Guava fruit looks like a large lime or smooth avocado but the sweet flesh inside is nothing like these foods. Guava tastes more like a tropical strawberry-pear blend. Originally guava came from hot and humid areas in Mexico, Central America, Northern South America, and the Caribbean. Today guava is grown in many other tropical and subtropical climates in areas such as Asia, the United States, and Africa.
Most of the guava in the States is grown in Florida, where it was introduced as a crop to farmers in the mid-1800s by way of Cuba. There are around 30 types of guava in either the white or red category, which includes strawberry guava, cherry guava, Miami red guava, Behat Coconut guava, and apple guava. The pink guava fruits have more water content, fewer seeds, and aren’t as sweet as their white counterpart, which is denser and contains more starch. Guava comes in many sizes and is either round or shaped like an avocado. Guava is similar to passion fruit and is sweet without being saccharine and has an overall tropical essence.
Guava is a natural food that tastes like dessert and contains a lot of good-for-you nutrients. Guava has vitamins C and A, and potassium, copper, manganese, folate, and fiber. The seeds also offer eaters a tiny dose of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. There are 37 calories in one fruit and 12% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
Guava and passion fruit tend to get mixed up or used interchangeably. They are not the same, though both are roundish. Passion fruit has a purple-red outer shell that’s not edible, though the large dark seeds and flesh are. Guava can be eaten skin and all. Guava also contains a lot more vitamin C, where passion fruit has more iron and fiber. Passion fruit is more tart than guava when eaten raw.
Several test-tube and animal studies found that guava leaf extract improved blood sugar levels, long-term blood sugar control, and insulin resistance. One study in 19 people noted that drinking guava leaf tea lowered blood sugar levels after a meal. The effects lasted up to two hours. Another study in 20 people with type 2 diabetes found that drinking guava leaf tea reduced blood sugar levels after a meal by more than 10%.
Research shows that the high levels of antioxidants and vitamins in guava leaves may help protect your heart from damage by free radicals. The higher levels of potassium and soluble fiber in guavas are also thought to contribute to improved heart health.
Guava leaf extract has been linked to lower blood pressure, decreasing LDL cholesterol, and increasing HDL cholesterol. A 12-week study in 120 people found that eating ripe guava before meals caused an overall decrease in blood pressure by 8-9 points, a reduction in total cholesterol by 9.9%.
Taking 6 mg of guava leaf extract daily resulted in reduced pain intensity of menstrual symptoms. It appeared to be even more powerful than some painkillers.
Guava leaf extract may benefit digestive health. Studies suggest that it may reduce the intensity and duration of diarrhea. Several studies reveal that guava leaf extract is antimicrobial. This means that it can neutralize harmful microbes in your gut that can cause diarrhea.
The antioxidants and vitamins in guavas can help slow down the aging of your skin, while guava leaf extract may help treat acne.
Guava leaf extract has been shown to have an anticancer effect. Test-tube and animal studies show that guava extract can prevent and even stop the growth of cancer cells. This is likely due to the high levels of powerful antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging cells, one of the main causes of cancer. One test-tube study found that guava leaf oil was four times more effective at stopping cancer cell growth than certain cancer drugs.
Low levels of vitamin C are linked to an increased risk of infections and illness. Guavas are one of the richest food sources of vitamin C, almost twice the amount you would get from eating an orange. Vitamin C plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Because vitamin C can easily be flushed out of your body, it’s important to regularly get enough through your diet.
How to Buy
You can find guava in specialty grocery stores around the country. However, if in Florida or nearby, fresh guava can be found in most supermarkets. Another way to source guava is to look for guava pulp frozen or in a jar, freeze-dried guava, or dried fruit. It’s easier to find the last two items, especially in a health food store, a Latino market, or in high-end stores that specialize in international ingredients and exotic fruits.
Approximately 30 types of red and white guavas are grown in a variety of sizes, and are either round or oval in shape. The most popular types of white guava on the market include Mexican Cream, Tropical White, Giant Vietnamese, and Pineapple Guava. On the red side, there’s Red Malaysian, Ruby-X, and Thai Maroon. There is one yellow-fleshed guava called Detwiler, a cultivar developed in California.
When shopping for guava look for the softest fruit of the bunch, this usually denotes the ripest and sweetest samples. Ripeness can be gauged by gently squeezing the outside of the fruit, and looking at the color, the darker the outside the less ripe it is.
How to Store
Fresh guava that is still dark green can be kept in a room-temperature kitchen in a bowl, or placed in a paper bag to help speed up ripening. Guava that’s a lighter green and/or with spots of pink should be eaten right away or kept in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process down. Cut guava can be stored inside a sealed container and will last this way for three or four days in the fridge. Slices of fresh guava can also be frozen and kept for eight months.
How to Cook
The whole guava fruit is edible and can be eaten like an apple. It can be bitten into whole, served sliced, or, if the outer shell isn’t appealing to the eater, the softer fruit can be scooped out. Guava flesh, seeds, and all, get made into smoothies and juice. Because guava has naturally occurring pectin, many countries process the fruit into sweet, dark jellies. Guava juice or jelly also works well as a vegetable marinade, and the natural sugars caramelize when heated on a grill. Guava is also a popular ingredient in many desserts. Usually, it’s in the form of a jam or fruit paste and cooked between layers of pastry or cake.