If pineapple is known as the “king” of fruits, guava is considered the queen. Thought to be native to southern Central America and Mexico where it’s been a major crop for centuries, guavas are members of the myrtle and eucalyptus family, growing throughout the tropics on small trees with smooth, copper-colored bark. Another type, Psidium cattleianum, grown in flower and foliage gardens, is not for eating.
Soft, sweet, and fragrant when ripe, guavas are small and round or oval, with varying colors from yellow to pink to dark red, depending on the variety. Each fruit contains a large number of tiny, edible seeds at the center. Guavas are very good simply sliced for a snack or added to salads. In other areas of the world, guava is popular as a thick, rich paste made into cheese. Fresh guava juice is common in Hawaii. In Fiji, guavas are used to make tasty jelly.
While one of the first references to guava fruit was made in 1526 in the West Indies, they were only introduced in Florida in 1847, where they became familiar commodity within about 40 years. Between 1948 and 1969, 21 guava cultivars from seven countries were introduced in Hawaii. Today, about 125,327 acres are dedicated to guava cultivation in India, yielding more than 27,300 tons every year.
Apparently a somewhat fragile fruit, a sharp dip in temperatures can threaten guava trees in northern California, while the intense heat of Southern California scorches them.
Guava Health Benefits
It’s no wonder guava is called a “super fruit.” Compared to the same amount of pineapple, guavas contain 30 more calories per serving, but three times the protein and more than four times the fiber. All that fiber makes guavas a great “regulator,” while helping to protect the colon by reducing the risk of cancer-causing toxins and chemical build up; the fiber actually binds to the toxins and helps move them out of the body.
While pineapples provide 131% of the daily value of vitamin C in a serving, guavas offer 628%. Guava should be eaten with the skin, like an apple, imparting even higher concentrations of vitamin C. Eating fruits rich in this vitamin helps the body build up resistance to infection, including infectious diseases, while scavenging free radicals that could cause serious illnesses.
Guavas contain: vitamin A (21% of the daily value), essential for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin; folate (20%), great for pregnant women to help prevent neural tube defects. Flavonoids include beta-carotene (a known cancer inhibitor); lycopene, which in pink guava has been found to protect the skin against UV rays and help prevent prostate cancer; lutein and cryptoxanthin, both antioxidants. Guavas have potassium, too – more per serving than even a banana – which is important as heart rate and blood pressure regulators.
Smaller amounts of other vitamins in guava deserve mention: pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin E and K, and the minerals magnesium, copper, and manganese, the latter imparting the enzyme superoxide dismutase.
However, consume guavas in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Studies on Guava
In one study, guava showed a marked blood glucose lowering effect when eaten by both adults at risk for diabetes and healthy volunteers, indicating its possible usefulness in improving and/or preventing diabetes mellitus, or adult-onset diabetes.
After conducting a Japanese study on guava leaf tea (GLT), which contains the polyphenols quercetin and ellagic acid, and regulates the absorption of dietary carbohydrate from the intestines, GLT can be (and is) given to patients at high risk of developing diabetes to curb blood sugar spikes after meals.