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Star fruit, also known as balimbing in the Philippines, is less popular compared to mainstay fruits like bananas, apples, and mangoes; however, because of the health benefits of balimbing, it’s slowly making its way to the hearts of many.
Balimbing, also called carambola which is derived from the tree’s scientific name Averrhoa carambola, is a yellow-green fruit with 5 pointed lobes. It’s aptly named “star fruit” because if you slice it crosswise, you will immediately notice the star shape it forms.
The balimbing tree can be found all over the country, making the fruits easily available for consumption. Aside from the fruit, we can also use the leaves and flowers for various purposes.
One medium-sized balimbing fruit already has 76% of the DV (percent Daily Values) of vitamin C. That’s more than half of what we need in a day. Vitamin C is important in making sure that you have an effective immune system against diseases like cough, cold, and flu.
A piece of balimbing often contains 3 grams of fiber, which aids digestion by cleansing the colon. Additionally, fiber also gives the feeling of fullness, thus it prevents you from eating unnecessarily. This makes it a good “diet snack” especially if you take into consideration that it only has around 28 calories and about 6 grams of carbohydrates.
Because of the many antioxidants it contains, balimbing can eliminate toxic free-radicals that damage our skin cells. Balimbing has some of the most effective antioxidants to counter this damage, including gallic acid, quercetin, and polyphenolic compounds. Finally, because of the protein content (1 gram), balimbing is also great to restore damaged hair.
A study conducted in Indonesia determined that drinking 200 ml of sweet balimbing juice decreased the systolic pressure of the participants who are normotensive (they have normal blood pressure reading). The study also mentioned that drinking the diluted version, which is 100 ml sweet Star Fruit Juice mixed with 100 ml of water, also gives the same effect. This only shows that star fruit can help people who are suffering from hypertension.
Balimbing has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties on top of its analgesic or pain-relieving capacity. Additionally, it is also an anthelmintic (it gets rid of worms). This is why balimbing has been widely used in folkloric medicine in various countries.
Before you decide you to avail of the benefits of balimbing, please take note of the following reminders:
Right away, you should know that you MUST NOT use balimbing regularly or in large amounts if you are suffering from illnesses connected to your kidneys.
Generally, balimbing is safe, especially if you take it with food, such as when eaten as a snack, or prepared with other ingredients. However, one should not eat this fruit regularly as it may pose a certain risk to the kidneys.
Please be mindful of consuming balimbing if you have known allergies to it. Should you decide to eat and use it regularly, you must first talk to your physician, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Like most plants, balimbing contains a lot of oxalates. Oxalates are compounds that contribute to the development of kidney stones; if you have kidney conditions, you must take this piece of information seriously.
As of now, there are at least two reported cases where patients developed kidney problems because of balimbing consumption: the first patient has normal kidney functions, but after consuming large amounts of star fruit juice at once, developed acute kidney injury (AKI).
The other patient developed acute or chronic renal failure; his history suggests that he regularly consumed star fruit for 2 to 3 years before the kidney failure diagnosis.
Balimbing can also alter the effects of medications, so if you have a treatment regimen, consult your doctor first before taking star fruit in any form.
There is no medically-accepted dosage for star fruit, but it can be consumed in various ways. To eat it as a snack, pick the ripe one.
Ripe star fruit is mostly yellow, with some shades of green. Wash it under running water, cut the ends off, remove the seeds, and enjoy with or without salt.
The fruit can also be added as an ingredient to salads, jams, and other viands. You can also juice it and enjoy it as a regular drink.
In folkloric medicine, the decoction of leaves can be drunk to ease chest pain while the decoction of flowers is used to remove parasitic worms.
To prepare the anthelmintic drink, simply collect 50 grams of balimbing flowers and boil it in a pint of water.
Balimbing fruit is highly available in our country. And there’s no doubt that we should take advantage of the benefits of balimbing.
For healthy people who are not in any sensitive condition, there’s no harm in eating the fruit once in a while.
However, for people who are suffering from illnesses particularly relating to their kidneys, they should just stay away from the fruit altogether unless they are given a go signal by their doctor.
Learn more about herbal medicine here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
(PDF) Star fruit: Health benefits, safety, side effects and drug interactions. (2019, May 26). ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333384849_Star_Fruit_Health_Benefits_Safety_Side_Effects_and_Drug_interactions
Abeysekera RA , et al. (n.d.). Star fruit toxicity: A cause of both acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease: a report of two cases. – PubMed – NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26680759
Balimbing / Averrhoa carambola L./ Star fruit / Yang tao: Philippine herbal Therapy/ Philippine alternative medicine. (n.d.). StuartXchange Front Page – SX – Godofredo Umali Stuart’s Cyber-Warehouse. https://stuartxchange.com/Balimbing
Ferrari, N. (2015, April 9). Making one change — getting more fiber — can help with weight loss. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/making-one-change-getting-fiber-can-help-weight-loss-201502177721
Carambola, (starfruit), raw nutrition facts & calories. (n.d.). SELF Nutrition Data | Food Facts, Information & Calorie Calculator. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1858/2