The tropical nance fruit looks a bit like a cherry but bears a strong odor and unique flavor. Its thin flesh is typically golden and encases a creamy white pulp. Eaten raw or cooked, nance fruit can be added to smoothies, desserts, or even savory dishes. The following are nance fruit’s info including its nutrition, benefits, and culinary uses.
Nance fruit is a tropical fruit that grows readily throughout Central and Latin America, as well as across the Caribbean. It’s also known by a variety of other names depending on the region. For instance, it’s called nanche in parts of Mexico, yaca in Colombia, and hogberry in Jamaica.
The nance fruit is the fruit of the Byrsonima crassifolia tree, a drought-tolerant shrub that grows between 10–20 inches (33–66 cm). However, one red-fleshed variety — Malpighia mexicana — is readily found in Mexico and Costa Rica, and it’s referred to as red nance or guajacote. Nance fruit typically resembles a yellow or orange cherry and measures less than 1 inch (1–2 cm) in diameter.
It bears a discernible odor, and its sweet, unique flavor ranges from mildly cheese-like to a distinctive combination of banana, lychee, and pear. Its oily white pulp contains one large pit encasing up to three inedible white seeds.
Nance fruit is a sweet, round, pitted fruit that looks like a cherry but delivers a unique taste and strong odor. It’s also known by many other names, including nanche or hogberry.
Nance fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. You can eat the peel, but it’s easily peeled if you prefer it that way. When preserved in syrup or brine, its texture has been compared to that of an olive.
What’s more, nance fruit is used to make a fermented beer-like drink known as chicha in Panama and parts of Latin America. It’s also distilled into crema de nance, or nance cream, a rum-like beverage.
A 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving of whole pitted nance fruit –- around 17 total –– packs the following nutrients:
- Calories: 41
- Carbs: 9.5 grams
- Protein: 0.4 gram
- Fat: 0.7 gram
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Vitamin C: 59% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 7% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 5% of the DV
- Calcium: 2% of the DV
- Magnesium: 3% of the DV
Nance fruit packs vitamin C –– at a whopping 59% of the DV per 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving. Vitamin C is important for a properly functioning immune system, as well as wound healing.
That same portion of nance fruit delivers 16% of the DV for dietary fiber. Dietary fiber from the fruit is associated with a decreased risk of mortality and chronic conditions like heart disease. It also helps keep your digestive tract healthy and regular.
Moreover, research shows that the antioxidant activity of nance is significant and probably due to its high content of vitamin C and phenolic compounds, as well as the presence of carotenoid.
Nance fruit packs many important nutrients in a bite-sized package. It’s a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Health benefits and precautions
Nance fruit packs important nutrients in each serving. It comes as no surprise that eating it, especially on a regular basis, may provide some health benefits. What’s more, its fruit, bark, leaves, and seeds have been used for hundreds of years in non-Western medicinal practices, as it’s believed to help with anything from wounds to snake bites to diarrhea.
Still, not enough research has been done on nance fruit to support all of these uses. Yet, it can be a boon to your gut, skin, and overall health.
May boost gut health
Eating nance fruit regularly may help boost gut health. This is because the fruit is rich in dietary fiber, which feeds your friendly gut bacteria and helps bulk up your stool.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that adults on a 2,000-calorie diet should get at least 25 grams of dietary fiber daily. Nance fruit boasts about 4 grams, or 16% of the DV for dietary fiber, in every 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving.
May promote healthy skin
Vitamin C has long been touted for its ability to help your immune system function optimally. However, this important nutrient can also greatly benefit your skin. Nance fruit delivers a whopping 59% of the DV for vitamin C per 1/2-cup (56-gram) serving.
Getting enough vitamin C is associated with the reduced damage from sun and ozone exposure, as well as increased collagen formation. This can help keep your skin more resilient and youthful in appearance. Still, more research is needed to understand whether consuming nance fruit or applying extracts from the fruit have the greatest effect on skin health.
May reduce your stroke risk
Nance fruit’s white flesh is covered by a thin, golden skin. Interestingly, eating white-fleshed fruits regularly may reduce your stroke risk. In fact, one study found that for every 25 grams of white-fleshed fruit eaten daily, stroke risk decreased by 9%.
Yet, this study didn’t research nance fruit specifically and instead focused on white-fleshed fruit in the broader sense. More research is needed to understand the specific effects of regularly consuming nance fruit. Nance fruit boasts important nutrients and may benefit your gut, skin, and heart health.
Nance fruit is in the acerola family, which means it’s a distant botanical cousin to acerola cherries. If you’re allergic to acerola cherries, you may be allergic to nance fruit and should avoid them.
Not enough is known about nance fruit and its potential interactions with medications. If you feel unsure, speak with your healthcare provider.
Be careful not to choke on the pits as you enjoy nance fruit. These are not edible and can be a choking hazard, especially to young children.
Those allergic to acerola cherries should steer clear of nance fruit, as they’re botanical cousins. Note that these hearty fruits contain pits and may be a choking hazard, especially to children.
How to add nance fruit to your diet
Nance fruit may be a bit tricky to find depending on what part of the world you’re in. It’s readily sold fresh in markets across the Caribbean and Latin and Central America.
In the United States, look for it in specialty stores or markets that carry Latin or Caribbean foods. It can also be found frozen in the international sections of supermarkets across other parts of the world.
You can also find preserved versions of the fruit, whether in suspended syrup or vinegar, in and outside of the regions in which it’s typically grown.
The downside of eating preserved versions is that they may contain greater amounts of sugar or salt. You could still enjoy these if they agree with your diet, but be aware of your portion size.
You can enjoy nance fruit raw –– just be sure to remove the pit. In Mexico, it’s typically enjoyed with a garnish of chili powder and a lime wedge.
You can also slice nance into a smoothie or dice it into a fruit salad. If you have too many on your hands, they make for a great marmalade or juice. Nance fruit is also a central ingredient in pesada de nance, a sweet-tart custard.
If you’re craving something a bit more savory, a popular way to eat it in Mexico is to mix slices of nance fruit with chicken, olives, and rice.
Nance fruit can be bought fresh or frozen depending on where you live. Enjoy it raw, without the pit, or toss it into a smoothie or fruit salad. It can also be preserved in syrup or vinegar or folded into savory dishes.
The bottom line
Nance fruit is a bite-sized, pitted, and uniquely flavored fruit that resembles a yellow-orange cherry. It grows across regions of the Caribbean and tropical Americas, but it can be found frozen or preserved in supermarkets in many parts of the world. Eat them out of your hand or add them to smoothies or a host of recipes. Nance fruit can not only add a distinct flavor but also impart healthful nutrients like fiber and vitamins C and E.
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