Photograph by National Geographic Your Shot member Babak Zandi
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At Zoo Negara, Malaysia, a tropical bird enjoys papaya.
Photograph by National Geographic Your Shot member Babak Zandi

Beyond Bananas: Explore Delicious, Healthy Tropical Fruits

Eat your fruits and vegetables is not just something Grandma tells you to do. Eating five to nine servings a day is something doctors and nutritionists say can reduce your risk of health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fruits in particular, contain fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients like folate and Vitamin K that are not found in other foods.

And fruits grown in tropical regions tend to be particularly high in nutrients, while growing in seemingly infinite varieties of flavor and color: Did you know one medium papaya gives you  224 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs? And a guava can supply more than 600 percent.

Scientists are studying breadfruit as a potential superfood for its unusually high amounts of protein and fiber (see Can Breadfruit Overcome Its Past to Be a Superfruit of the Future?), as well as other nutrient powerhouses like mangosteens, dragonfruit,  and jackfruit for their potential to help stave off disease. And did we mention these fruits happen to be delicious?

If you don’t live in the tropics, however, it can be tricky to get your hands on some of these fruits. Many are picky growers, or they don’t pack and ship well enough to be profitable for big fruit companies (see What a Tree of 40 Fruits Can Tell Us About Agricultural Evolution.) And, then there are fruits like Southeast Asia’s durian, which is explicitly banned from import to many countries because of its strong and objectionable smell.

So explore our Your Shot gallery, and start asking your grocer to carry more varieties, because there’s so much more to tropical fruit than bananas and pineapples.