Lulo Fruit: An Easy Guide To The Exotic Colombian Fruit

Explore the health benefits and side effects of this nutrient-dense fruit.

Medically reviewed by Janelle Bigelman, MS, RDN Janelle Bigelman Janelle BigelmanMS, RDN facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach Varsha Patnaik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition Aparna Mallampalli BEd, MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition Experience: 5 years

The lulo fruit is pulpy and nutrient-dense and is rarely available in the United States. It has a tart taste and is usually noticed by its unique smell. The benefits of lulo fruit are attributed to its rich nutrition profile. The fruit may help boost immune system function, support gastrointestinal health, improve vision, reduce cholesterol levels, and potentially lower cancer risk. This exotic citrus fruit looks similar to an orange when observed from a distance. This article explores the health benefits, nutritional breakdown, and possible side effects of lulo. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Lulo Fruit?

Lulo fruit (solanum quitoense) is a delicious and tangy fruit that grows mostly in the western parts of South America. It belongs to the nightshade family and resembles an orange from the outside and a tomato from the inside. Lulo goes by quite a few names— lulo in Colombia, naranjilla (meaning little orange in Spanish) in Ecuador, Panama, and some areas of the United States.

The lulo fruit, though available throughout the year in places where it grows, is very difficult to find in other parts of the world. The naranjilla plant is very susceptible to pests when cultivated. That’s why lulo does not do well as a cultivated crop. The fruit itself also does not handle transit well which makes it ill-suited for export. Even if you don’t get your hands on the fresh fruit, chances are that you can get lulo juice or lulo flavored ice cream to get a taste of it.

Sally a travel blogger, shares her experience of tasting several unique fruits in Columbia. She put the Lulo or Naranjilla fruit in the number one position and wrote, “Lulo is almost certainly my favorite fruit discovery. Its bold tart flavor practically explodes in your mouth. With a bright zing all its own, lulo is truly a fruit that one must experience for oneself. It makes delicious green smoothies, delectable sorbets and to this day I daydream of marketing it worldwide(i).”

Now that you know what a lulo fruit is, let us explore what it has to offer in terms of its nutrients.

Lulo Fruit Nutritional Facts

Lulo has a nutrient-rich profile, especially when it comes to micronutrients as shown below (1).

Nutritional Values Of 1 Cup (120 g) Thawed Lulo Fruit (Naranjilla)
Energy30        kcalFolate, total3.6       µg
Protein0.528   gVitamin A, RAE33.6     µg
Total lipid (fat)0.264   gCarotene, beta400      µg
Carbohydrates7.08     gCarotene, alpha4.8       µg
Dietary Fiber1.32     gCryptoxanthin, beta12        µg
Sugars4.49     gVitamin A, IU682      IU
Iron, Fe0.42     mgLutein + zeaxanthin359      µg
Magnesium, Mg13.2     mgPotassium, K240      mg
Phosphorus, P14.4     mgVitamin C, total ascorbic acid3.84     mg
Zinc, Zn0.12     mgVitamin B-60.128   mg
Calcium9.6       mgVitamin E0.9       mg

The variety of nutrients in lulo fruit gives it great potential as a tasty and healthy functional food. Let us dive a little deeper to understand some of the potential benefits of the lulo or “Colombian” fruit.

8 Surprising Health Benefits Of Lulo Fruit

Lulo has a great nutritional profile with its plethora of beta carotenes, carotenoids, and other vitamins and minerals (1). It is considered to be good for the immune system, cardiovascular system, and skeletal system, along with many other health benefits:

  1. May Boost Immunity

Lulo fruit is high in vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which work to boost your immune system.

Vitamin C helps to clear out toxins and free radicals from your body and stimulates the phagocytic cells, which defend your body against foreign pathogens and other infectious diseases. Vitamin C is known to prevent respiratory and systemic infections as well (2). Vitamin A, on the other hand, plays an important role in your body’s immune function. It has anti-inflammatory properties and regulates cellular immune response (3).

