By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Custard apple (Annona squamosa L.) is one of the most important delicious arid fruits known mostly for its dessert and confectionery values. It belongs to the family Annonaceae of the order Magnoliales (1). The genus name, „Annona‟ is from the Latin word „anon‟, which means „yearly produce‟. Annona cherimola and Annona reticulate are the other related species. It is also known as sharifa, sitaphal and sugar apple.
The fruit has pleasant texture and flavour and is sweet with slight acidity. Being rich in carbohydrate and possessing pleasant flavour, custard apple fruits are utilized for ice cream. Sitaphal is comparatively high calorie fruit and thus is included in diet for weight gain and athletes (2).
It is one of the most drought tolerant fruit trees in India and can be grown in rocky soils. This luscious and nutritious fruit is eaten throughout the world.
The fruit is rich in starch when firm but increases markedly in sugar as it softens. The main sugars are glucose and fructose (80- 90%). The calorific value is high (300-450 kJ per 100 g) and is almost double that of peach, orange and apple.
Despite its high sugar content the glycemic index of custard apple is low (i.e. 54).the fruit has antioxidant activity making it suitable even for diabetic patients. Sitaphal also has good amounts of iron, phosphorous, potassium, and vitamin C. It has about 3.1% of fibre in the edible portion (3).
The sitaphal also contains traces of sodium, magnesium, pantothenic acid, ascorbic acid and B vitamins (4).
- Antioxidant activity
In the Taiwanese study (5), the antioxidant activity in mature fruits of 36 species and varieties produced in Taiwan was analyzed. In this study, sugar apple was categorized as having very high antioxidant activity. Many studies including conducted in India (6, 7) showed that extracts of Annona squamosa, Annona cherimola and Annona muricata have high anti-oxidant activity.
- Effects on Cardio-Vascular Disease
Consumption of one quarter of the normal sized custard apple daily for a 80 kg human exhibited cardio protective effects similar to therapeutic doses of captopril (8). In a different study, consumption of custard apple showed that fruit pulp (2.5-5.0 g/kg body weight) reduced total cholesterol level by 46% in normal and 32.4% in diabetic rabbits with increased HDL-cholesterol (9).
- Antidiabetic properties
A study reveals that A. squamosa (custard apple) has both hypoglycaemic and antidiabetic activity. It seems to act by enhancing insulin level from pancreatic islets, increased utilization of glucose in muscle and inhibited the glucose output from liver. It reverses the abnormal lipid profile seen in diabetic animals. Its margin of safety is high. Extract obtained from leaves of A. squamosa is useful in maintaining healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels (10).
- Anti-infective and Anticancer activity
A review revealed that the alkaloids from Annona genus are rich in structural diversity and pharmacological activities. Further exploration of this genus and their alkaloids has potential for developing novel anti-infective and anticancer drugs (11).
Recipes Apart from taking the fruit as such, which is the most common form of intake of the fruit; there are certain preparations which make it more palatable especially for the children.
- Sitaphal firni: Milk thickened with rice flour is flavoured with custard apple pulp and refrigerated to enhance the flavour and get the perfect consistency. It is served chilled for a fruitilicious experience, which is much healthier than regular custards and puddings.
- Sitaphal cream: The cream of the four to five fruits is mixed with cream of cashew with added saffron and vennila, sugar if needed.
- Sitaphal Rabdi: Mix saffron, cardamom after simming almonds, pista in stove. Combine with the pulp of sitaphal and can be served hot or cold.
- Sitaphal kheer: It is a mixture of cooked rice and sitaphal in specific proportions with added flavor with cardamom. Sitaphal milk shake and halwa with sugar free recipes have been described (12), (13).
- De LC and Bhattacharjee SK. 2011. Handbook of Vegetable Crops. Pointer Publisher, Jaipur. Pp.76-81.
- Dickson, M. H. 1975. G1117A, G1102A and G1106A cytosterile broccoli inbreds. HortScience 10: 535.
- Andrade E, Zoghbi M, Maia J, Fabricius H, and Marx F. J Food Comp Anal 2001; 14(2): 227-232
- Seema MN, Jayaprakasha GK, & Singh RP. J Food Sci Technol 2008; 45(4): 349-352.
- Chen T, Wen-Ju Yang, Ning-Sing Shaw and Tzong-Shyan Lin. Antioxidant activity of fruits produced in Taiwan. Abstract, 27th International Horticultural Congress, Korea, 2006.proceedings
- Noichinda S, Bodhipadma K, Wongs-Aree C, Komkhuntod R, and Sirisukchaitavorn H. Agr Sci J 40(3)(Suppl.): 265-269.
- Kaur C and Kapoor H. Acta Horticulturae 2005: 696.
- Kaleem M, Asif M, Ahmed QU and Bano B. Singapore Med J 2006:47(8): 670-675
- Gupta RK, Kesari AN, Watal G, Murthy PS, Chandra R and Tandon V. Ann Nutr Metabol 2005 ;49:407- 413.