Love it or loathe it, no other fruit commands attention quite like the durian, and we find out why.

The infamous durian tends to invoke strong reactions in anyone who encounters it. Haters claim durians smell of  old socks and bad cheese, while lovers relish its creamy custard-like texture.  Named after its prickly exterior – the Malay word for thorn is duri – durians have a foul reputation in the West, but in its native Southeast Asia it is revered as the King of fruits.

Durians are not just consumed raw, but are also found in various other preparations. Both its flesh and seeds are used to make a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Fermented durian is known as  tempoyak.

But do durians have any nutritional value?


The Experts:

[Left] Ms. Izabela Kerner, Accredited Dietitian of Singapore and member of Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association (SNDA), [Right] Ms. Emily Gan Siou Wen, founder of  Sin He Chinese Medical Centre in Malaysia

What dietitians say

Ms. Izabela Kerner, Accredited Dietitian of Singapore and member of Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association (SNDA) says, “Durians are rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, thiamine, potassium and manganese, and also contain a good amount of dietary fibre (3.1g per 100g).”

“Durian flesh also contains diverse healthy plant compounds including carotenoids such as beta-carotene and polyphenols such as flavonoids, known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat,” she adds.

However, durians are also high in calories and carbohydrates, which is why they should be consumed in moderation.

“Eating a whole durian (about 480g of edible fruit) can provide about 40% of one’s daily energy needs, and therefore frequent durian feasts can lead to weight gain. The high carbohydrate content of durians can also lead to high blood sugar levels,” says Kerner.

She usually advises patients who love durians to buy a good quality fruit and make sure it is worth the calories, indulging in just two to three seeds per day.

What TCM practitioners say

Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, durians can help replenish low energy levels, reduce fatigue, as well as relieve mental stress and anxiety. However, they are also considered a ‘heaty’ fruit.

“’Heaty’ foods generate warmth in one’s body, and over-eating ‘heaty’ foods can cause symptoms like thirst, dehydration, sore throat, headache, a rise in body temperature, constipation, acne outbreaks and mouth ulcers,” explains Ms. Emily Gan Siou Wen, founder of  Sin He Chinese Medical Centre in Malaysia.

“Ideally, we should avoid overeating ‘heaty’ foods in hot weather. Hot, humid weather encourages the body to lose moisture through perspiration, so consuming ‘heaty’ foods excessively can increase symptoms of ‘heatiness’,” adds Gan.

To counter the ‘heatiness’ of durians, Gan advises drinking between 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day. Consuming ‘cooling’ foods like mangosteen or coconut water together with durians can also help counter its ‘heaty’ effects.

Durian fact or fiction?

As Malaysians and Singaporeans indulge in this year’s durian season, we consulted our experts and put to rest some of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the fruit:

  • Durians and alcohol are a deadly mix - "While there is no scientific evidence to support this, durians contain sulphur compounds which could reduce the liver's ability to break down alcohol. This may explain why some people feel ill after combining durian with alcohol. Durians are also high in dietary fibre and carbohydrates, so consuming it in large amounts can also lead to bloating, heartburn or indigestion, and adding alcohol to the mix may worsen these symptoms," says Kerner.
Images by Dreamstime.
Expert photos are of their own.


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