Is Guava the Superfood You're Not Eating?

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Guava can be sliced up and eaten raw by itself, or even juiced or used as a topping on salads and ice cream. Fandrade/Getty Images

Apples, oranges and bananas are delicious and all, but people who've hit a bit of a fruit rut might want to consider more exotic selections to reignite bored palates. One of the fruits gaining in popularity is guava, which grows in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

Although guava is now produced in places such as Africa, the Caribbean, the warmer parts of the U.S. (like Florida and California), India, and even the Pacific Islands, the plant is believed to be native to Southern Mexico and Central America. Its seed spread to so many parts of the world, thanks to the movement of birds, animals and people throughout the centuries. This has resulted in a booming international guava industry that includes fresh, canned, dried, juiced and concentrate varieties.

Guava pastes, cheese and jellies are beloved sweet treats, and the fruit is often used in desserts like pies, cakes and pastries, and as well as a flavoring for ice cream. Even guava leaves serve multiple purposes, as they're often used to brew teas and create health supplements.

Guava is a soft, creamy fruit with a tart-but-sweet flavor that can have a little gritty mouthfeel. Although it resembles a green apple (earning it the nickname "apple guava"), the inside can vary in color from dark pink to white and in between. The fruit has a very pleasant flowery smell. Guava can be sliced up and eaten raw by itself, or else juiced or used as a topping for salads or ice cream.

Health Benefits of Guava

Although the taste is a pleasant surprise to wary new guava-eaters, the real power is in the fruit's nutritional profile since it's low in saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol. One fruit (weighing about 55 grams or 2 ounces) has just 38 calories, 5 grams of sugar, and 0.5 grams of fat. Its "superfruit" reputation is also helped along by an impressive vitamin and mineral content, as it's rich in Vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, potassium, manganese and copper.

Health-wise, guava provides excellent and tangible gastrointestinal benefits. "Guava is a very good source of fiber, thus it can assist with digestive health," Michelle Lowery, R.D., clinical nutrition manager at Placentia-Linda Hospital in Placentia, California, says via email. She notes that 1 cup of raw guava (about two fruits) packs around 9 grams of gut-friendly fiber. This is a pretty big deal because many people live in a serious fiber deficit. "According to the U.S. dietary guidelines, most people only consume [around] 15 grams of fiber per day; however, women require 25 grams of fiber daily and men 38 grams," she adds.

Research also indicates that guava is an excellent source of natural antioxidants, always a good thing thanks to their immune system-boosting properties. Diabetics and others with blood sugar problems might also want to take note of the fruit, as research has shown that guava eaten without the peel can regulate blood glucose levels and reduce cholesterol. Guava leaf tea can also help pre-diabetics, because it's known to keep blood sugar from spiking after meals. Perhaps the best news is that although there's always the possibility of allergy or adverse reaction to any food or drink, there are no known toxic risks associated with guava, Lowery says.

In fact, pretty much the only cautionary remark is that there isn't enough information yet concerning whether guava consumed in medicinal or supplement quantities is safe or otherwise for pregnant or breast-feeding women. Therefore, it's smart to refrain from going overboard and take only the daily recommended food quantities until it's been studied further. To that end, a typical serving is about 1 cup (100 grams or two fruits), in line with Lowery's suggestion. "If someone is looking to increase their Vitamin C and fiber intake, I would recommend a serving size daily," she says.

About the only downside to guava is price and availability. Unless you live in a tropical climate, guavas could be expensive. As of July 26, 2019, 3 pounds (1.3 kilograms) of fresh guava on Amazon would run a buyer about $30, or $10 per pound, a pretty significant amount compared with 3 pounds of gala apples for $16.90 ($5.63 per pound).