Annona cherimola, a tree in the Annonaceae family. It is native to frost-free high altitudes throughout tropical America and is widely cultivated in the Old World tropics for its pulpy, edible fruit weighing approximately 0.5 kg. The fruit is usually eaten fresh or as juice. The skin and seeds of the fruit contain a neurotoxin called annona and should not be eaten.
The tree can grow up to 9 meters tall, but is pruned back to about 5 meters during cultivation to allow artificial pollination of the 2.5 cm, fleshy, white, fragrant flowers. The custard apple tree has long, oval, light green, soft leaves. The fruit is large, spherical, light green, smooth or rounded, with white flesh and a sweet and sour taste. There are some black, bean-sized seeds embedded in the pulp. The crushed seeds are used as a pesticide in Mexico and Guatemala and as a topical treatment for parasitic skin diseases.
Hybrid Atmoya (Annona ×atemoya) is produced by crossing Annona with A. squamosa. It tastes similar to Annona, is easier to transport than either parent, and is less likely to crack than Annona. .
Benefits of custard apple
Rich in antioxidants
Custard apple is rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body. High levels of free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which is linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Certain compounds in cherimoya - including kaurenoic acid, flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C - have powerful antioxidant effects.
One test-tube study found that both the peel and pulp are excellent sources of antioxidants—compounds in the peel being particularly effective at preventing oxidative damage.
Please note, however, that the peel of cherimoya should not be consumed due to health concerns. This is explained in more detail below.
Annona's carotenoid antioxidants, such as lutein, may be particularly powerful. Studies show that foods rich in carotenoids can promote eye health and reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
May lift your mood
Custard apple is an excellent source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate your mood. Insufficient levels of this vitamin may lead to mood disorders.
In fact, low blood levels of vitamin B6 have been linked to depression, especially in older adults. One study of older adults found that a lack of vitamin B6 doubled the chance of depression.
By boosting levels of this important vitamin, eating foods like cherimoya may help reduce the risk of depression due to vitamin B6 deficiency.
May benefit eye health
Annona cherimoya is rich in the carotenoid antioxidant lutein, which is one of the main antioxidants in the eyes and can maintain healthy vision by fighting free radicals.
Several studies have linked high lutein intake to good eye health and a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease characterized by eye damage and vision loss.
Lutein may also prevent other eye problems - including cataracts, a clouding of the eyes that leads to poor vision and vision loss.
A review of eight studies found that people with the highest levels of lutein in their blood had a 27 percent lower risk of developing cataracts than those with the lowest levels.
Therefore, consuming lutein-rich foods, such as cherimoya, may benefit eye health and reduce the risk of diseases such as AMD and cataracts.
Can prevent high blood pressure
Custard apple is rich in nutrients that help regulate blood pressure, such as potassium and magnesium.
It's worth noting that 1 cup (160 grams) of fruit contains 10% of the RDI for potassium and more than 6% of the RDI for magnesium.
Potassium and magnesium both promote blood vessel dilation and help lower blood pressure. High blood pressure may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
One review noted that daily intake of potassium DV (4,700 mg) reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 8 mmHg and 4 mmHg, respectively.
Another review found an inverse relationship between magnesium intake and the risk of hypertension when comparing people with the highest magnesium intake to those with the lowest. For every additional 100 milligrams of magnesium consumed daily, the risk of high blood pressure is reduced by 5%.
Can promote good digestion
One cup (160 grams) of cherimoya provides nearly 5 grams of dietary fiber, more than 17% of the RDI.
Because fiber cannot be digested or absorbed, it adds bulk to the stool and helps it pass through the intestines.
In addition, soluble fiber, such as that found in cherimoya, nourishes beneficial bacteria in the gut and is fermented to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These acids include butyrate, acetate, and propionate.
SCFA are your body's source of energy and may prevent inflammation that affects your digestive tract, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
By supporting healthy bowel movements and nourishing gut bacteria, cherimoya and other fiber-rich foods promote optimal digestive health.
May have anti-cancer properties
Some compounds in cherimoya may help fight cancer.
Annona contains flavonoids, including catechins, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin, which have been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies.
One study found that treating bladder cancer cells with epicatechin resulted in a significant decrease in cell growth and replication compared to cells that did not receive this flavonoid.
Another test-tube study observed that some catechins, including those in cherimoya, prevented 100% of the growth of breast cancer cells.
Additionally, population studies show that people whose diets are rich in flavonoids have a lower risk of certain cancers, such as stomach and colon cancer, than people whose diets are low in these compounds.
However, more human studies are needed to fully understand how compounds found in cherimoya and other fruits affect cancer.
Can fight inflammation
Chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Notably, cherimoya provides several anti-inflammatory compounds, including kaurenoic acid .
This acid has strong anti-inflammatory effects and has been shown to reduce certain inflammatory proteins in animal studies.
In addition, cherimoya contains catechin and epicatechin, flavonoid antioxidants that have been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in test tube and animal studies.
One study observed that mice fed an epicatechin-rich diet had reduced blood levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) compared to controls.
High levels of CRP are associated with atherosclerosis, the hardening and narrowing of arteries that significantly increases the risk of heart disease.
May support immunity
Like other tropical fruits, cherimoya is rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that supports immunity by fighting infection and disease.
Vitamin C deficiency is associated with compromised immunity and increased risk of infection.
Human studies further suggest that vitamin C may help shorten the duration of the common cold. However, research results are mixed, focusing mostly on supplements rather than dietary vitamin C.
Eating cherimoya and other foods rich in this vitamin is a simple way to ensure adequate immune health.
Side effects of custard apple
Despite its impressive health benefits, custard apple contains small amounts of toxic compounds.
Annona and other fruits in the Annona genus contain annona, a toxin that can affect your brain and nervous system.
In fact, observational studies in the tropics suggest that high consumption of cherimoya fruit increases the risk of a specific type of Parkinson's disease that doesn't respond to common medications.
All parts of the cherimoya plant may contain annona acid, but it is most concentrated in the seeds and skin.
To enjoy cherimoya and limit exposure to annona, remove and discard seeds and skin before eating.
If you're particularly concerned about annona or have Parkinson's disease or other neurological conditions, it's best to avoid cherimoya.
Custard apple is a sweet tropical fruit with a creamy texture.
It's packed with beneficial nutrients that can support your mood, immunity, and digestion.
However, cherimoya contains small amounts of toxic compounds – especially in the skin and seeds. To eat cherimoya safely, first peel off the skin and remove the seeds.
This unique fruit can be an excellent addition to a nutrient-dense, balanced diet.