Take a Tasty Trip with Healthy Exotic Fruits

You typically know what to expect when you taste strawberries, peaches and limes. But what about strange-looking produce and rare fruits with funny names? It’s worth a try to broaden your appreciation for nature’s summer bounty by taking a second look and your first taste of the delectable delights from this exotic fruits list.

As ChooseMyPlate.gov reminds us, most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories — with no cholesterol. Fruits are your source for important nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folate. And best of all, eating a diet rich in plant-based foods, a.k.a., vegetables and fruits, may reduce risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. So here are some some ideas to help you explore your store’s produce section:

Fresh lychee


This fruity gem is the size of a walnut, with itty-bitty spikes on the leathery skin, so you’ll pass on eating that. A mature fruit turns from pink to red. Sure, you can buy canned lychees, but why not savor fresh ones grown in Central and South America, Asia and even in the U.S., in California, Hawaii and Florida? To enjoy the unique flavor of this fruit, just peel or take a small bite near the stem and squeeze. In addition to vitamin C, it contains B-complex vitamins, plus the minerals potassium and copper.

Dragon Fruit on marble gray table background. Asian fruit food

Dragon Fruit

This fruit from climbing cactus plants is native to Central and South America and Mexico, and like the lychee, it’s grown in California, Hawaii and Florida. With three main species, it’s also called the Pitaya fruit or Pitahaya fruit, and is oval in shape with a pinkish outer peel and green leaves. The inner flesh contains tiny black seeds, and the sponge-like pulp tastes reminiscent of watermelon, kiwi and pear. Most people eat it raw and chilled, but it can be grilled. This nutritious dragon contains vitamin C, along with potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and lycopene.

star fruit

Star Fruit

This sweet-and sour, pronged beauty also known as carambola, can become the star of your fruit selection. It matures into an oblong shape with five ribs that look like a lot like a starfish. Ideally, the fruit should have a bright yellow tone. It can be sweet or sour, or both, with hints of lemon, pineapple, apple and plum. Star fruit grows in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Florida. Yes, you can devour the entire fruit, so slice and enjoy. Some people stew it, make into jam or even sherbet. Star fruit features generous flavonoids bearing powerful antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, along with the requisite vitamin C.



It closely resembles an infant orange, this little kumquat. Up to six varieties grow throughout the world in Japan, India, the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and in California, Hawaii and the Southeast, especially Florida. They’re a delightful combination of tangy, yet sweet, and if you don’t want to peel them, don’t worry: You can eat that peel, adding more to the high fiber content of kumquats, just don’t eat the seeds. If the peel smells delightful, it’s due to its citrus essential oils. With reasonable levels of B vitamins, and copious amounts of vitamin C, a kumquat also provides small amounts of calcium, too.



If you can pronounce this fruit’s name, you’re halfway to enjoying the remarkable taste of the green, oval-shaped fruit, also nicknamed “pineapple guava.” Grown in South America and in New Zealand, it’s ready for devouring when it plops off the tree. In the store, give it a gentle press, and if that’s successful, this one’s ready for you. Feijoas don’t last long, so after two days in the fridge, enjoy it by first slicing in half and scooping out the yummy flesh.

Like its fruity pals here, feijoa has vitamin C, some B vitamins, and helpful amounts of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Group of durian in the market...


“I dare you to durian.” If someone says that to you, it’s because this hefty Southeast Asian fruit smells like overly-used socks, gasoline or something similar. Even though it’s just not that user- friendly, with a thorny exterior that makes holding it uncomfortable at best, some things are worth working for, and this fruit may be just that for you.

It contains five pods filled with a soft yellow or red pulp and only a few seeds. Gourmets liken the pulp to caramel, cheese or even crème brûlée andyou can even boil or roast the seeds. In Southeast Asia, this fruit is a popular ingredient in desserts.  Durian boasts plenty of vitamin C, the B-complex group, lots of potassium and substantial levels of tryptophan, an amino acid.

So continue to enjoy apples, oranges and bananas, but when your sense of adventure kicks in, seek out these exotic fruits for a new and healthy treat. And remember, variety really is the spice of a consistently healthy eating plan.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND –Sr.Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan BowermanM.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman earned a B.S. in biology with distinction from the University of Colorado, and received her M.S. in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.