Lulo Fruit: An Easy Guide To The Exotic Colombian Fruit

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

The lulo fruit is as exotic and mysterious as it sounds. You can easily mistake it for an orange when you see it from a distance or if you get the chance to catch a glimpse of it. It is rarely found in the United States in its fresh form Luckily though, this nutrient-dense pulpy fruit that smells incredible and tastes tart is getting itself noticed. You would want to grab it off the shelves when it reaches there, so better read up on everything about this little, tasty, natural treasure.

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.

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

Lulo Fruit Nutritional Facts

Lulo has a nutrient-rich profile, especially when it comes to micronutrients (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 see what are some of the potential benefits of the lulo or “Colombian” fruit.

7 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.

  • May Boost Immunity

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

Vitamin C helps to clear out toxins and free radicals from your body and stimulates the phagocytic cells. Phagocytic cells 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 is anti-inflammatory and regulates cellular immune response (3).

  • May Boost Gastrointestinal Health

Lulo may be considered a fiber-rich fruit with pectin as one of the dietary fibers it contains. 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).

  • 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).

  • May Reduce Cholesterol And Boost Cardiovascular Health

Lulo fruit is low in fats and high in fiber along with 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).

  • May Improve Bone Strength

Lulo is a good source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all three nutrients that play key roles in bone development. So, adding lulo to your diet may benefit your bones and prevent conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis. According to a study, the three nutrients work interdependently and only supplementation with calcium alone is not enough for bone health if these two minerals are missing (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).

  • 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).

  • 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 you boost collagen production and help you maintain healthy skin by also countering skin damage from UV rays (14).

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 delicious way of incorporating some of the essential micronutrients it has to offer. And that brings us to the question: how do you use lulo fruit? Let’s find out.

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.

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

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 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 (15), (16). So, 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.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What does lulo fruit taste like?

Lulo has a distinct, tangy taste. Some compare its taste to pineapple or a mix of rhubarb and lime.

Can you eat lulo raw?

Yes, you can eat the white fleshy part of lulo raw.

Can you eat lulo seeds?

You can eat the seeds, but you need to discard the stalks that hold the pulp and seeds together when you eat the fruit.

What is lulo good for?

Lulo is rich in fiber and various micronutrients including antioxidants which make it good for strengthening the immune system, blood sugar control, gastrointestinal health, heart health, and bone density (1), (4), (17).

How long does it take to grow lulo?

In its native land, the lulo plant bears fruit after 10 to 12 months from transplantation and continues to blossom and fruit for around 3 years.

References:

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  1. ‘Naranjilla (Lulo) Pulp’ ‘Frozen’ Unsweetened
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167790/nutrients
  2. Vitamin C and Immune Function
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5707683/
  3. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30200565/
  4. Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/
  5. Identifying Carotenoids and Phenolic Compounds in Naranjilla ‘(Solanum Quitoense Lam. Var. Puyo Hybrid)’ an Andean Fruit
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19053383/
  6. Nutrients for the Aging Eye
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3693724/
  7. ‘A Randomized’ ‘Placebo-Controlled’ Clinical Trial of High-Dose Supplementation with ‘Vitamins C and E’ ‘Beta Carotene’ and Zinc for Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss: Areds Report No. 8
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11594942/
  8. Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Dietary Fiber: A Meta-Analysis
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9925120/
  9. Spermidine Derivatives in Lulo (Solanum quitoense Lam.) Fruit: Sensory (Taste) versus Biofunctional (ACE-Inhibition) Properties
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27292771/
  10. Role of Vitamins in Cardiovascular Health and Disease
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287414135_Role_of_vitamins_in_cardiovascular_health_and_disease
  11. ‘Monitoring Bone Changes Due to Calcium’ ‘Magnesium’ and Phosphorus Loss in Rat Femurs using Quantitative Ultrasound
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6086864/
  12. Vitamin C and Bone Health: ‘Evidence from Cell’ Animal and Human Studies
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26343111/
  13. Are Antioxidants Helpful for Disease Prevention?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3093095/
  14. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  15. Probiotics and Other Bioactive Compounds with Proven Effect Against Obesity and Hypertension: Food Design Opportunities from Lulo Fruit ( Solanum quitoense )
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333135987_Probiotics_and_Other_Bioactive_Compounds_with_Proven_Effect_Against_Obesity_and_Hypertension_Food_Design_Opportunities_from_Lulo_Fruit_Solanum_quitoense
  16. Blood Pressure Response to Changes in Sodium and Potassium Intake: A Metaregression Analysis of Randomised Trials
    https://www.nature.com/articles/1001575
  17. Antioxidants and Disease Prevention
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262525852_Antioxidants_and_Disease_Prevention
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