Durian fruit nutrition facts and health benefits
Delicious, soft, durian fruit is one of the popular tropical fruits known for its one of a kind fragrance and flavor. Durian is widely recognized as the "King of Fruits" in many South-East Asian countries.
The durian tree is tropical in origin and belongs to the family of Malvaceae, in the genus, Durio; a large family of plant species which also include some of the interesting relatives such as okra, cocoa beans, hibiscus, and cotton. It is botanically known as Durio zibethinus.
Durian is the fruit of several species of trees in the genus Durio, especially Durio zibethinus. There are 25 to 30 Durio species in total, all native to south-eastern Asia.
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|Inside view of durian cut section. Golden-yellow flesh bulbs (Durio zibethinus) ||Durian fruits in the market. Note for the dark green husk covered with sharp thorns. |
The exotic durian is native to Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysian rainforests. While there are 30 known species of Durio exist, only 9 of them have been identified for producing edible fruits.
Bourdain, it should be noted, is actually a fan, although his other durian description - “like pungent, runny French cheese” - may not have you running to the nearest supermarket. You’d be lucky to find one, in any case. Though currently out of season, I managed to pick up a
four kilo monster in Chinatown for $20. Shopping for durian is hit and miss in Australia - there are too many subpar defrosted specimens floating about.
Durian tree starts bearing fruits after four or five years after plantation. The tree can grow up to 50 meters in height depending on the species.
Durian fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odor, and formidable thorn-covered husk.
The dank aroma of decomposition that emanates from durian seems like it should be a sign from nature that this is something best not eaten. Surely the smell alone is a warning that this is the Pandora’s box of the fruit world, containing only great evil inside. And yet just like the funkiest of French cheeses, someone at some point decided he had to sate idle curiosity and know what death tasted like. Maybe it was a dare? I mean, ripe durians don’t just smell, well, ripe, but, covered in spines and doing their best impression of a porcupine, they’re pretty formidable to behold (and actually hold). Who ever was the first person to crack open a
durian and feast on its innards was either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish. Just catch a whiff of it and you won’t believe that anyone in his or her right mind would elect to ingest this stuff without some kind of external coercion.
It can reach up to 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) in diameter, and typically weighs one to four kilograms (two to seven lb). In shape, it varies from round to oblong; the color of its husk (rind) is green with brown, and its flesh features creamy-yellow to saffron color bulbs depending upon the species.
In South East Asia, durian is described as the “king of fruit”, in part due to its aggressive appearance. If you manage to hack your way through the prickled, armour-like skin, the inside reveals around 10 seeds the size of dates, each covered with a thick, custardy, off-white “meat” - the only edible part of the fruit.
The flesh or pulp of durian can be consumed at various stages of ripeness and is used as flavoring agent in a wide variety of culinary and sweet preparations in Southeast Asian cuisines. Durian seeds are small, round to oval shape kernels and appear like that of jackfruit seeds.
Our first experience with durian was perhaps a bit anti-climactic. Everything I had read suggested that durian was polarizing, there was no middle ground: you either loved it or loathed it. But to be quite honest, at least in custard form, I found myself neither repelled nor intrigued by durian, but rather, indifferent. Although I could see how some would find durian off-putting, I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as I had feared. But, I also didn’t see how anyone could be utterly enamored with the fruit either.
Although boiled seeds can be eaten safely, many discard them. The seeds feature a bland taste akin to jackfruit seeds.
Its edible flesh emits a distinctive odor which can be described as robust and penetrating, appreciable from far even while its husk is intact.
Weird! Though the durian flavor was certainly subtle, durian is kind of like banana in the respect that a little bit goes a long way and can contaminate whatever it’s in, even if the amounts are miniscule. I personally found the
durian-infused custard to be more savory than sweet, and not altogether appalling. However, I couldn’t really argue with Tony’s description in which he likened durian to taking a ripe jackfruit, sticking it in a smelly old sock, and then swinging it over a pile of moldy onions.
This unusual stinky and intense odor of the durian fruit may have prompted many people to express diverse and peculiar opinions ranging from profound gratitude to disgusting!
