The word Kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus) conjures up visions of health from an exotic place. Indeed, this is a healthy fruit from exotic geographical sources such as Botswana, Nigeria, Chile, Kenya and New Zealand.

Kiwano ranks among a handful of oddly beautiful fruits out there. As you can only expect of such a fruit, its bright orange spiny skin has earned it the popular name ‘horned melon.’ It is exquisite inside, too, with lime green jelly housing flat seeds. You can eat this juicy content by slurping up the mildly sweet pulp or by just scooping the jelly with a spoon.

Though you may not always see it in a fruit vase at home, having Kiwano at hand is a call to health. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, carbs and proteins. More so, it is mostly water, and contains just 92 calories.

How about the benefits?

1. Kiwano hydrates the body

Adding this new fruit at least once per week to your fruit rotation can help add water to your body for hydration. For decades, people in Botswana and Namibia have relied on Kiwano to cool down and hydrate during the hot season in the Kalahari.

Some quick facts:

  •  Water forms 88% of the total mass of Kiwano fruit.
  • There are 89 to 96 grams of water per 100 grams in the fruit’s pulp.

2. Kiwano helps in weight loss 

Owing to its high dietary fiber content (19.3 g), water (88%), low fat (0.3 g) and low calories (92), eating Kiwano can help shed those extra pounds. While water helps keep you satiated for longer, dietary fiber brings down glucose absorption in blood serum. This helps to keep your weight down naturally.

A complementary fact to the high water levels is that the fruit has only 22-44 kilocalories per 100 grams of pulp. This translates to 92 calories in total per fruit. Therefore, eating Kiwano is a ticket to your weight loss journey.

Here is a quick related fact:

  • 16% calories come from protein in the fruit rather than carbs and these calories energize muscles.

3. Guards against heart disease

Two facts in favor of eating Kiwano to guard against cardiac-related illnesses stand out, namely:

  • The magnesium content is high at 21% of the daily value (DV). Magnesium helps retain calm in the contraction of heart muscles.
  • Both magnesium and potassium (5% DV) combine with the electrolytes present in Kiwano to maintain normal blood pressure. Optimal blood pressure is a key factor for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

4. The antioxidants in Kiwano are great for strengthening muscles

Kiwano melons contain high amounts of iron and antioxidants. One of the antioxidants is Vitamin E, which makes muscles strong. It also reduces oxidative stress, a condition that may damage cells if not contained. There are two powerful antioxidants in the fruit, namely a-tocopherol and b-tocopherol, both found in the seeds.

Quick fact about iron and muscle health:

  • Iron is needed to produce myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein that strengthens muscles. Kiwano is a key source of iron and therefore comes handy in ensuring muscle health.
  1. Reduces diabetes risk

Thorned melons are rich in dietary fiber that controls diabetes in a special way. This is because the fruit has a low glycemic index, which basically indicates that it has a low absorption ability for blood glucose. This helps prevent any rise in blood sugar and hence a low risk of diabetes.

Quick fact on insulin and magnesium:

  • Did you know that low magnesium is a factor for insulin resistance in people treating diabetes?Kiwano has high magnesium content and this makes it a great choice against insulin resistance.   

6. Acts as an immunity booster

The presence of Vitamin C helps defend against disease onset in the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals in cells, an important factor in boosting immunity.

Quick fact:

  •  Oxidative stress is a condition where free radicals kill cells and break their defenses. This leads to inflammation and makes disease outbreak quite easy on the affected cells. Only eating food rich in vitamin C and antioxidants can naturally fight against oxidative stress.

7. Improves RBC production

The formation of red blood cells (RBC) is requisite for the transportation of oxygen to various parts of the body. With its iron content at 13% DV, Kiwano pulp helps build RBC in blood serum.

Quick fact:

  • Oxygen is generated in the body and transported by red blood cells to tissues and lungs in the form of energy. Here, this energy converts into carbon dioxide for release from the body. Hence, it is important to maintain normal RBC production by eating iron-rich fruits such as horned melons.

8.  Improves digestion 

Dietary fiber and pectin in Kiwano melons play a good role in improving digestion. While the peel in the fruit contains pectin for boosting gut health, the pulp contains 19.3 grams of fiber for enhancing digestion.

Quick fact on gelatin:

  • Gelatin is a water soluble protein present in the fruit’s pulp. The gelatin in Kiwano not only helps in digestion but prevents constipation.

9.  Fights Anemia

Anemia is a condition where the body lacks enough iron, which is a key component of hemoglobin, the oxygen part of blood. Eating Kiwano can overcome anemia onset because it contains 13% iron (of the daily value).

Quick fact:

  • The iron in Kiwano is a type called nonheme iron. It is absorbed in blood faster than other types when you eat vitamin C-rich foods such as horned melon.

10. Promotes eye and skin health

Kiwano contains high amounts of carotenoids. Key among these is beta-carotene, which forms Vitamin A (6% DV in this fruit). The benefits of Vitamin A and beta-carotene include promoting good eyesight and a healthy skin

Quick fact:

  •  Beta-carotene in Kiwano is found only in the juicy pulp rather than the edible seeds.

11. Promotes gut health

Studies have shown that eating Kiwano can help fight pathogens in the gut by promoting only the necessary gut biota known as prebiotics (good bacteria) and excluding others. You have to eat the fruit’s peel, however, to get this benefit. The peel contains pectin, a sweet compound that boosts immunity against pathogens in the intestines.

Quick related facts:

  • The sugars in Kiwano have potential to alter gut pH (environment), making it uninhabitable by pathogenic bacteria and fungi.
  • Gelatin (a water soluble protein) promotes intestinal health and prevents ulcers and colon cancer.

12. Strengthens bones

Eating Kiwano is a boon to bone health owing to the high magnesium content in the fruit, at 21% of the daily value.  It is particularly good against a bone disease known as osteopenia, which is the loss of bone density due to lack of minerals like magnesium.

Quick fact:

  • Kiwano is especially recommended for women who are past menopause. This is because they are easily susceptible to bone density loss if they have insufficient magnesium.

13. Kiwano helps overcome depression

Kiwano melons may act as natural anti-depressants when combined with depression drugs. This is because the fruits contain zinc (7% DV) and magnesium, two minerals associated with mental wellness.

Quick fact:

  • If you are suffering from depression, it is good to know that eating Kiwano alone won’t help but combining it with supplements might just do the trick.

Where to buy Kiwano fruit near me

In the US, Kiwano fruits are available seasonally at Whole Foods Market in Portland, Ohio.  Where to buy Kiwano down South and Midwest? You can buy at Kroger Marketplace in Knoxville, Tennessee and Sprouts Farmers Market in Tulsa, Oklahoma, respectively.

In California, you can buy Kiwano at Steele Canyon Produce in Spring Valley or at Sprouts Farmers Market in Petaluma City.

When out and about in New York, you can find horned melons at Coosemans New York Inc., in the Bronx area.

In the UK, you can shop Kiwano fruit  in Waitrose, Whole Foods or Sainsbury’s in London.