Maracuja (Passiflora Edulis), also known as passion fruit, belongs to the Passifloraceae family and is native to Brazil. It is the fruit of passiflora (passion flower), a plant with therapeutic and curative characteristics useful for counteracting anxiety thanks to its sedative and calming action. Maracuja blooms in summer, in the period from July to September, it has an oval shape and contains a yellow and soft pulp. There are two main varieties of maracuja: purple maracuja (Passiflora edulis) that is small and with red peel tending to purple, and yellow maracuja (Passiflora edulis flavicarpa, also called "granadilla") that is larger and with a yellow peel.
However, the "fruit of passion" epithet does not refer to any aphrodisiac properties of maracuja: it is called this way because some elements that compose the flower recall symbols related to the Passion of Christ: in fact, observing the corolla of the flower it is possible to associate its image to that of the crown of thorns, while the pistils resemble the nails of the crucifixion.
But let’s discover all the healthy characteristics of this exotic fruit with so many virtues.
Healthy characteristics of maracuja
Maracuja is a pulpy, fragrant and gelatinous fruit. Its pulp is mainly composed of water, and it also contains beta-carotene, fibers and mineral salts including potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc as well as vitamin A and Omega 6, a essential fatty acid very important for our health. Specifically, here are all its healthy characteristics for the organism.
Maracuja has an antioxidant effect and strengthens the immune system: maracuja is a fruit rich in antioxidants thanks mainly to the presence of beta-carotene and bio-flavonoids which also give it anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming maracuja regularly protects the skin from atmospheric agents and premature aging, as it fights free radicals and has a preventive action on tumors and heart disease. The presence of vitamin C, carotene and cryptoxanthin, makes this fruit a valuable aid to strengthen the immune system.
Maracuja promotes digestion and intestinal regularity: the passion fruit is also rich in pectin, a dietary fiber which promotes digestion and intestinal motility preventing constipation, but it also acts in the presence of diarrhea increasing the consistency of the faeces, and so it is very useful for the treatment of colon disorders. Maracuja brings benefits even in case of water retention because it has a draining action and, thanks to the presence of mucilage, it is an excellent remedy in case of colitis, tympanites, belly swelling and gastritis.
Maracuja has a calming effect on the nervous system: maracuja contains important nutrients such as alkaloids that have an antispasmodic and calming effect on the nervous system. The infusion obtained with the green parts of the fruit calms anxiety, and it is useful to fight insomnia.
Maracuja counteracts cellulite and water retention: even though maracuja is not a low-calorie fruit (100 grams of the product contain about 97 calories), it proves to be an excellent ally against cellulite, water retention and fat metabolization. Just eating only one fruit (about 17 calories) will make you take advantage of its healthy characteristics counteracting this annoying beauty problem, but be sure to follow a low-calorie diet and drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day.
Maracuja is healthy for eyes and skin: vitamin A and beta carotene contained in maracuja are also very useful for eye health: they help to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and twilight blindness. There are many healthy benefits for the skin too, Vitamin A in fact protects the mucous membranes and the skin, preserving the organism also from the lung tumor and the oral cavity tumor.
Maracuja is excellent for the health of the heart and to protect blood vessels: the potassium contained in the maracuja provides a vasodilator action, it relaxes the walls of blood vessels and allows a better flowing of the blood, in this way maracuja reduces blood pressure and improves the health of cardiovascular system. The presence of pectin has also a healthy effect on cholesterol decreasing the bad one (LDL).
Maracuja is good for people suffering from type 2 diabetes: according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal in 2012, yellow maracuja would have a healthy effect on people who suffer from type 2 diabetes as it would be able to reduce insulin resistance, thus succeeding in keeping your blood sugar under control. Passion fruit would therefore have a positive effect on the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Uses of maracuja and how to preserve it
Maracuja is mainly used in the form of juice, its taste is pleasant and very refreshing, and it is the best for fighting summer heat. Maracuja is also used for the production of ice creams, mousses, jams, sorbets and other food preparations, and it is also widely used in cocktails to enhance their taste. Maracuja can also be eaten together with yogurt or it can be used for the preparation of smoothies, but it can be also used as a sauce to season meat, seafood and fishes, because with its sweet and slightly sour taste it gives intensity to the dishes.
The seeds of maracuja are instead used as food for animals, while from its peel is extracted an oil used in the cosmetic industry for the preparation of creams, shower gels, massage oils, bath salts and even air fresheners.
But how to eat maracuja?
First of all choose a ripe fruit, the peel should be a bit crumpled and purple: the more the skin is soft and the more the maracuja is ripe. Even the smell will have to be strong, if maracuja is odorless it means it is unripe. Once you have chosen the right passion fruit, wash it and cut it in half, being careful not to lose the liquid inside that is really delicious, then take the pulp with a spoon taking care not to take the outer white part because it is quite bitter.
About the preservation, if the fruit is not yet ripe, leave it for a few days at room temperature. If instead you have to preserve the already ripe maracuja, you can keep it in the refrigerator and consume it within a week.
Where to buy it?
You can buy maracuja in the fruit and vegetable department of large supermarkets, in the area dedicated to exotic fruit, or in organic shops and specialized websites. You can find maracuja also under the label “passion fruit”.
The maracuja has no particular side effects, even if it is contraindicated in subjects allergic to latex because it contains proteins similar to those of rubber. Taking the fruit in large quantities may also have laxative effect and cause stomach problems. Finally, the maracuja could interact with some drugs for the treatment of anxiety and depression or anticoagulants. In these cases it is better to seek advice from the doctor, before consuming the passion fruit.