Health Benefits of Durian fruit
Though it contains a relatively higher amounts of fats among the fruits, it is free from saturated fats and cholesterol.
Durian. That big, hulking thorny beast, with an aroma so strong it’ll knock your grandma to her feet. Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, it’s a divisive figure in the world of food. Banned on Singapore subways for its smell (potent even when the husk is intact), it’s the Kanye West of fruits: you either hate it, or you love it. Intensely.
Durian is rich in dietary fiber, which makes it a good bulk laxative. The fiber content helps protect the colon mucous membrane by decreasing exposure time to toxins. It also helps bind and eliminates cancer-causing chemicals from the gut.
Along with the durian ice cream, my dessert was liberally sprinkled with bits of grass jelly and red beans. But who cares about any of that, because with my first bite, my palate was obliterated by the rank aroma of rotting onions. Every time I exhaled through my nose the flavor flitted back over my tongue and I could taste nothing else. Any sweetness of the sorbet was completely masked by
the potent flavors of the durian. I know that some people talk about how delightful bacon or even garlic ice cream can be, but this was just way too strong and was honestly more like dumping garlic and onions onto your ice cream. It was strange and, more importantly
, really unpleasant. I nibbled as many of the fruit jellies as I could, but most of the dessert melted into a noxious slurry and was left unfinished.
The durian fruit is a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (about 33% of RDA). Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Of course, eating too much - and too quickly - is exactly what I was about to do. But considering my previous distaste for the fruit, it’s kind of remarkable I was taking part in a durian eating competition at all. My own personal journey from
hater to advocate came at a time in my life, during my early 20s, in which I began to take a strong interest in Asia
, and my own Asian heritage. Coincidence? Probably not.
It is an excellent source of health benefiting B-complex groups of vitamins; a rare feature for fruits, such as niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential for the body as it requires them from external sources to replenish.
To lessen the stress and trauma of our first dance with the devil, veteran durian-eater, Peiyan, decided that we should not try pure, undiluted durian, but should ease ourselves into it by trying a pastry stuffed with custard that had been laced with durian.
Further, it also contains a good amount of minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. Manganese is utilized by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.
In our case, we weren’t dared into trying durian though we certainly didn’t throw ourselves in its path. Our pushers came in the form of our friends Chris & Peiyan, whose eyes positively lit up with glee when they realized they had unsuspecting victims to foist the King of Fruits upon. With a few exceptions, we have a policy of trying everything at least once before deciding whether we like it or not, so even though durian smelled inedible, we agreed to suck it up (pun intended?) and try it.
Iron is essential for red blood cell (RBC's) formation.
Fresh durian fruit is a very rich source of potassium. Potassium is an essential electrolyte inside cells and body fluids that help controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Perhaps emboldened by a rather unremarkable first encounter (which was about as good as I could have hoped), I started to think that maybe durian wasn’t the spawn of Satan as so many before us had claimed. Feeling cocky, I didn’t wait for durian to come a knockin’ a second time—instead, I recklessly sought it out the next time we were inside one of Singapore’s infamous hawker centers (read: the next day).
Additionally, it also contains high levels of essential amino acid, tryptophan (also referred as "nature's sleeping pill"). Tryptophan in the humans metabolizes into serotonin and melatonin; the two neurochemicals that play a vital role in sleep initiation and soothe nervous irritability.
There comes a time during every traveler’s foray through Asia when one is eventually confronted with Durian. Travel through this continent for any length of time and sooner or later, you’ll turn a corner and smell something so fetid and foul it will nearly knock you off your feet. You get used to the assault on the senses (particularly olfactory) that travel in Asia provides, but the odor that wafts about when durian is in the vicinity must surely be considered a crime against humanity.