  1. May Boost Gastrointestinal Health

Lulo may be considered a fiber-rich fruit, and one of the dietary fibers it contains is pectin. Research suggests that incorporating dietary fiber in your diet may help maintain your gastrointestinal health and eliminate cramping, bloating, constipation, and gastric ulcers. Pectin, especially, has been associated with increased beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and lowered risk of infections (4).

  1. May Improve Vision

Lulo fruit contains zinc, vitamin A, C, E, and carotenoids— the nutrients linked with good eye health and reduced risk of age-related vision impairment (5), (6). A study suggests that beta carotene, an important carotenoid in lulo fruits, can significantly lower the risk of age-related damage in the retina when taken in combination with vitamin E, vitamin C, and zinc (7).

  1. May Reduce Cholesterol And Boost Cardiovascular Health

Lulo fruit is low in fats and high in fiber and several micronutrients. Research suggests that dietary fiber can reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce your risk of a heart attack (8). The presence of spermidine in Lulo fruit may also help to control high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiac arrest (9). The rich variety of vitamins and minerals in lulo fruits can also boost heart health by improving circulation and reducing oxidative stress. (10).

  1. May Improve Bone Strength

Lulo is a good source of the three nutrients, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, that play key roles in bone development. Therefore, adding lulo to your diet may benefit your bones and prevent conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis. According to a study, these three nutrients work interdependently and only supplementation with calcium alone is not enough for bone health if you are deficient in any of the other two minerals (11). Vitamin C, which is abundant in lulo fruit, is also important for the production of collagen in the bone matrix and removing the free radicals that may damage bones (12).

  1. May Have Anticancer Potential

The antioxidant-rich profile of lulo may have anticancer effects on the body. Research-based evidence suggests a strong link between oxidative stress and cancer. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene are powerful free radical scavengers in the body. They work to neutralize oxidative stress, which may lower your risk for certain cancers. That being said, more research is needed to completely understand the role and efficacy of antioxidants in cancer prevention (13).

  1. May Aid In Skin Care

Lulo is a good source of vitamin C. Research shows vitamin C is strongly associated with the production of collagen. Collagen is responsible for your smooth and elastic skin. As you age, your body slows down collagen production. Vitamin C intake may help boost collagen production and maintain healthy skin by also countering skin damage from UV rays (14).

  1. May Detoxify The Body

Lulo fruit offers potential detoxification benefits for the blood due to its high antioxidant content. Although there is no direct research linked to it, lulo is rich in vitamins A, C, and E as well as flavonoids and polyphenols, and their antioxidant properties combat free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and aiding in detoxification (15). These antioxidants assist in neutralizing toxins and impurities in the bloodstream, promoting overall health by supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes. However, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle to support effective detoxification.

There is a lack of focused research into the potential health benefits of lulo fruit specifically. Even then, adding lulo fruit to a balanced diet may be a great (and delicious) way to incorporate some of the essential micronutrients it has to offer. How exactly do you use and enjoy lulo fruit? Let’s find out!

protip_icon Quick Tip
Lulo fruit is best consumed when fresh as it has a very short shelf life. It does not last long once it is ripe, so it also cannot be transported across long distances.

How To Use Lulo Fruit

Lulo is a yummy and healthy fruit that you can enjoy in numerous ways. Here are a few popular ways in which the lulo fruit is consumed.

  • You can have lulo raw. Halve the fruit and simply scoop out the white pulp with a spoon to eat it. Locals enjoy naranjilla fruit with a pinch of salt.
  • You can make a glass of refreshing lulada (or “jugo de lulo”, as they call it in Spanish), a freshly blended juice with lulo pulp, sugar, lime juice, and water.
  • You can use the strained lulo pulp to make jams and jellies.
  • Locals make lulo wine by fermenting the fruit juice.
  • The pulp of lulo fruits can be used as a filling for baked goodies that call for tartness.
  • Lulo can be added to rich stews and curries that require an acidic ingredient.
  • You can make a tangy and delicious sauce with lulo.
  • Lulo can be turned into delicious popsicles.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Lulada, the traditional Colombian beverage, is made by mixing together water, sugar, and lulo fruit, while Champus, a drink popular in southwest Colombia, is made by mixing lulo fruit with pineapple, corn, panela, cinnamon, cloves, and orange tree leaves.

