Durian Fruit: The Smelly but Nutrient-Dense Superfood You Should Try

Durian - Dr. Axe

Durian fruit has been utilized in Eastern medicine practices for many years, which isn’t surprising considering it’s rich in a number of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins and minerals. While this fruit hasn’t been studied as extensively as many others, it’s considered to be a valuable addition to one’s diet, in addition to being utilized as a form of natural medicine.

By including this superfood in your diet, whether by eating it raw, consuming its juices or supplementing with it in other ways, you can benefit from enhanced protection against certain nutrient deficiencies, metabolic-related issues, certain infections and more.

What Is Durian Fruit?

Durian (Durio zibethinus L.) is an “exotic tropical fruit” that’s harvested primarily in Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It can be eaten both raw or cooked and has a strong, signature smell.

Durian fruits are greenish-brown in color, usually pretty large (although not as big as jackfruits) and have a spiky exterior. The durian is sometimes also called “king of fruits.”

Inside the prickly shell is a white, yellow or red flesh. The flesh has a soft, custard-like texture that’s unlike most other fruits.

In addition to being edible, it’s also considered a potential therapeutic agent due to its valuable nutritional composition and presence of bioactive compounds.

How Do You Use It?

Outside of Asia, the best places to find durian are at Asian markets. You may be able to find it either fresh or frozen.

One downside to purchasing it is that it’s one of the most expensive fruits produced in this region.

Look for fruits with light-colored spikes that don’t have dark brown or white patches. Try picking up and shaking the fruit, noticing if there’s any rattling sound — if there is, it indicates that it’s dried out and no longer good.

What does durian taste like, and what should you do with it? You can eat both the flesh and the seeds if they are cooked. The outside rind/skin shouldn’t be eaten, however.

People describe the taste of durian in different ways — for example, as a cross between flavors including garlic, cheese and almonds.

Here’s how you can use durian fruit:

  • Not only can you eat the flesh of the fruit raw, but you can also cook with it, especially when it’s a bit overripe.
  • It’s sometimes used to make candies, baked goods, sweet drinks and desserts.
  • You can also use it in savory dishes, just like you would jackfruit, such in sauces and curries.
  • Additionally, the juice is sometimes used just like other fruit juices are.

Nutrition Facts

Durian is considered by experts to be a very nutrient-dense fruit — particularly high in vitamin C; healthy fats; B vitamins, including thiamine, vitamin B6 and riboflavin; manganese; and others. It’s higher in calories than most fruits, similar to avocado, because it contains more fat.

Overall it’s a very balanced food, providing fiber, fat, protein and carbs all in one package.

Additionally, it supplies you with a range of protective compounds, including antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, carotenoids, polyphenols and bioflavonoids (the same types found in superfoods like berries, cocoa, red wine and green tea). Volatile sulfur compounds, esters and antimicrobials have also been identified in durian.

One cup of raw or frozen durian (approximately 243 grams) contains about:

  • 357 calories
  • 66 grams carbs
  • 4 grams protein
  • 13 grams fat
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 48 milligrams vitamin C (80 percent DV)
  • 0.9 milligrams thiamine (61 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams manganese (39 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams vitamin B6 (38 percent DV)
  • 1,060 milligrams potassium (30 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligrams riboflavin (29 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligrams copper (25 percent DV)
  • 88 milligrams folate (22 percent DV)
  • 73 milligrams magnesium (18 percent DV)
  • 3 milligrams niacin (13 percent DV)
  • 95 milligrams phosphorus (9 percent DV)
  • 0.6 milligrams pantothenic acid (6 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram iron (6 percent DV)
  • 0.7 milligrams zinc (5 percent DV)

Durian vs. jackfruit, what’s the difference?

Jackfruit is a similar tropical fruit that is high in many of the same nutrients, such as vitamin C and other antioxidants/phytonutrients, including lignans, isoflavones and saponins.

It’s lower in calories and fat than durian and doesn’t have the same strong odor. It tastes more like banana/mango and is used in both sweet and savory recipes, including as a meat substitute due to its texture.

Health Benefits

1. High in Antioxidants, Sulfur Compounds and Vitamin C

Because it contains high levels of antioxidants and essential vitamins like vitamin C, durian may neutralize cancer-promoting free radicals and defend against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Something else that makes this fruit unique is it contains sulphur-containing compounds, such as thioacetals, thioesters and thiolanes, as well as trace amounts of alcohol. These are the same types of compounds found in garlic, which have the ability to protect tissues and support metabolic pathways.

