The internet loves superfoods and health trends — the more exotic, the better (acai, anyone?). Enter soursop, the latest fruit that’s creating a big buzz.
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Officially known as Annona muricata, soursop is native to South America and a fruit of many names. You might also hear it called guanabana, graviola or custard apple. On the outside, the fruit resembles an oversized avocado — if the avocado were covered with prickly spikes.
Despite its tough exterior, soursop is sweet at heart. Its white pulp is smooth and creamy with large black seeds. People sometimes compare its sweet-tart flavor to a blend of strawberries and apples.
Dietitian Alexis Supan, RD, explains what you should know about this trending tropical treat.
Like many fruits, soursop is a healthy source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. One cup (about 225 grams) of raw soursop contains:
Besides fiber, the fruit is a good source of nutrients:
Soursop is also high in antioxidants, substances that protect cells from damage. Antioxidant-rich diets may help protect against diseases like heart disease or cancer.
Traditional healers have long used soursop for medicinal purposes. They use many parts of the plant — including the fruit, leaves and stems — to treat a variety of illnesses. Soursop may help:
But there’s a big caveat to those claims, says Supan. Medical researchers have only just begun studying the health benefits of soursop, so we don’t yet have scientific data on the plant’s health-boosting properties.
There’s some evidence that extracts from the plant’s leaves could kill cancer cells or fight inflammation. But slow your roll: Those findings came from test-tube and animal studies, which often involved huge doses of extracts from soursop leaves.
“Keep in mind that there haven’t been any human studies, so it’s too soon to tell if there are any benefits,” Supan says.
You can find soursop extracts and teas for sale, but those products aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And there are reasons to be wary, Supan warns. Soursop can be toxic in large doses, causing symptoms that resemble those of Parkinson’s disease, including:
The compounds found in extracts and teas can also interfere with medications such as high blood pressure and diabetes treatments. “I’d advise staying away from soursop extracts and teas,” she says. “You don’t want to play scientist with your health.”
While you should probably steer clear of soursop extract or teas, there’s no reason not to eat it. “As far as the fruit goes, go to town!” Supan says.
Soursop can be hard to come by in the U.S., but you might be able to find it in specialty grocery stores (like Latin American and Caribbean markets). If you can track down fresh soursop, Supan recommends enjoying it in its pure form.
“Soursop has a great creamy texture and tropical taste that’s delicious eaten raw,” she says. “But spit out the seeds since they’re toxic.”
And remember that it’s a big fruit with plenty of natural sugars. “One fruit can have 70 or 80 grams of sugar, so you don’t necessarily want to eat an entire fruit at once — especially if you’re concerned about your sugar intake,” notes Supan.
Pro tip: Eat half now and freeze the rest to use in smoothies later. Its tropical flavor blends seamlessly with other tropical fruits, like mangoes, papayas and pineapples.
Like most trendy superfoods, soursop isn’t a miracle cure-all, though. But it’s a tasty tropical treat and a good source of nutrients. If you’re lucky enough to find a store with soursop for sale, give the sweet, creamy fruit a try. Tell them the internet sent you.