Persimmons are the national fruit of Japan. They are usually in season between September and December, and are a good source of potassium, phosphorous, and vitamin C.
This article will look at the types and benefits of persimmon fruit, their nutritional content, and how to include them in the diet.
There are two kinds of persimmon: Asian and American. Native Americans have used the American persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, for centuries, either eaten dry or baked into bread.
American persimmons tend to grow wild, rather than being cultivated. Diospyros kaki, the Japanese persimmon, is the type that people typically see in stores.
There are two popular types of Japanese persimmon:
- Hachiya: This type of persimmon is acorn-shaped and astringent because of its high tannin content. Hachiya persimmons are best to eat when ripe or overripe. They have glossy, deep orange-red skin and dark yellow flesh with black streaks. They have few or no seeds.
- Fuyu: This type of persimmon is tomato-shaped and non-astringent, so a person can eat them when they are still hard or under-ripe. Their skin is deep orange and they have light orange flesh. They have few or no seeds.
Persimmons have a variety of health benefits, including:
Persimmon fruits are full of nutrients and minerals. Concentrations of these vary between types of persimmon, but most types have particularly high concentrations of the nutrient cryptoxanthin-beta and the mineral potassium.
Persimmons are also a good source of fiber, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin C, and Vitamin A.
May benefit vision
Japanese persimmons have high concentrations of Vitamin A. Consuming Vitamin A benefits eye health by supporting the functions that enable normal vision.
Vitamin A also helps people to see better in the dark and boosts the immune system.
Packed full of antioxidants
Astringent varieties of persimmons show very high antioxidant activity, which is comparable to strawberries and blueberries. This makes them a great addition to anyone’s diet.
Antioxidants fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress can have a large role in the development of health issues such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
While the body does produce some of its own antioxidants, a lot of antioxidants come from food. Eating foods that contain high antioxidant concentrations can help counteract the negative impact of free radicals.
Persimmon fruits have anti-inflammatory characteristics. A study in rats found that the antioxidant properties of persimmon probably reduce inflammation as well as tissue damage.
The vitamin C content of the persimmon helps enable the anti-inflammatory effect. Vitamin C has links to reducing the effect of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer.
Persimmons are high in fiber, particularly if they are dried. Consuming fiber can help to lower levels of “bad cholesterol” in the body.
Soluble fiber, such as that found in persimmons, can bind with cholesterol in the digestive system and remove it from the body.
The nutritional information for a raw Japanese persimmon per 100 grams (g) is as follows:
- Calories: 70
- Carbohydrate: 18.59 g
- Protein: 0.58 g
- Fat: 0.19 g
- Fiber: 3.6 g
- Vitamin A: 81 micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE)
- Vitamin C: 7.5 milligrams (mg)
- Beta-carotene: 253 mcg
- Beta-cryptoxanthin: 1447 mcg
- Potassium: 161 mg
- Phosphorus: 17 mg
- Calcium: 8 mg
- Sodium: 1 mg
- Iron: 150 mcg
The nutritional values for American persimmons are similar to Japanese persimmons, but have some variations.
Most people are able to eat persimmons with no adverse effects. However, if someone has not tried them before, it is good to be aware of the following:
Ingesting massive amounts of persimmons can cause bezoars to form. A bezoar is a hard mass that can lead to gastric obstruction. A diospyrobezoar is a subtype of bezoar.
Diospyrobezoar are specific to persimmons. The tannins and indigestible fiber content combine with stomach acid to form a hard mass. Diospyrobezoars are rare, with one research paper suggesting that there have been fewer than 90 cases worldwide.
Allergic reactions to persimmon are rare but can occur. Allergies may be mild, with symptoms such as stomachache or nausea, but it is also possible for a persimmon allergy to lead to anaphylactic shock.
Some reports suggest a connection between latex allergies and the potential for allergic reactions to persimmons.
People can eat persimmon fruit in a variety of ways. To eat persimmon on its own, people can:
- cut them into slices
- slice them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon
- eat them like an apple
It is best to buy persimmons while they are still firm and unripe. They can then ripen in a fruit bowl.
If a person wishes to speed up the ripening process, they can put them next to bananas or apples. These fruits release ethylene, which is a gas known for its fruit-ripening properties.
A person may eat a Fuyu persimmon whether it is ripe or unripe. Hachiya persimmons are better when soft, as they are less bitter.
People can also add persimmons to meals. For example, people can:
- add dried persimmons to breads, cakes, and other baked goods
- use fresh persimmon in salads, pickles, or sauces
- puree the flesh and add it to yogurt or ice cream
- add dried or fresh persimmon as a topping on cereals, muesli, or granola
Persimmons are an extremely versatile fruit with many health benefits. People should be careful not to eat too many in one sitting, as consuming an excessive amount of persimmons may cause negative effects. However, eating them in moderation may have a positive impact on a person’s health.