Studies have shown that durian has anti-proliferative and even probiotics effects. It seems to be capable of aiding in the prevention of cancer cells spreading, promoting cardiovascular health by decreasing cholesterol and hardening of the arteries, and supporting cognitive/brain health.

It can also help to support health of the skin, eyes and brain by reducing free radical damage.

2. Great Source of B Vitamins and Folate

According to one study, durian is a rich natural source of absorbable folate and B vitamins. These nutrients are important for metabolic health, maintaining nerve and muscle function, and supporting higher energy levels.

Folate in particular plays an essential role in metabolic pathways involving biosynthesis and remethylation of homocysteine to methionine. It helps prevent not only neural tube defects in newborns, but also increased levels of homocysteine that are associated with development of cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer‘s disease.

The high amount of thiamine present in durian is also beneficial for glucose metabolism and maintaining health of connective tissues.

3. Can Promote Metabolic and Reproductive Health

Although more research on the topic is warranted, one traditional use of durian is as a fertility-enhancing agent.

Durian has been found to exhibit positive effects against various components of metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This is due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-obesity, anticholesterol and antihypoglycaemic properties.

It’s also an ideal fruit for those who are sensitive to the effects of consuming sugar and carbs, since it has a lower glycemic index score due to its protein, fiber and fat content.

4. Helps Support the Immune System

Certain studies have uncovered evidence that durian leaf and roots contain febrifuge and anti-malarial properties, as well as many other nutrients that can support the immune system in fighting off viruses and infections. Research is ongoing regarding its unique microbial composition and how it may be used for production of novel proteins and/or enzymes in the future.

Risks and Side Effects

Why might durian be bad for your health? While it’s generally a very healthy food, it can interact with other substances, such as alcohol, and potentially cause side effects.

Side effects of consuming durian may include nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations if eaten with alcohol.

Is durian illegal in the U.S.? It’s not illegal, although it may be hard to find.

Why is the durian fruit banned? Due to its off-putting smell, it’s been banned in some countries from being brought into certain public places, hotels and on mass transit.

How to Eat It (Recipes)

Here’s how to eat durian (and how to crack open the fruit and get the ripe flesh out):

  • First make sure that the fruit is ripe. This makes it easier to crack with a knife. One downside to eating ripe durian is that the smell is stronger, so some people choose to eat it a slightly under-ripe instead. Use ripe durians immediately before they start to spoil.
  • To cut into the fruit, place the durian stem side down and cut through the thick skin on the top of the fruit. Pull the skin back.
  • Lay the two halves down, and then remove the “pods” of fruit plus the inside flesh along the shell. Next remove the large, inedible seeds before eating or cooking.
  • To help reduce the smell of durian, you can run hot water through the durian skin, which helps remove some of the particles that contribute to the aroma.

Once you’ve gotten the smooth flesh out, try durian in recipes such as healthy cakes, shakes and savory dishes like stir-fries. While most people prefer it in sweetened recipes, which can help mask the taste, it mixes well with spices, rice and veggies too.

Use the fresh fruit right away or within a couple of days of it starting to ripen. Keeping it in the refrigerator is a good way to keep it fresh for longer.

You can store the cooked fruit in the refrigerator for several days when kept in a tight container.

New to this nutrient-rich fruit? Try these durian recipes:

Why Does It Smell So Much?

What does durian smell like? The smell depends on the specific type of durian, plus how ripe it is. It’s more likely to be very smelly when it’s ripe.

According to the Spruce Eats, the smell of durian has been described as being like “dirty gym socks, rotten egg, cut onions, manure, and roadkill.”

The strong odor of the fruit is thought to be attributed to the presence of sulfur compounds (like those found in onions and garlic) and other enzymes. While these are not usually bad for you to consume, they may leave you feeling nauseated if the smell bothers you a lot.

One study found that the fruit contained at least 44 different odor-active compounds — including those that are responsible for the smell of cabbage, soup seasoning, eggs, caramel and roasted garlic. Research has shown that these include sulfurs and “odorants,” such as ethanethiol, 1-(ethylsulfanyl)ethane-1-thiol, methanethiol and ethane-1,1-dithiol.

Conclusion

  • Durian is a nutrient-dense fruit that has a strong smell and unusual taste. It’s high in calories for a fruit, due to its content of healthy fats.
  • This fruit is a great source of vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, manganese and more.
  • It can be eaten raw or cooked and added to both sweet and savory recipes.
  • Benefits of consuming durian include supporting the immune system, metabolic health, cognitive functions, digestion and skin health, reducing free radical damage, and more.

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