Although persimmons are prized in many parts of the world—they’re even considered Japan’s national fruit—they remain somewhat of a mystery to many Americans. While these orange-hued fruits may be best known for their sweet, honeyed flavor, they’re also quite nutritious. In this article, we’ll cover the origin of the name “persimmon,” quick persimmon nutrition facts, and five health benefits of persimmons you should know about.
Where Do Persimmons Come From?
The persimmon fruit grows on certain species of Diospyros trees. The most commonly cultivated, the Diospyros kaki, is a type of persimmon tree native to Japan, China, Korea, Myanmar, and Nepal. Understandably, this type of persimmon is typically called Asian or Japanese persimmon, though it’s been grown in California, Southern Europe, and Brazil since the 1800s.
Interestingly, the word “persimmon” comes from a Native American language. Early colonists borrowed it from the Powhatan name for the fruit, which was spelled pichamin, putchamin, pessemmin, pushemin, parsemen, and a number of other ways. Remember, this was the 1600s and standardized English spellings didn’t yet exist for English words, let alone those from Native American languages.
The persimmon fruit was popular with many tribes who ate it plain as well as cooked into sweet puddings. They also used persimmon medicinally.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy persimmons, but we find they make an especially delightful smoothie ingredient. Try our Spiced Persimmon and Fig Smoothie or our Persimmon and Squash Smoothie that helps to keep your eyes healthy.
Quick Persimmon Nutrition Facts
Though quite small in size, with diameters ranging from just over 0.5 inches to 3.5 inches, persimmons provide a walloping dose of an impressive number of nutrients.
According to SELF Nutrition Data, a single Japanese persimmon with a diameter of around 2 inches contains:
- Calories: 118
- Carbs: 31 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Dietary Fiber: 6 grams
- Vitamin A: 2,733 IU, which is 55% of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA)
- Vitamin C: 12.6 milligrams, which is 22% of your RDA
- Vitamin E: 1.2 milligrams, which is 6% of your RDA
- Vitamin K: 4.4 milligrams, which is 5% of your RDA
- Vitamin B6: milligrams, which is 8% of your RDA
- Potassium: 8% of your RDA
- Copper: 0.2 milligrams, which is 9% of your RDA
- Manganese: 0.6 milligrams, which is 30% of your RDA
Persimmons also contain trace amounts of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate, magnesium, and phosphorus.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, persimmons offer up an array of beneficial plant compounds, including tannins, flavonoids, catechins, and carotenoids, which research shows can improve your health in a variety of ways. And with a nutritional profile that's low in calories and high in fiber, persimmons are a terrific weight-loss fruit.
Get Excited About These 5 Health Benefits of Persimmons
Studies show that sweet, versatile persimmons contain health-promoting compounds that can reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and more.
Many of the compounds found in persimmons have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Your body uses antioxidants to help prevent or slow cellular damage caused by excess free radicals. High levels of oxidative stress, which results from ongoing free radical damage, has been linked to serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists have found that consuming antioxidant-rich foods like persimmons can lower oxidative stress levels and reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases.
Eating persimmons and other foods that are rich in flavonoids, a formidable form of antioxidant, has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease as well as age-related mental decline and lung cancer. Persimmons come equipped with gallocatechins and betulinic acid, which have been shown to exert anti-tumor activity.
Persimmons are also an excellent source of carotenoid antioxidants including lycopene and beta-carotene, which gives them their vibrant color. Researchers have found that eating plenty of carotenoids can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as all-cause mortality.
1. Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of a number of adverse health conditions such as arthritis, obesity, and more.
Research tells us that filling your diet with foods that are loaded with antioxidants, like persimmon, can quell inflammation and reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases. Persimmons are a particularly good source of antioxidant vitamin C—a single fruit contains slightly over 20% of your RDA for this potent, immune system strengthening nutrient.
Vitamin C has been shown to effectively reduce inflammation in the body. A study published in 2015 found that ingesting 500 milligrams of vitamin C 2 times each day can significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, two markers of inflammation.
2. Improve Your Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death around the world. Many types of heart disease, however, can be prevented. Loading your diet with healthy, whole, nutrient-rich foods is an excellent strategy for lowering your odds of developing heart disease.
Persimmons provide a wealth of flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol. High-quality research has connected a high dietary intake of flavonoids with a decreased risk of heart disease. And the tannins in persimmons may help lower blood pressure. Then there's the copper in persimmons, which helps to create new red blood cells, which helps keep you clear of cardiovascular complications.
One study that examined data from over 98,000 people found 18% fewer deaths for those with the highest intake of flavonoids than for those with the lowest.
3. Lower Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels that rise too high, especially your “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. Eating foods that contain substantial quantities of soluble fiber, like persimmons, can help to bring down high cholesterol levels by assisting your body in flushing out the excess amounts.
According to one study, regularly consuming persimmon fiber can significantly decrease your LDL cholesterol levels in just 3 months’ time. The authors concluded that persimmon shows promise as a way to lower cholesterol levels.
4. Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Consuming a steady supply of fiber also helps to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Foods like persimmon that provide you with a sizeable quantity of soluble fiber slow the speed at which your body digests and absorbs carbohydrates and sugar, which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes.
A 2016 study showed that eating soluble fiber can decrease your risk of developing diabetes as well as help to manage diabetes symptoms. The authors noted that an increased daily intake of soluble fiber significantly improved blood sugar levels as well as the body’s insulin response.
5. Keep Eyesight Sharp
Several nutrients found in persimmon strongly support your eye health. A single persimmon yields 55% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, which is essential to the process your eyes use to detect light and create images. Vitamin A supports the functioning of your conjunctival membranes and cornea. It’s also a main component of rhodopsin, a protein that makes up important structures in your eyes.
Persimmons also get you a good dose of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that protect the health of your eyes. A study that drew on data from over 100,000 people found that those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40% lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration than those who consumed the least.
Types of Persimmons
There are hundreds of varieties of persimmons, but you're likely to meet up with Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons at your local grocery store.
If you're looking for a tannin-rich, astringent persimmon with a bitter, dry taste, opt for the Hachiya persimmon. Just make sure it's ripe and ready for eating. We're talking soft, and even a little shriveled and mushy. These are the dessert type of persimmons that are used in chutneys, jams, backed yummies, sorbets, and English-style steamed puddings.
If you'd rather use persimmons for salsa or salads, you'd be best off with a non-astringent Fuyu, which can be enjoyed before they have fully ripened. No need to get fancy: you can also eat these fresh persimmons peeled and raw.
So what are you waiting for? Take a big, juicy bite!