Durian fruit is not noted for having a particularly appealing fragrance, but it its many beneficial attributes have earned it the “King of Tropical Fruit” title. Coming from one of the 30 recognized Durio species (at least nine of which produce edible fruit), durian is popular both in the local communities where it is grown, and on the thriving international market.
Durian is extensively grown in tropical regions, with countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines as major producers. The tree also grows in northern Australia, some South American countries, and Africa.
Durian is distinguished for its strong odor, large size, and thorn-covered husk. It can grow as large as 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter, and typically weighs up two to seven pounds. Depending on the species, it can be round or oblong, its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red.
The tree starts to bear fruit four to five years after planting, and it grows up to 164 feet. A seasonal fruit, durian lasts typically from June to August, coinciding with the season of other tropical fruits such as mango, mangosteen, and jackfruit.
The smell of the durian fruit – reputed to be the foulest in the world – deserves a writeup all its own! The distinctive odor emitted by the edible flesh is strong and invasive even when the husk is intact. Many Asians compare it to that of a perfume, while foreigners coined the saying “smells like hell and tastes like heaven.” The unusual, overpowering odor elicits a wide range of reactions, from appreciation to downright disgust.
But what does durian offer on the nutritional front? Plenty, and there are many ways to enjoy it during your meals.
Health Benefits of Durian
Like other tropical fruits such as banana, avocado, and jackfruit, durian is rich in energy, vitamins, and minerals. It offers phytonutrients, water, protein, and beneficial fats. While very low in cholesterol and sodium, it is rich in dietary fiber and is a good source of antioxidant vitamin C, which helps scavenge harmful free radicals and assists in your body’s resistance against infection.
Durian is also considered an excellent source of B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, B5, B6, and thiamin. These are essential vitamins, meaning you have to replenish them in your body through external sources.
The fruit boasts a good amount of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. It also contains potassium and the essential amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts in two chemical steps to serotonin and may help in the treatment of depression.
Health areas that durian is said to positively impact include digestion, blood pressure and cardiovascular health, aging (due mainly to its antioxidant properties), insomnia, sexual dysfunction, cancer, bone health (as a great source of magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper), and anemia.
Durian Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw or frozen
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Durian
In a European Journal of Integrative Medicine1 study done in 2011 in rats, durian at different stages of ripening – especially ripe durian – were concluded to constitute an excellent source of effective natural compounds with antioxidant and health-protective activity in general. Polyphenols and flavonoids were found significantly higher in the overripe varieties.
However, consume durian in moderation as it contains fructose, which may harm your health in excess amounts.
While most of the health benefits of durian lie in its flesh, studies have also shown that its shell can possess healing properties when processed into an extract. A Journal of Southern Medical University study2, 3 in 2010 demonstrated that durian shell extracts could relieve coughing in mice and exhibited pain-killing and antibiotic properties, suggesting that they could make an excellent natural alternative to drugs like acetaminophen and penicillin.
It is also not yet exactly known what exactly makes durian malodorous.4 Researchers at the German Research for Food Chemistry set out to find out the answer. Writing in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,5 they identified 41 different chemical compounds, eight of which had not been previously identified in the fruit. They also discovered four chemical compounds that were unknown prior to the study. Some of the most pronounced scents were described as fruity, skunky, sulfurous, butter, and honey.
They concluded that the effort yielded “several new aroma compounds with interesting odors,” but further investigations are still necessary to “unequivocally assess the contribution of individual odorants to durian aroma.”
Durian Healthy Recipes:
Durian Thai Salad (Som Tam)
|2 cups grated cucumber, green papaya, or green mango
||½ cup grated carrot
||3 pieces tomatoes, sliced into quarters
|1/3 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch sticks
||1 cup unripe durian, cut or shredded into small pieces
|1 or 2 bird’s eye chillies
||1 medium clove garlic
||2 tsp stevia, or to taste
|Salt to taste
- Place the chillies and garlic in a mortar and pound until smashed into a paste. If you have no mortar and pestle, chop very finely and smash on the bottom of a bowl with the back of a spoon.
- Add the sweetener and limes and mix into a paste.
- Add the durian chunks and green bean and pound lightly to crush or break into smaller pieces, but not too small.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, and pound until veggies are softened and have absorbed the juice. If you have no mortar, use your hands to knead the salad, squeezing with your fingers to break down.
- Serve inside a hollowed out durian shell.
(From Year of the Durian)
Durian Fun Facts
While known and consumed in Southeast Asia much earlier, durian has only been known to the western world for about 600 years. The earliest-known European reference to the fruit is the record of Niccolò Da Conti, who travelled to Southeast Asia in the 15th century. According to part of his travel records: “They (people of Sumatra) have a green fruit which they call durian, as big as a watermelon. Inside there are five things like elongated oranges, and resembling thick butter, with a combination of flavours.”
Raw durian is banned from many hotels and private establishments. Most airlines also do not allow the fruit on board. Singapore, known to have the most rigid rules and policies concerning the environment, prohibits durian on subway stations and trains.
Your nose might hate it, but durian has a number of health benefits and nutritional offerings that make it comparable with other popular tropical fruits such as mango and jackfruit. In fact, it is referred to as the “King of Tropical Fruit.” Durian provides plenty of vitamins like A, B complex, and C and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper, as well as the amino acid tryptophan. It is high in calories, and dietary fiber, and low in sodium.
There have been many different chemical compounds identified in the fruit, but its distinct odor has not been pinned down to a single one yet.
In countries where it is grown, durian is made into different products that include pastries and delicacies, added to salads, and cooked as a vegetable in dishes.