Monday, August 13, 2012

Crushin' on Some Lychee: The Fruit of Love

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You don't hear much about lychee (or litchi) fruit. I, for one, never knew about lychee until I moved to New York and was bombarded with it in Chinatown and in my cocktails at fancy restaurants. I'd like to think it's Chinatown's best kept secret.

Lychee, which means 'gift for a joyful life' in Chinese, is originally from southern China, Malaysia and northern Vietnam. It was mentioned in records as far back as 2000 BC. It grows on evergreen trees and is harvested in the summer between June and October.

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 In the first century, the Imperial Court of China actually had a designated courier service (the one with the fastest horses) to fetch the fruit from Guangdong and deliver it to the royalty. It was the choice fruit of Emperor Li Longji's favored concubine. It has been suggested that he spent loads of capitol money to have it delivered for her (hey, you've gotta keep the ladies happy, gentlemen!).

You can identify lychee by it's pinkish red outer skin. It's rough outer shell almost resembles that of a strawberry. When you peel off the outer layer, you'll find the edible white fleshy fruit inside, surrounding the seed (which can be fatal if eaten... you heard it here first).

But other than it's link to love and long life, lychee is a stellar fruit when it comes to nutrition content. Here's why you should give lychee a try...

DISEASE FIGHTER - Lychee is packed with vitamin C. On average, just nine lychee berries would amount to a normal adult's daily vitamin C requirement.

WEIGHT LOSS WONDER - Lychee are low in calories and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. They're a great after-dinner treat to curb your sweet tooth and keep you away from the cookie jar. They're also rich in dietary fiber, helping you feel full longer.

HEART HEALTHY -Lychee are a good source of potassium, which helps control your heart rate and blood pressure, AND copper, which is needed for the production of red blood cells.

CANCER FIGHTER - The flavenoids in lychee have been shown to prevent the growth of cancer cells, particularly the ones that cause breast cancer.

METABOLISM HELPER - The B-complex vitamins found in lychee help your body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

You probably won't find lychee at your local grocery store, but Whole Foods and other specialty markets should carry it. Lychee has a great shelf life. They will last for up to 5 days at room temperature or up to 5 weeks in the fridge.

Once you peel the lychee and remove the seed, they're great thrown in yogurt, onto salads or as a garnish in your cocktails. I prefer the lychee plain, as a snack or a dessert.

Incorporating lychee into your diet is fairly straightforward, but here's a quick and easy idea for a lychee treat...

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