural glow.
One study examined the potential of litchi peel extract for skin benefits in vitro and in vivo. The conclusion was that “The litchi peel extract showed promise as a potential natural skin brightening agent, leading to clinical assessments in human volunteers. The developed litchi serum was found to be safe, effective, and as rated by volunteers, preferred in the tested cosmetic application.”
How to make litchi juice
- 5 ripe litchis
- 2 tsp jaggery
- 2 table spoons orange or lemon juice
- A pinch of salt
- 300ml of water
Wash, peel, and chop the litchis. Remove the seeds. Add the fruit pulp to a mixer-grinder jar. Add the jaggery, orange juice, water, salt, and blend. You can drink this cold or as it is. If you are using lemon juice then you should increase the amount of jaggery according to your taste.
This juice is full of antioxidants. It hydrates the skin and reduces dryness of the skin. Vitamin A and vitamin C in litchi prevent oxidative stress.
Litchi peel extract face scrub for a glowing skin
- 1 tsp litchi peel powder or the powder of peel left over from making a litchi extract
- 1 tsp rice powder
- 1 tsp rose water
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil/Almond oil
- 1/4 tsp litchi extract or glycerine (You can see how to make an extract here)
Mix all the ingredients together. Rinse your face with water and pat your face with a clean towel. Take a tsp of scrub in the palm of your hands. Rub the scrub on your face gently in a circular motion for 10- 15 seconds. Once you are done, wash your face with water. Use this scrub once a week.
This scrub exfoliates your skin and removes dry skin, unclogs skin pores, and makes your skin super smooth.
Litchi peel benefits
Litchi peels though not edible have been shown to contain bioactive flavonoids and anthocyanins. Both flavonoids and anthocyanins display antioxidant properties and have anticancer effects.
In an in vivo study, the authors saw a significant tumor mass reduction in breast cancer in mice after being treated for 10 weeks with 0.3mg/ml of litchi fruit peel extract.
Litchi Seed benefits
The seed again is a non-edible part of the fruit and can also be toxic to humans. But litchi seed extracts are widely used in Chinese medicine to relieve pain and there is increasing evidence that this extract possesses multiple activities like modulation of blood sugar, preventing liver injury, and lowering of blood lipids. The seed extracts are also said to have anti-oxidative, antiviral, and antitumor effects. Since litchi seeds have many compounds, researchers are yet to ascertain the specific compounds that have these antitumor properties.
Does processed litchi retain nutrients?
Let us see the effect of processing on the nutrition in litchi. Since the fruit has a short shelf life, the amount of fruit processed tends to increase every year to meet the growing demand for the fruit, because of its amazing health benefits. The litchi pulp contains malic acid 80%, along with tartaric acid, citric acid, and ascorbic acid.
Litchi fruit has a short shelf life at room temperature. It lasts for only 5-6 days after harvest. Therefore, litchi is processed into juice, dried fruit, or wine. The nutrients are affected due to processing depending on the method of processing.
In Thermal processing, compounds such as ascorbic acid, anthocyanins, and polyphenols are quickly reduced compared to fresh litchi.
Non-thermal processing is a better way to preserve nutrients.
The fermentation process reduces malic acid in litchi by almost 40%. Malic acid is used in the treatment of melasma and some claim that malic acid can promote energy production, increase exercise endurance, and help fight off muscle fatigue.