Even though I grew up in Southeast Asia, which is blessed with a wide variety of tropical produce available year-round, I associate guava with being on vacation in Hawaii, where guava juice is like one’s daily orange juice. I wish I could tell you that I love guavas, but they are not one of my favorite fruits. However, they are loved by many and have a lot of worthwhile nutrients.
Guava is fragrant, sweet and grows on medium-sized trees commonly found in tropical areas around the world including in America, Asia, Mexico and Latin America, the West Indies, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. People are usually more familiar with guava jelly or guava paste, but fresh guavas are a nutritional powerhouse loaded with fiber, potassium and Lycopene, which has antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. The humble-looking guava is high in antioxidants and in a test once used to measure the antioxidant power of foods called the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) test*, guavas were determined to beat out strawberries, spinach and broccoli.
The number-one reason guavas are valuable as a FoodTrient is because they have a higher concentration of carotenoid Lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable. Most Americans associate tomatoes as a main source of Lycopene, but guavas contain 17% more per cup than an equal sized serving of tomatoes. Lycopene has been found to provide more protection from free radicals (which are associated with cell breakdown and aging) than even beta-carotene. Research also suggests that free radicals can contribute to blockages in the arterial system, deterioration of the joints, nervous system and overall aging.
There is even evidence that consuming foods high in Lycopene can reduce incidences of prostate cancer. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a report in 1995 conducted by Harvard University researchers indicating that in a study of 47,000 men between the ages of forty and seventy-five, of those who ate ten servings or more per week of high-lycopene tomatoes and tomato products– including tomato sauce, juice and pizza sauce– 45% had fewer prostate cancers than men who ate two servings or less per week. By extension, consuming similar amounts of guava delivers even higher levels of Lycopene. Plus, a cup of guava cubes contain 63% more potassium than a medium banana. Healthy levels of potassium help regulate blood pressure, which helps prevent stroke and heart disease. This same cup of cubed guava delivers 9 grams of fiber as well as a good dose of vitamin C.
Guavas should be harvested when they are mature, but not ripe. This means that the fruit has reached its full size and shape, but the starches inside the fruit have not yet converted to sugar. To maximize their sweet flavor and intoxicating aroma, let the guavas sit on the kitchen counter a couple of days. When they give to gentle pressure, they’ll be sweet and ready to enjoy. Guavas can be found in farmers markets, in specialty markets like Whole Foods or you can order them online. Amazon.com has guavas in every form from fresh to dried. For fresh, look for pink variety guavas that are firm and free of soft spots. The skin will be green with a yellow tinge. White or Thai guavas will be a bright green, like a Granny Smith apple. With both varieties, the entire fruit can be eaten—skin, seeds and all.
Guavas make a tasty dessert peeled, sprinkled with a little sugar, baked for 30 minutes at 350° F and served with cream or Greek yogurt. You can also make a spicy relish to go with barbecued meats or poultry.
This tropical jewel has a long, luxurious season that kicks off in November and lasts until April. Try fresh, sliced guavas or your favorite guava recipe and pretend you are on vacation on a beautiful tropical beach.
Serves 4 to 6
2 Tbs. olive oil or red palm oil
1 tsp. garlic (chopped)
1 Tbs. ginger strips
1 medium yellow onion
1 small tomato (diced)
1 lb. fish (tilapia filets or boneless milkfish), cut into 4 filets
1 tsp. rock salt
Juice of 1 medium lemon (2 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. fish sauce
2 – 4 cups spinach leaves or baby kale
For guava broth:
2 cups ripe guava (diced)
2 cups unripe guava (diced)
8 cups water
8 cups of ripe, sweet guavas (sliced)
8 cups water
[*ORACis a method of measuring the antioxidant capacity of different foods. It was developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health. While the exact relationship between the ORAC value of a food and its health benefit has not been established, it is believed that foods higher on the ORAC scale will more effectively neutralize free radicals. According to the free-radical theory of aging, this will slow the oxidative processes and free radical damage that can contribute to age-related degeneration and disease.]