When you were 5, did you learn how to sing, "I like to eat apples and bananas?" Even if you didn't, you probably grew up taking one of three fruits with you to school in your He-Man lunch box: oranges, apples, or bananas.
Sure, the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" has been pounded into the collective conscience since time began. At least it feels that way. So we all know that we should eat a daily dose of fruits to optimize our health and fitness.
But after my eight-zillionth apple today, I died a little inside--died of boredom. I need a sense of adventure when it comes to food. And if you're looking for out-of-this-world foods to spice up your life, like I am, you've come to the right place.
Below are eight fruits that you've probably never heard of before. Do some of them look like objects from outer space? You bet. But the results they can produce are out of this world.
Blowfish on Dry Land:
Looks like: A small sea monster with red and yellow skin raised in menacing spikes.
Tastes like: A banana and a cucumber hooked up and made a baby, a succulent baby.
Benefits: Boasts 4 times the amount of iron as a watermelon.
Home region: Africa
Where you can get it: Troll specialty food markets or look for this fruit when you're traveling. It sometimes goes by the name African horned melon.
Medieval Weapon of War:
Looks like: A cantaloupe on steroids covered in tough, spiky armor.
Tastes like: Honeydew melon but less sweet.
Benefit: Rich in vitamin A.
Home region: South and Southeast Asia where it's the largest tree-borne fruit in the world--up to 80 pounds when it's ripe!
Where you can get it: Canned or dried in many Asian markets, but it's rare to find in a normal grocery store.
Sweaty Jock-strap for Dessert:
Looks like: A humongous pine cone, brown and spiky.
Tastes like: Raspberry-almond with a hint of vanilla. And you'll only know that if you can handle the smell. Crack open a fresh durian at a market and you'll feel like you took a big whiff of dirty jock-strap. Truly, the fruit smells rancid even when perfectly ripe. While this is a pretty cool defense mechanism for the fruit as it ripens, many people can never get past the smell to the sweet, edible pulp.
Benefits: High in vitamin C, protein, and tryptophan, the amino acid that converts to your body's natural "feel-good" chemical, serotonin.
Home region: Southeast Asia
Where you can get it: Luckily, you can find durian in things like soft drinks, ice cream, and even canned. Check speciality stores or Asian markets.
Looks like: A hard plum about the size of an apple. But don't eat the rind! Underneath the dark purple exterior lies a few tender, white fruits that looks like albino mandarin oranges.
Tastes like: A tangerine cream-sicle.
Benefit: Antioxidant properties owing to high amounts of chemical compounds called xanthones.
Home region: Asia
Where you can get it: Almost nowhere in the United States because it used to be banned when fears of an Asian fruit fly invasion were running high. However, mangosteen is routinely processed as a drink and sometimes included in supplements to support antioxidant intake.
The New "Grape":
Looks like: A fuzzy, pink cherry.
Tastes like: A vanilla-flavored grape.
Benefit: High levels of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that may help protect cells. Lychees boast a 15% higher concentration than grapes.
Home region: Southeast Asia
Where you can get it: Specialty markets, canned, dried, processed in juices and more! The popularity of lychee is skyrocketing throughout the world, so keep your eyes peeled and try it out.
The Other New "Grape":
Looks like: A hairy, magenta colored ping-pong ball.
Tastes like: An almond-flavored grape.
Benefits: High in vitamin C and antioxidant properties.
Home region: Southeast Asia, related to Lychee
Where you can get it: Asian markets, fresh or canned.
Kills Two Cravings at Once:
Looks like: A small orange, but you can eat the rind!
Tastes like: A sweet and salty surprise! The skin is sweet but the inner flesh is salty.
Benefit: High in limonene, a substance that some scientists suspect supports overall health.
Home region: Asia
Where you can get it: Some supermarkets and specialty markets because it's now grown in parts of the U.S.
Little Red with a Big Health Punch:
Looks like: A bright red cranberry.
Tastes like: A SourPatch kid candy.
Benefits: May help improve blood circulation and support the immune system with four bioactive ingredients that are unique to the Wolfberry plant, which is what produces the goji berry. These compounds contain lyceum, which may promote healthy aging.
Home region: China
Where you can get it: At the supermarket where you can generally find dried goji berry or goji berry juice.
Transport Yourself to a Bustling Bangkok Fruit Market
Line up these fruits on your kitchen table and you'll feel like you've stepped into a different world. It's a world where edible foods can resemble sea creatures, taste like a milkshake, and smell like gym socks.
Exciting? Well, that's the idea.
Population studies suggest that people who eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables may have better overall health and longevity. This is probably due to the amazingly diverse amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that different fruits contain. And there's fiber too! Many fruits are naturally high in fiber, which can help balance the sugar content when it comes to your metabolism.
Basically, fruit is just a good idea. But the next time your physician says, "You know the saying, an apple a day..." just stare him down and ask, "Have you ever heard of durian, Doc?"