Soursop: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

Soursop: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

The soursop plant, scientifically known as Annona muricata Lin., belongs to the custard apple (Annonaceae) family. It produces large, spine-covered fruit with a distinctive sweet and sour flavor and creamy texture.

Also known as graviola, guanabana, or Brazilian paw-paw, soursop is used in traditional medicine to treat conditions such as arthritis, nervous disorders, and diarrhea. It is also consumed as a food source.

The fruit provides a variety of health-supportive nutrients, such as fiber and vitamin C, which may protect against several common health conditions. However, human research on the potential health benefits of soursop consumption is limited, so its exact benefits are still being determined.

Design by Health

Soursop, or guanabana, is a rich source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that may benefit overall health.

Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by highly reactive molecules called free radicals. When free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defenses, it results in a state called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to many chronic conditions, such as heart disease and certain cancers. Antioxidants protect against oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals and reducing cellular damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA.

Soursop contains a number of protective plant compounds, such as sesquiterpenes, phenolic compounds, acetogenins, and alkaloids. The plant generally uses these compounds as part of its defense mechanisms, but humans may benefit from them.

For example, phenolic compounds like coumaric acid have powerful antioxidant properties. Soursop is also concentrated in acetogenins, which some research suggests have strong anticancer effects.

Guanabana is also a rich source of vitamin C. One cup of raw guanabana provides 46.4 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which covers 52% of the Daily Value (DV). Studies show that diets high in vitamin C may lower the risk of many common diseases associated with oxidative stress, including certain cancers, heart disease, and neurodegenerative (brain-related) diseases.

Additionally, diets high in vitamin C have been shown to reduce inflammation and may be especially helpful for people with inflammatory conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Soursop is high in fiber, which is important for your digestive health. A one-cup serving of raw soursop provides 7.42 grams (g) of fiber, which covers 26.5% of your daily fiber needs.

The fruit contains both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, which passes through your digestive system intact, supports regular bowel movements by adding bulk to your poop. In contrast, soluble fiber draws water into your poop, making it easier and more comfortable to pass.

Study findings suggest that diets high in fiber can protect against several diseases, including digestive tract cancers. One review found that high fiber intake reduces the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer.

Guanabana contains a variety of bioactive compounds that may lower blood pressure. Some research suggests that compounds found in soursop may reduce blood pressure by inhibiting an enzyme called angiotensin-I-converting enzyme (ACE), which regulates blood pressure levels.

One study of 143 people with borderline high blood pressure found that treatment with seven ounces of soursop fruit juice daily for three months significantly lowered blood pressure levels compared with the control group. The control group was more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) during the three-month study period compared to the participants who were treated with soursop juice.

This suggests that adding guanabana products, like soursop juice, to your diet may help reduce blood pressure levels and protect against high blood pressure development. However, research investigating soursop’s potential blood pressure-lowering effects is limited, and more studies are needed to understand its role in blood pressure management.

Soursop is high in several vitamins and minerals and provides a good source of fiber.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-cup serving of raw soursop:

  • Calories: 148
  • Protein: 2.25g
  • Carbs: 37.8g
  • Fiber: 7.42g
  • Fat: 0.67g
  • Copper: 0.193mg, or 21% of the DV
  • Iron: 1.35mg, or 8% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 47.2mg, or 11% of the DV
  • Potassium: 626mg, or 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 46.4mg, or 52% of the DV
  • Folate: 31.5 micrograms (mcg), or 8% of the DV
  • Niacin: 2.02mg, or 13% of the DV

Soursop is low in calories while being high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s especially rich in copper, potassium, and vitamin C. Copper is a mineral needed for essential functions such as red blood cell formation, iron metabolism, growth and development, neurotransmitter synthesis, and energy production.

Soursop is also high in potassium, a common deficiency in many modern-day diets. Potassium is required for critical functions like muscle contraction and blood pressure regulation. Studies have found that people with low potassium intakes are at a greater risk of developing several health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

In addition to potassium, vitamin C, and copper, guanabana provides a good source of iron, magnesium, folate, and iron, all of which play important roles in overall health.

Though soursop is nutritious, the acetogenin compounds found in the fruit may be harmful. Acetogenins have anticancer properties, but these compounds can be toxic in large quantities.

Some studies have found that consuming soursop over long periods of time may increase the risk of atypical parkinsonism, a group of neurological conditions similar to Parkinson’s disease. The regular consumption of soursop and other acetogenin-containing fruit is thought to be a contributing factor to the high rate of atypical parkinsonism in the French Caribbean islands.

In addition, regularly consuming soursop and other acetogenin-containing fruits may worsen the severity of any form of degenerative parkinsonism, including Parkinson’s disease.

Though more research is needed to understand how consuming soursop affects neurological health, it’s best to consume soursop and soursop products sparingly. Check with a healthcare provider before consuming soursop if you have a neurological condition, like Parkinson’s disease.

Guanabana is popular in certain areas such as South America and the Caribbean, where it’s commonly enjoyed in recipes like ice cream, jams, jellies, and candies. Soursop can also be enjoyed as a juice and added to beverages like shakes and smoothies. It has a creamy texture and sweet flavor that’s often described as a mix of apple, strawberry, and citrus.

The seeds of the soursop fruit are toxic, so care must be taken when preparing the fruit. Here’s how to prepare raw soursop:

  • Choose a soursop with yellowish-green skin that’s soft to the touch, which indicates that it’s ripe and ready to eat
  • Wash the soursop under running water to remove any dirt. Then, using a knife, peel the skin off of the flesh
  • Cut the fruit in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds
  • Enjoy the fruit raw or use it to make juice, ice cream, sorbet, or smoothies

Depending on where you live, you may be able to purchase guanabana from specialty stores or at farmer’s markets. You can also purchase soursop online.

Soursop is a tropical fruit rich in nutrients and protective plant compounds such as vitamin C and polyphenols. Due to its high content of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, soursop may benefit digestive health and protect against common health conditions like high blood pressure.

However, the fruit is high in compounds that may be toxic when ingested in large quantities, so soursop should be consumed in moderation.

Additionally, if you have a neurological condition, like Parkinson’s disease, you should consult your healthcare provider before consuming soursop or soursop-containing products, as the fruit may not be safe for people with neurological disorders.

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