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients: Durian fruit (Durio zibethinus), Nutrition value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
|Principle ||Nutrient Value ||Percentage of RDA |
|Energy ||147 Kcal ||7% |
|Carbohydrates ||27.09 g ||21% |
|Protein ||1.47 g ||2.5% |
|Total Fat ||5.33 g ||20% |
|Cholesterol ||0 mg ||0% |
|Dietary Fiber ||3.8 g ||10% |
|Vitamins || || |
|Folates ||36 mcg ||9% |
|Niacin ||1.074 mg ||7% |
|Pantothenic acid ||0.230 mg ||4.5% |
|Pyridoxine ||0.316 mg ||24% |
|Riboflavin ||0.200 mg ||15% |
|Thiamin ||0.374 mg ||31% |
|Vitamin A ||44 IU ||1.5 |
|Vitamin C ||19.7 mg ||33% |
|Electrolytes || || |
|Sodium ||2 mg ||0% |
|Potassium ||436 mg ||9.5% |
|Minerals || || |
|Calcium ||6 mg ||0.6% |
|Copper ||0.207 mg ||23% |
|Iron ||0.43 mg ||5% |
|Magnesium ||30 mg ||7.5% |
|Manganese ||0.325 mg ||14% |
|Phosphorus ||39 mg ||6% |
|Zinc ||0.28 mg ||2.5% |
|Phyto-nutrients || || |
|Carotene-α ||6 mcg ||-- |
|Carotene-ß ||23 mcg ||-- |
|Lutein-zeaxanthin || || |
Selection and storage
Durian fruit is native to Southeast Asia. It is sold in markets all over the East-Asian world and also imported into the United States and Europe. People have differences in preferences regarding ripeness, while some like slightly ripen, tart flavored durians, others may prefer to cherish soft, and over-ripened.
Eating durian in Australia never feels completely right - it inevitably becomes an exercise in nostalgia for another place. For me, it harks back to memories of being with my cousins in the muggy heat of Malaysia, and stopping by a hawker stall to fill up the car boot with fresh durians. Then taking them home and watching my cousin lay out sheets of newspaper on the tiled floor, and expertly cleave her way through the skin. We would feast on the gooey flesh until the entire family was virtually
comatose with fullness.
Usually, ripe fruit that falls off the tree is gathered and sold at markets.
In the stores, choose a durian fruit with firm stalk. Outside its natural habitat, durian is one of the expensive fruits; some of its varieties like D24 (Sultan) are in high demand and therefore, may command a higher price.
The humid, noisy, bustling and yes - stinky - streets of South East Asia are wrapped up in the love-it-or-leave it nature of the durian. You will either be overcome, seduced by its powerful, declarative presence, or reject it outright. And run screaming.
The fruit can also be stored inside the refrigerator for few days.
Preparation and serving methods
In the stores, choose a durian fruit with firm stalk. Outside its natural habitat, durian is one of the expensive fruits; some of its varieties like D24 (Sultan) are in high demand and therefore, may command higher price.
Wanting to finish our meal off with something sweet, I was hemming and hawing over the various dessert options on offer at one of the stalls when Tony jokingly asked why I didn’t just order the hodge podge sundae dessert that involved a dollop of durian sorbet. Never one to back down from a perceived challenge
, I clenched my jaw and impulsively gave my order.
The fruit can also be stored in the refrigerator for few days.
On its exterior, the durian fruit is fully covered with sharp spikes capable of inflicting cuts; therefore, one should be careful while handling it. Cut open the fruit longitudinally the same way you do in Jackfruits to expose underlying creamy yellow flesh (pulp).
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Slice the flesh to remove seeds.
Here are some serving tips:
|Durian fruit pastry. |
Photo courtesy: VirtualErn
Durian fruit used as a flavor base in a wide variety of sweet preparations such as traditional Malay candy, ice kachang, dodol, biscuits, etc.
It is also used in the preparation of ice-cream, milkshakes, and cappuccino.
Durian (yellow and red-fleshed) is traditionally used to prepare a fermented paste condiment (tempoyak) in Malaysia and Indonesia. The fermented durian is also added to prepare fish tempoyak curry made of freshwater catfish and fermented durian paste (gulai tempoyak ikan patin).
Ikan brengkes, fish cooked in a durian-based sauce, is traditional in Sumatran islands in Indonesia.
Unripe durians may be cooked as a vegetable in variety of dishes.
Durian seeds, which taste similar to jackfruit seeds or yam, can be eaten boiled or roasted.