Tropical fruits are foods that grow in tropical or subtropical climates in the geographical zone extending from 30° south latitude to 30° north latitude. Temperature conditions in this zone average 25 °C and vary from 16 to 36 °C throughout the year.
The most widely consumed fruits, such as mango, pineapple, papaya, and avocado, are available practically all year round for those living in temperate climate zones. However, other tropical fruits considered exotic, such as jackfruit, mamey, litchi, durian, jabuticaba, chicozapote, and rambutan, among others, are difficult to find in regional markets and sales sites, as they are imported from traditional producer countries, and are often used only in ethnic dishes or as part of ecotourism.
However, these exotic fruits are beginning to be in demand in international markets not only for their brightly colored appearance and distinctive flavors, considered delicious and unique but also for being an excellent source of bioactive compounds such as fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids, betalains, polysaccharides, phenolic acids, and polyphenols, which have been associated with the reduction of the risk of chronic diseases caused by oxidative stress.
These bioactive compounds have been shown to possess various biological activities in vitro and in vivo, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, immunomodulatory, skin maintenance, effects on the prevention of arthritis and mental diseases related to aging, among others.
Tropical fruits are foods of great nutritional value and high water content, so they can be consumed in various forms, either in slices, fresh waters, juices, and in various desserts.
Mexico is a country with a wide variety of fruits due to its great diversity of climates and types of geographical soils, where almost any type of fruit can be grown, so it has been highlighted as a nation in which several exotic fruits are only consumed in small local markets.
In the Laboratory of Antioxidants and Functional Foods of the Center for Research in Food and Development (CIAD), research is conducted on different exotic fruits of Mexican origin, focusing its efforts on obtaining bioactive compounds present in pulp and peel, as well as on the different benefits that these fruits can provide to human health, beyond nutrition itself.
By Leticia Xóchitl López Martínez, Salma A. Enríquez Valencia and Gustavo A. González Aguilar, academics from the Laboratory of Antioxidants and Functional Foods of CIAD.