A hard-to-find fruit known as yuzu is a trendy choice for zesting up dishes and drinks. But here’s the question: Does the nutritional value of this aromatic and flavorful citrus match its growing culinary buzz?
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Let’s find out from registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD.
What is yuzu fruit?
The story of yuzu starts in Asia, either in China or Korea. There’s scholarly debate as to where the hybrid fruit originated. (Given that it happened more than 1,000 years ago, it’s doubtful that argument will be settled.)
The lemon-like fruit eventually found its way to Japan, where it became a favored ingredient in the nation’s cuisine.
Yuzu is renowned for its tart taste, which carries hints of lemon, grapefruit and orange. It also is extremely aromatic, with a floral citrus fragrance that borders on legendary. (More on that in a bit.)
The tree-born fruit continues to be grown in Asia, as well as Australia and several European nations (France, Italy and Spain). A limited amount of the fruit is grown in the United States, primarily in California.
So, why is fresh yuzu not seen in the produce bins at your local grocery store if you live in the U.S.? Well, the Department of Agriculture bans imports of the fruit of yuzu trees given concerns about potential plant diseases
“It’s very hard to get,” says Czerwony. “And if you do find it at a specialty market or order it online, expect it to be pretty expensive.” (Costs often start around $15 a pound for yuzu.)
Benefits of yuzu fruit
So, what kind of nutritional goodness is packed into a yuzu? As you might expect from a citrus fruit, it’s loaded with vitamin C. “That’s the big claim to fame with any citrus fruit,” notes Czerwony.
Yuzu also contains health-promoting bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, carotenoids and tannins. And it’s filled with nutrients like:
Adding yuzu to your diet may help you:
Studies show that yuzu can help suppress inflammation in your body, which may make the fruit a natural remedy to relieve or minimize conditions such as asthma or inflammatory bowel disease.
Yuzu is chock full of antioxidants that can protect cells in your body from diseases such as cancer, says Czerwony. Much of the focus centers on the anticancer properties of limonoids, which are found in yuzu and other citrus fruits.
Boost heart health
Extract from yuzu appears to protect against the formation of excessive blood clots, which may make it beneficial for people with an elevated risk of heart disease or stroke. Basically, the fruit acts as a blood thinner.
The vitamin C in yuzu also can reduce stress on your heart and keep your ticker ticking.
Maintain brain health
A bit of yuzu in your diet could help you stay mentally sharp. Studies show that the fruit may guard against dementia while improving memory and overall cognitive function.
Relax and unwind
The fragrance of yuzu isn’t just pleasant for your nose. The scent of yuzu has been shown to decrease stress, tension and anger after just 10 minutes, which can help your body relax and run more efficiently.
Yuzu fruit vs. lemon
So, is there a big nutritional difference between yuzu and lemons, citrus cousins that are the same bright yellow color and similarly sized? Not really, states Czerwony.
“The nutritional resume of yuzu is pretty comparable to any other citrus, including lemons and grapefruit,” she continues. “You’re getting similar benefits from all of them. Yuzu is not a superior fruit by any means.”
Yuzu and lemon are used similarly in cooking, too. Their juice and zest serve more as an accent or flavor enhancer for dishes or drinks — including coffee. (Yuzu espresso tonics are a thing, and lemon coffee trended as a weight-loss solution for a hot minute.)
So, is yuzu worth getting?
If you’re culinary curious and want to see what all the fuss is about, there’s no harm in tracking down a yuzu fruit. It does offer a unique taste that has been featured by some of the world’s top chefs.
But don’t go on a yuzu scavenger hunt thinking you’re getting a health food juggernaut.
“Yuzu is trendy, but it’s not nutritionally special,” says Czerwony. “Don’t go out of your way to find one thinking that it’s the key to better health. You can get the same benefits out of other citrus.”