Thursday | November 23, 2017
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Let’s Talk Food: Soursop in season now

My friend, Irene Bender, has a soursop tree and brought me some fruit. I love the blend of pineapple, banana, coconut and cherry flavors and heard it is good for your health, so I wanted to find out for myself just what are the nutritional values of soursop.

There are a lot of claims, lab tests and tissue cultures regarding curing many ailments. The predominant acetogenin is annonacin, which because of its toxicity, likely would not be studied in clinical trials, so take in the information out there and make a decision but always consult your physician or oncologist.

Soursop is from the graviola tree, which is an evergreen tree and native to Mexico. The word “soursop” comes from the Dutch and means “sour sack.” It grows in warm regions, such as Hawaii, and is called by different names. In the Philippines, it is called “guyabano.” In Brazil, “paw paw.” In Thailand, “thurian-khack,” and in England, “prickly custard apple.”

One serving of soursop has 2 grams of protein, 3.3 grams of dietary fiber, 20.6 mg of Vitamin C, 8 percent of your daily value of potassium, 5 percent of your daily value of magnesium and is a good source of iron, phosphorus and copper.

According to Livestrong, soursop tea is related to the prevention and treatment of some forms of cancer. In a January 2011 issue of the journal Pharmocognosy, which is the study of medicinal drugs obtained from plants and other natural sources, the roots of the soursop tree were tested against tissue cultures of human lung cancer, leukemia, cervical cancer and breast cancer with good results. Researchers attributed the anti-cancer effects of soursop to high concentration of alkaloid compounds and acetogenins, a family of compounds with antibiotic, antifungal and antiparasitic effects. The results of this study shows promise for use of soursop as a cancer preventative.

Another Brazilian study published in the November 2010 issue of the journal Molecules evaluated anticancer potentials. Fourteen Brazilian plants were studied and although soursop was not found to be high in antioxidants or tannins, it showed effectiveness against throat and lung cancer.

Another study from August 2009 in the journal Phytotherapy Research found the acetogenin compound in soursop prevents cancers by inhibiting the energy production in cancer cells. In a lab animal study, soursop acetogenin extract showed anticancer properties of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. One extract tested in the study was effective against a strain of human cervical cancer cells.

In a tissue culture and lab animal study, soursop’s acetogenin extract exerted toxic effects on human colon cancer cells.

Researchers in Taiwan reported they discovered two new acetogenin compounds in a study published in November 2004. The new compounds showed moderate effectiveness against human ovarian cancer in a tissue culture experiment.

Purdue University conducted studies on soursop juice in the treatment of blood in the urine, inflammation of the urethra, leprosy and liver problems. The graviola substance called Annonaceous acetogenins might inhibit the growth of multi-resistant cancer cells, according to a June 1997 study.

Another study claims soursop kills viruses, stops inflammation, lowers blood sugar and induces vomiting in cases of poisoning.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America is cautious and claims soursop extract can slow the spread of cancer or make traditional cancer therapy work better. But experts warn against using the fruit to treat cancer. While research suggests soursop can fight cancer, it has not been studied in humans. As a result, there is no evidence of its effectiveness to treat cancer.

Practitioners of herbal medicine use soursop fruit and graviola tree leaves to treat stomach ailments, fever, parasitic infections, hypertension, rheumatism and as a sedative.

The seeds, which are toxic to humans, are used to kill head lice, or ukus, and the juice is used to treat leprosy in some countries.

Everything good has its side effects though, as high consumption could cause Parkinson’s type motor problems, according to a French West Indies study. This same study also suggests graviola leaves and stems are associated with neurotoxicity. So be cautious as there are good as well as bad elements to consider.

Eating too much soursop, also rich in carbohydrates, could attribute to weight gain.

You can make soursop ice cream, sorbet, candy and fruit bars, which are popular in Venezuela.

Here is a recipe for soursop smoothie:

Soursop Smoothie

Serves: 4

2 soursops, cleaned of skin and seeds

2 cups cubed fresh coconut

1 cup cubed fresh pineapple

4 spinach or kale leaves, washed well

1 thumb fresh ginger

Place in blender and blend until smooth.

Foodie bites

Congratulations to Hilo Medical Center, winner of The Rotary Club of South Hilo’s Hilo Huli’s People’s Choice Award. Watch for changes in your dining options at the hospital in the future. If the dishes featured, braised beef, summer salad and cheesecake, are an indication of what is in the future when you are at HMC, it might make your stay there a little more pleasant.

Email Audrey Wilson at


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