Now that you know of the so many ways to enjoy this citrus-like fruit, let’s see if it possesses any risk of side effects or allergies.

Possible Side Effects Of Lulo Fruit

There is a lack of evidence suggesting serious side effects of lulo fruit consumption. However, there are certain precautions that you may take to avoid any adverse reactions.

  • Allergic Reaction To Lulo

Lulo belongs to the nightshade family, so if you are allergic to brinjals, tomatoes, or other nightshade family members, you may be prone to be allergic to lulo fruit as well.

  • Lulo Fruit Hair May Cause Irritation To Sensitive Skin

Some varieties of lulo have fine white hair on the orange smooth skin of the fruit. If you have sensitive skin, you may feel irritation on touching those fine hairs.

  • May Interact With Hypertension Medication

Lulo is a rich source of potassium which has been shown to lower blood pressure, more significantly in those with existing hypertension. Though lulu can help keep your blood pressure in check, it may potentially interact with hypertension (high blood pressure) medication (16), (17). Thus, if you are taking prescription drugs for your hypertension, it is best to be careful and consult your physician before adding lulo to your diet.

Lulo – the exotic fruit that looks like an orange from the outside and like a green tomato when you cut it up – is packed full of nutrients, especially antioxidants. It grows wildly in parts of Southern America. Sadly, it is not well known in other parts of the world because it is too delicate to tolerate the transportation necessary for exports. Locals enjoy the tang of lulo in jellies, jams, and popsicles and make a deliciously refreshing juice called the “lulada” with fresh lulo pulp. Advances in food technology may make it possible for you to get introduced to the flavor and nutrient profile of lulo by using it as an extract or flavoring agent in popular edibles in the near future.

Lulo fruit is a nutrient-dense citrus fruit with a tart taste. This fruit has a unique smell and looks similar to an orange. There are numerous benefits of lulo fruit. This fruit is rich in beta-carotene and various vitamins and nutrients. It may boost immune health, improve gastrointestinal health, lower the risk of infections, enhance vision, and reduce cholesterol levels. It can be eaten raw or used to make jams or jellies. However, lulo may cause allergic reactions and irritation and interact with hypertension medications. Hence, check with your doctor before consuming these fruits to avoid their adverse reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lulo a kiwi?

No. Lulo fruit might resemble a kiwi but it belongs to the nightshade family.

Is lulo a persimmon?

No. While both fruits have a bright orange outer covering, persimmon has orange sweet flesh while lulo has greenish yellow tart flesh.

Does lulo grow in Florida?

Yes. Lulo (or naranjilla) is grown in southern Florida, usually near the sea level.

Key Takeaways

  • Lulo fruit is rich in beta carotenes, carotenoids, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • It helps maintain gastrointestinal health, boosts immunity, improves vision, and promotes heart health.
  • You can have lulo fruit raw, make a juice, jam, or jelly with it, and add it to stews and curries.
  • Lulo fruit may interact with hypertension medication or cause an allergic reaction.

Check out the following video to uncover 19 scientifically backed health benefits of the lulo fruit. It also shares its nutritional advantages and explains why it is a powerhouse for enhancing your health and wellbeing.

Personal Experience: Source

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Janelle Bigelman

Janelle BigelmanMS, RDN

Janelle Bigelman is a registered dietitian with 3 years of experience. Being an athlete and heavily invested in sports while growing up, she quickly learned the interconnection of optimal nutrition and how one’s daily dietary habits can impact one’s overall health, longevity recovery and performance, both positively and negatively. This led her to open her own private nutrition consulting full bio

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