Persimmon is a fruit with great medicinal qualities, and well known for its diarrhea stopping property. It is used to boost the body’s immune system, improve eye health, aid digestion, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol level, strengthen the bones, boosts cognitive function, and fight intestinal disorders.
Botanical name: Diospyros kaki
Other names: Chinese fig, Kaki fruit, Common persimmon, Sharon fruit, Japanese persimmon
Persimmon is the aggregate fruit of the persimmon tree, Diospyros kaki, a deciduous tree of the botanical family Ebenaceae which usually reaches a height of about 4 meters. The Japanese persimmon is the most common species of this fruit. It is native to Japan, China, Korea, Burma, and Nepal.
This fruit has a high content of tannins, which makes persimmon astringent and bitter when unripe. Thus, it should not be consumed when unripe. A ripe persimmon can be identified by its thick and pulpy jelly enclosed by a waxy shell.
Commercially, persimmons are available in two types: astringent and non-astringent. The astringent persimmons contain very high level of soluble tannins, while the non-astringent types contain lower amount of tannins.
Persimmons can be eaten in either fresh, dried, or cooked forms. In China and Japan, dried persimmons are eaten as snacks and are used in various culinary preparations. For hundreds of years ago, the Japanese have been using the dried leaves of persimmon tree in tea making. In the Old Northwest of United states, persimmons are used in a variety of dessert dishes. They find them appealing as supplements in cakes, cookies, salads, and are widely used in pudding.
Persimmon contains significant amount of sugars of which fructose is the most abundant, then small amounts of glucose and saccharose. Even though persimmons contains about 15% sugars, it is still recommended for the diabetics. This is because their sugar content is composed mainly of fructose which requires less insulin for use in the body cells.
- Fats and Proteins
Persimmons contains very little amounts of fats and proteins.
These are phenolic compounds which acts as astringents. They form dry coating on the mucosa by coagulating proteins. Tannins are also present in quince, banana, and even red wines, and they can be recognized by their harsh taste. The tannin content of persimmons depends on the variety, as some varieties contain higher tannin content than the others.
Persimmons are among the richest fruit in carotenoids, as just a 250 g of persimmon provides about half of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin. There are many carotenoids present in this fruit, among which lycopene and cryptoxanthin stands out. These carotenoids are said to be responsible for persimmon’s orange color. They are known for their great antioxidant property, which help prevent cellular aging and cancer, and also stop the process of arteriosclerosis.
- Mucilage and Pectin
Persimmon is among the richest fruit in pectin. Pectin and mucilage are complex carbohydrates and the most important component of soluble vegetable fiber. Among many functions of pectin and mucilage such as retaining sugars and cholesterol, and increasing fecal volume and facilitating evacuation, its immediate effect in soothing and reducing inflammation in the walls of the digestive tract stands out more.
- Vitamins and Minerals
Persimmon contains significant amount of vitamins and minerals of which vitamin C, potassium and Iron stands out. Even though persimmon is not among the richest fruit in vitamin C, it still provides significant amount of this vitamin. And again, this vitamin C present in persimmon also helps facilitate the absorption of the iron present in the same persimmon.
The iron present is the second most abundant mineral in persimmon after potassium. A 250 g of persimmon provides about 10% of the recommended daily allowance for this mineral, a reasonable amount as a fresh fruit.
A list of some impressive uses of persimmon:
- Prevents intestinal disorders
- Prevents cardiovascular conditions
- Tolerated by the diabetics
- Fights iron-deficiency anemia
- Prevents cancer
- Improve eye-sight
- Boosts immunity
As we have seen above, persimmons contains tannins which gives them their astringent effect, and also pectin and mucilage which gives them their emollient effect. The combined effect of the substances above helps dry and soothe the walls of the digestive tract.
Moreover, the pectin and mucilage in persimmon gives it a great anti-inflammatory effect, making them beneficial in cases of diarrhea and colitis.
When taking persimmon for relieving intestinal disorders, less ripe persimmons are recommended as they contain more tannins or are more astringent. The consumption of persimmon can be beneficial for those suffering from chronic colitis, irritable bowel, intestinal spams, and flatulence.
In cases of anemia due to iron deficiency, the consumption of persimmon is highly recommended. This sounds a bit weird, since the iron-content of persimmon is not particularly high. However, persimmons are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant which facilitates the absorption of the iron present in this fruit. Thus, the regular intake of persimmon can be highly beneficial for those with iron deficiency anemia.
Persimmon’s richness in carotenoids explains this. The carotenoids helps stops the process of arteriosclerosis. Additionally, persimmon contains virtually no fats and sodium, the two most antagonistic substances to the cardiovascular system.
Worth mentioning is its potassium content, which can act as a vasodilator and lower our body’s blood pressure. A lower blood pressure relieves the stress on our vascular tissues, and prevents the risk of developing various heart diseases. Moreover, persimmons are rich in fiber, a component that has been proven times without number to help in reducing our body’s cholesterol level.
A research carried out by Gato N and his colleagues in 2013, evaluated the effect of tannin-rich fiber content of persimmon in reducing cholesterol level in humans. Interestingly, their results revealed how consumption of tannin-rich fiber from persimmons significantly reduced cholesterol level. Their conclusion revealed how persimmon is a potential useful food material for treating hypercholesterolemia.
This sounds quite weird too. Even though persimmons contain sugars in significant quantities, they are still tolerated by the diabetics. This may be due to their sugar content being composed mainly of fructose, a type of sugar which requires less insulin for use in the body than glucose. Thus, diabetics who produce less insulin, can tolerate and absorb fructose than any other form of sugar.
Additionally, the soluble vegetable fiber present in persimmon in the form of pectin helps retain sugars in the intestine, and release them slowly into the bloodstream without causing hike in the blood glucose level. Thus, the consumption of persimmon can be beneficial to the diabetics.
However, as a diabetic, you should always consult your doctor before adding anything to your diet. Many have suggested checking your blood glucose level before and after consumption of foods you are not sure of in order to ascertain their effects on your blood glucose.
Persimmons are very rich in vitamin C. The American persimmon variety provides up to 80% of the daily recommended intake for this vitamin from the consumption of only 100 grams of this fruit. As already known, vitamin C helps boosts the body’s immune system through stimulating the production of white blood cells or leucocytes, which are involved in protecting the body against infectious diseases and foreign invaders.
This fruits are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and other phenolic compounds. These antioxidants prevent our bodies from cancer by fighting and preventing the formation of free radicals, whose activities can destroy healthy cells and initiate the development of cancerous growths.
Some other antioxidant found in significant quantities in this fruit include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and xanthin. Collectively, these compounds come together to protect the body against the activity of free radicals.
A research published in the Journal of medicinal plants from the Department of Food science and Biotechnology, Kyungnam University, Korea, found persimmon calyx extracts to have anti-cancer activity on human cells. The research further suggested its use as a chemotherapeutic agent in the treatment of human cancer cells.
This has been attributed to some compounds contained in persimmon; lutein and zeaxanthin. They are antioxidants that have been shown to block blue light from reaching the underlying structures of the retina, thus, reducing the risk of oxidative damage that may lead to macular degeneration.
There are several studies that have associated higher level of lutein and zeaxanthin consumption in diet with lower risk for eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and night blindness.