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Is custard apple good for the heart? Can diabetics have sitaphal too

Who on earth would not appreciate indulging in custard apple when it is the fruit of the season? Also known as Sitaphal or Sharifa in India, used for ages in folklore remedies and ayurvedic medicine, the health benefits of custard apple are being proven in various research studies now. The fruit, roots, leaves, bark and flesh of custard apple are all used for their therapeutic properties.

There is a variety of custard apples available. Some typical varieties are Annona squamosa (Sitaphal), Bull’s heart fruit (Ramphal), Cherimoya (Lakshmanphal) and Soursop (Hanumanphal).


The caloric content of custard apple is twice as much as an apple, which makes it an excellent energy replenisher. It provides an extensive amount of potassium, which helps in eliminating muscle weakness and improves blood circulation.


Custard apple consists of a well-balanced ratio of sodium and potassium which helps to regulate and control blood pressure fluctuations in the body. One small custard apple meets almost 10 per cent RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for magnesium that relaxes the heart muscles and reduces the risk of stroke.


Custard apples are extremely sweet, unlike dragon fruit, and might not seem the greatest choice for diabetics. It has a moderate glycaemic index of 54 but a glycaemic load of 10.2. Given its multiple benefits, this works in diabetics if they keep to moderate or limited prescribed quantities. Custard apples are bestowed with polyphenolic antioxidants. These vastly elevate insulin production and glucose absorption, thereby keeping diabetes in check. Nutritionists advise consuming the fruit in small slices and including it in a meal, may be in oatmeal, yogurt and smoothies, rather than eating it separately. The fruit increases the muscular uptake of glucose, thereby enhancing its peripheral utilisation. Since 20 mg vitamin C is present in 100 gm of custard apple, it impacts insulin production and helps reduce blood sugar. Also, magnesium, potassium and iron indirectly affect insulin production and thus control blood sugar. The rich fibres cause slow digestion, build satiety, reduce snack cravings and keep sugar levels low.


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A custard apple prevents ulcers, stomach problems and acidity owing to its anti-inflammatory properties. Just a 100 gm fruit contains 2.5 times more fibre than an apple and half the vitamin C of an orange. Also, its high magnesium helps in maintaining good bowel movements.


Custard apples are high in antioxidants, which protect our bodies from the damaging effects of free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and prevent diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease. Recent research on custard fruit leaves suggests that they may have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-obesity, antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-microbial properties. The fruit provides B Complex vitamins. Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 are present. These B complex vitamins control the brain’s GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neuron chemical levels, which regulate our emotions, including depression and stress. Thus, vitamin B also helps you calm down. Everyone enjoys the fruit, but it may be messy and dangerous, especially for young children because eating the seeds unintentionally can cause choking. It is, therefore, preferable to use a masher to remove the seeds.


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This delicious fruit is your greatest pal if you have lactose intolerance or are a vegan. And can be a wonderful plant-based alternative for dairy-based creams, condensed milk, caramel sauce and cream cheese in shakes, ice cream, cheese cakes as well as a few Indian desserts.

Custard apples are readily available in India and are mostly found in unorganised marketplaces. It is a challenging product because of the harvest and post-harvest losses brought on by a reduced shelf life, lack of processing technologies and lack of value addition. But this fruit can be preserved in a stable condition by drying it out, which reduces water capacity. This makes it available all year long for making delicious food products or being used as flavouring agents.

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(The author is Executive Director, Plant Based Foods Industry Association)

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