AIN’T NO PLACE LIKE MALAYSIA.
Malaysia, needless to say, is a country blessed with many wonderful things. From the abundance of natural resources, summer all year-round weather to its much envied ethnic diversity, Malaysia definitely serves of one the most eye-opening experiences to most people.
Perhaps the above qualities is the reason why the choices of Malaysian fruits are incredibly varied and interestingly, seasonal. Like the famous durians, mangosteens, rambutans, and mangoes, these seasonal fruits are very much prized due its limited availability. With such rich and countless options to choose from, one would think that 75% of Malaysians are fruitarians. But that is, unfortunately, never the case.
Ironically, the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 found that 94% of Malaysian adults do not consume enough fruits, in spite of having high accessibility to fruits. Which is a shame as fruits are nutrient-dense, packed with lots of dietary fibre and antioxidants, not to mention delicious.
Here are 5 local fruits that any Malaysian should feel proud of, because what they are capable of might surprise you.
pineapple: the fineapple.
Eaten raw, diced with asamboi, blended as juice or served as a garnish to meals like laksa, pineapples are incredibly popular in Malaysia.
Besides being rich in Vitamin C, something that is essentially needed in our diet, pineapple is the only known source in nature of the proteolytic enzyme bromelain. Bromelain breaks down protein molecules into their building blocks, like amino acids and peptides for better digestion and absorption. Bromelain is also well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties to improve skin allergy symptoms, relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis like joint pain or joint swelling, relieve sinusitis symptoms and speed up wound healing.
Pineapples are also rich in manganese, a trace mineral that is needed for body to build bone and connective tissues. One cup of pineapple provides 73% of the daily recommended amount of manganese. The benefits of pineapple can affect the growth of bones in young people and the strengthening of bones in elderly.
Why do we experience mild irritations on tongue, lips, and the roof of your mouth after eating just a few slices of pineapples? This because bromelain digests protein and dissolves the protective mucous that coats your tongue and the roof of your mouth, making these parts of your mouth unprotected to the acidity of the pineapple. That is right, the razor-sharp burning sensation is in fact, the fruit’s acidity itself. Ouch.
Freaky, is it not? But fret not, because your body will begin to reform those protein after some time!
watermelon: you’re one in a melon.
The second fruit that we are going to boast about it watermelon. Watermelon is an another popular fruit in Malaysia, largely because its red flesh has such excellent thirst-quenching properties, quite essential for the 365 days of summer we experience. Despite the stereotypical belief that these beautiful fruits contain only sugar and water, each juicy bite in fact, gives you significant levels of Vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene and beta-carotene.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with an extensive list of amazing benefits such as protecting your skin against sunburn, improving eyesight, delaying the formation of cataracts and keeping your heart healthy. It is also the red pigment that gives watermelon and certain fruits such as tomatoes and pink guavas their pinkish colour.
Your heart also enjoys the perks of all the citrulline watermelon contains. Citrulline is a valuable amino acid that converts to the amino acid arginine. These amino acids help relieve muscle soreness and promote blood flow, which in turn lead to better cardiovascular health. Therefore, it is safe to say that watermelons are heart-friendly fruits for cardiac patients!
Do you know that the Malaysian Chinese would call watermelon ‘wo de mei ren’, which translate literally into ‘my beauty’?
And ripe ‘wo de mei ren’ contains the most lycopene, compared to the unripe ones. Hence, to maximise your lycopene intake from a watermelon, you have got to let it ripe completely before eating.
papaya: papa, ya the best.
Papaya - the fruit that may be normally seen in your grandfather’s house backyard. Slightly bland and creamier in taste, papaya is another local fruit that we Malaysians should take pride in. but what is it that makes this fruit special enough to be named on this list?
Remember bromelain? The powerful proteolytic enzyme bromelain in pineapples? Well, papaya contains a similar protein-digesting proteolytic enzyme named papain. Papain helps ease symptoms of a bad digestive system such as constipation and bloating. Besides that, papaya contains choline, a water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient that aids our bodies in improving memory, muscle movement and mood. Papayas also contain healthy antioxidants like lycopene and beta-carotene. Our body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is essential for firm, smooth, youthful skin.
The American Heart Association suggests to obtain beta-carotene naturally from diet rather than from extracted dietary supplements. Hence, papaya should be in your all-time-favourite-fruits list now.
strawberry: you’re (straw)berry sweet!
Of course we have strawberry on the list! These Cameron-Highlands-grown, heart shaped beauties have much more to offer beyond their sweetness and flavour.
Other than being an excellent source of Vitamin C, an antioxidant that is important for the immune system and skin health, strawberries houses more than 25 different anthocyanins too. Anythocyanin-rich foods can protect against cardiovascular diseases, improve vision and strengthen immune functions. Since strawberries are low in glycemic index (GI) and high in dietary fibre, they help to regulate and stabilise blood sugar. That makes them highly suitable snacks for diabetics.
Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables their vibrant colour. And out of six anthocyanin compounds, the most abundant present in strawberries, is Pelargonidin.
lime: lime strong!
'Bang, limau ais kosong satu!’
Is this your go-to drink at mamak? Congratulations, you are probably free of Vitamin C deficiency!
Yes, lime is an another excellent source of Vitamin C. Just a cup of lime juice gives you 70 milligrams of Vitamin C, which is equivalent to the recommended daily intake for Vitamin C according to the Malaysian recommended nutrient intakes (RNI). Do not get us started on how important Vitamin C is in our daily lives. From boosting our immune system, helping in the development and repair of body tissues to enabling absorption of iron in our body, Vitamin C probably has more benefits than you think.
Amazing, we know! Guess it is time to get your sipping game strong. Just a friendly reminder though, that limau ais which you enjoy so much no doubt contains not only a substantial amount of Vitamin C, but sugar too. So next time you are thinking about getting these incredible Vitamin C into your body, make sure you go:
'Bang, limau ais kosong satu!’
Wonder why most household cleaners have lemon or lime extracts as scent? That is because these citrus fruits have astonishing antimicrobial properties!