G V Joshi
The first-of-its-kind research conducted by the scientists led by Dr D Sreeramulu from the endocrinology and metabolism division of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) based at Hyderabad, (AP) found that the humble guava is the healthiest fruit for the human body.
The team was evaluating the amount of natural antioxidant levels of 14 fresh fruits commonly consumed in India. It has come up with surprising revelations that guava is at the top, followed by the mango, pomegranate, custard apple and apple while the pineapple is at the bottom.
The study found that pineapple, banana, papaya, water melon and grapes had the least amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants play a crucial role in preventing cellular damage the common reason for aging, cancer and several degenerative diseases.
The antioxidant activity ranged from as high as 496 mg/100 grams in guava to as low as 22 mg/ 100g in pineapple.
The findings came as an eye-opener for them too, because people generally believe that expensive fruits are the richest source of nutrition. A fruit-rich diet is generally linked to lower risk of chronic degenerative diseases, besides the added incentive of slowing down aging process.
Keeping in view Dr. Sreeramulu’s findings,the English proverb, An apple a day keeps the doctor away, “may be modified to, “A guava a day keeps the doctor away”.
As regards the price, guavas are always much cheaper than apples. In addition, they are grown locally in most states of India, as compared to apples which grow only in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
The oldest known traces of the guava were found in archaeological sites in Peru, South America, dating from about 800 BC guava trees were probably first cultivated there, but had since spread as far north as Mexico by 200 B.C .
Spanish explorers first saw the fruit when they arrived in Haiti, where it was called “guayavu”. The name “guava” is derived from this. They soon spread the tree to other regions and took it to the Philippines, where it flourished.
Gonzalo Hernandez de Oveido, a Spanish explorer who called the tree “guayabo” and the fruit “guayaba apple”, wrote the first account of the guava in 1526.
The Portuguese brought it to India, where it quickly took firm root. By the 17th century, it was well-established in India and South- east Asia, where it remains popular. Today it has taken deep roots here and few people would believe the fact that the fruit is not native to India. As of today Guavas are grown for local consumption in most tropical countries.
There are 150 varieties of guava, which can be as small as an egg or as large as a pear, with greenish-white, yellow, or red skins which can be either smooth or pitted. Sometimes, the shape is that of an apple or, sometimes, that of a pear.
In India, they are grown all over the country, but the best ones come from Allahabad, Varanasi, Nasik and Pune.