Lychee (US/li:tfi/ LEE-chee; UK: /laid tfi/ LIE-chee; Lichi chinensis; Chinese: pinyin: Jyutping: lai6 zi1; nai-chi) is the sole member of the genus kitchin in the soap berry family, Sapindaceae.
It is a tropical tree native to the shandong and Fujian provinces of southern China, where cultivation is documented from the 11th century. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa.
A tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes.
Lychee seeds contain methylene cycloprophyl glycine which can cause hypoglycemia associated with outbreaks of encephalopathy in undernourished Indian and Vietnamese children who had consumed lychee fruit.
Other popular fruits in this family include rambutan and longan.
Known for their sweet and flowery flavor, they’re typically eaten fresh and sometimes used in ice creams or processed into juice, wine, sherbet, and jelly.
Lychee are mainly composed of water and carbs – which make up 82% and 16.5% of the fruit, respectively.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of fresh lychees provides the following nutrients. The table below shows the main nutrients in fresh lychees:
●Protein: 0.8 grams
●Carbs: 16.5 grams
●Sugar: 15.2 grams
●Fiber: 1.3 grams
●Fat: 0.4 grams
CARBS AND FIBERS
Besides water, lychees are mainly composed of carbs.
A single lychee – either fresh or dried – contains 1.5 – 1.7 grams of carbs.
The majority of the carbs in lychees comes from sugars, which are responsible for their sweet taste. They’re relatively low in fiber.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Lychees are a decent source of several vitamins and minerals, including:
●Vitamin C: The most abundant vitamin in lychees. One lychee provides around 9% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin C.
●Copper: Lychees are a decent source of copper. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on heart health.
●Potassium: An essential nutrient that may improve heart health when eaten in sufficient amounts.
Lychees are primarily composed of water and carbs, most of which are sugars. Compared to many other fruits, they’re low in fiber. They’re also high in vitamin C and offer decent amounts of copper and potassium.
OTHER PLANT COMPOUNDS
Like other fruits, lychees are a good source of various antioxidants plant compounds.
In fact, they have been reported to contain higher levels of antioxidant polyphenols than several other common fruits.
ANTIOXIDANTS IN LYCHEES INCLUDE:
●Epicatechin: A flavonoid that may improve heart health and reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes.
●Rutin: A flavonoid which may help protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart health.
Oligonol is a dietary supplement that is often mentioned in connection to lychees.
It’s a patented mixture of antioxidants (proanthocyanidins) derived from lychee skin and green tea, developed by the Amino Up Chemical Corporation in Japan.
The antioxidants are chemically altered to increase their uptake from your gut.
Several studies indicate the Oligonol may reduce abdominal fat, fatigue, and inflammation after exercise.
However, as it’s not found naturally in lychee fruits, its health effects don’t apply to lychees.
Like most fruits and vegetables, lychees are a good source of antioxidants and other healthy plants compounds. These include epicatechin and rutin. Fresh lychees don’t contain any Oligonol, as is often claimed.
POSSIBLE HEALTH BENEFITS
The health effects of lychees have not been studied yet.
However, including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet may improve your health and reduce your risk of several chronic diseases.
Lychees contain several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin. These may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Animal studies also indicate that lychee extract may help fight liver cancer.
Still, further studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of lychees in humans.
The health effects of lychees have not been studied directly. However, they contain several nutrients and antioxidants that are important for health.
ADVERSE EFFECTS AND INDIVIDUAL CONCERNS
When eaten in moderation as a part of a healthy diet, lychees do not have any known adverse health effects.
However, lychees have been associated with brain inflammation in South and Southeast Asia.
Whether lychees are responsible is not entirely clear, but scientists have hypothesized that the toxin hypoglycin A may be responsible.
Additionally, lychees may cause an allergic reaction in rare cases.
Though lychees have been associated with brain inflammation in parts of Asia, it’s uncertain that they’re the culprit. Eating lychees in moderation should be safe for most people.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lychees are popular in Southeast Asia and China but less common in other countries.
They have a sweet and flowery flavor and are a good source of vitamin C and several beneficial antioxidants. This makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.