In comparison to more staple fruits such as apples or berries, the guava fruit is surprisingly easy to overlook. Often considered a more “exotic” fruit, you might be hard-pressed to find raw guava in mainstream grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, yet it’s frequently found in smaller markets and family-owned wholesalers. What makes this guava fruit so interesting is that there are so many varieties—you could be holding two different types of guava and not even realize they are from the same fruit family.
Plus, each kind of guava fruit is uniquely nutritious, so no matter which you find, grab it! Here’s what you should keep in mind:
What Is Guava?
Guava is a tropical fruit typically grown in Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. Guava fruit grows on three varieties of trees within the myrtle family: Psidium guajava, which produces tropical guava, Psidium cattleianum, which grows strawberry guava, and Acca sellowiana, which grows pineapple guava.
As the guava has become more widely cultivated, a multitude of cross-breed and hybrid varieties have been created, but we’re going to focus on the primary varieties that you’ll hear about most often.
Strawberry guava produces juicy tart strawberry-flavored fruit with a cream-colored interior. According to the U.S. Forest Service, these round fruits display either a deep red or yellow color, the yellow being called “lemon guava” (Psidium littorale), or yellow strawberry guava. These guavas are slightly larger than traditional strawberry guava, and have a more—you guessed it—lemony flavor.
Pineapple guava is kind of shaped like a pineapple, but that’s where the similarities end. This kind of guava fruit is yellow-green and emits a fragrant floral scent when ripe.
Tropical guava, the kind you’ll most easily find in markets, presents itself as either pink or white and is by far the most varied guava in terms of appearance and flavor. One type of pink tropical guava is the Red Malaysian guava, or Thai Maroon guava, which has reddish-brown skin with bright pink flesh inside and has a high water content much like a watermelon. Mexican Cream guava, a type of white tropical guava, also called tropical yellow guava, has bright yellow skin and soft cream-colored flesh. It’s known for its sweet yet zesty flavor with hints of pineapple and passionfruit. China White guava is a type of tropical guava fruit with yellow-green skin, a creamy white interior, and a notoriously sweet flavor profile. (If guava makes your tastebuds tingle, you’ll love passionfruit.)
If you’re still wondering what guava tastes like, many people mistakenly think that guava is kind of like a hybrid of strawberry and pear, but the truth is that each type of guava has distinct notes and subtle flavor differences; no two are exactly alike. Interestingly, most research about guava benefits has centered around the guava leaves rather than the guava fruit, explains Eliza Savage, M.S., a registered dietitian based in New York City. “Guava leaves are rich in phenolic compounds that have antibacterial effects which may prevent against infectious and parasitic diseases such as candida [yeast] and staph infections,” she says. However, guava leaves are primarily used medicinally and should not be eaten raw like the fruit. “The guava fruit itself contains a variety of antioxidants which fight inflammation, and improve heart health, digestion, and overall wellbeing,” she adds. (BTW, you’ll want to load your plate with these anti-inflammatory foods to reap all the benefits.)
Guava Benefits and Nutrition Facts
“Guava is a delicious tropical fruit, high in vitamin C, and a great source of dietary fiber,” says Ella Davar, R.D., C.D.N., an integrative nutritionist in New York City. (And that goes for all types of guava fruit. “Raw guava is typically low in calories and has only 37 kcal per medium fruit.” In addition to vitamin C and fiber, this tropical fruit is rich in antioxidants and contains large amounts of magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin A. Here is a nutrition snapshot for 1 cup of guava, according to the USDA:
- 112 calories
- 4 grams protein
- 1.5 grams total fat
- 23 grams carbohydrate
- 8.9 grams fiber
- 14 grams sugar
- 377 milligrams vitamin C
So how does guava actively support your health?
If you often face issues like diarrhea, constipation, or have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Davar recommends guava as a high-fiber option to mitigate gastrointestinal issues and optimize digestion. She says the dietary fiber in guava contributes to a healthy gut microbiome. The microbiome in your gut balances healthy and unhealthy microbes in your intestines, which controls digestion, weight gain, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and even immunity, she adds.
A 2011 study from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) of half a million people aged 50 to 71 years old, showed that dietary fiber lowered the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by 24 to 56 percent in men and 34 to 59 percent in women.
In Mexico, and parts of Africa, Asia, and Central America, guava leaf extract has historically been used “as folk medicine […] due to its pharmacologic activities,” reports the International Journal of Phytomedicine and Phytotherapy. The journal highlights the antibacterial properties in the guava leaf that reduce the growth of bacteria and are often used to treat coughs, swollen gums, and act as an anti-viral agent to prevent an infection.
In addition, guava fruits’ high concentration of “vitamin C has been shown to enhance iron absorption. It captures non-heme iron and stores it in a form that is easily absorbed by your body,” explains Davar.
Maintains Blood Sugar Levels
“Diets high in fiber decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes by slowing down gastric emptying and intestinal absorption of glucose, which helps to control blood sugar levels and prevent spikes,” says Davar. Additionally, guava leaf extract may improve hypoglycemia and glucose metabolism in those with type 2 diabetes, per a study published in Phytotherapy Research. The study showed that type 2 diabetic rats who had long-term feedings of either the aqueous or ethanol extract of guava leaves had significantly reduced blood sugar levels, and increased insulin levels.
Helps Fight Cancer
Research has suggested that the properties in guava leaves might act as possible prevention and treatment of some cancers. One study in the International Journal of Medicine suggests that lycopene-rich extracts obtained from red guava fruit can induce apoptosis (or the body’s natural process of killing cells) in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers. Another study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) explains how dietary fiber, abundant in guava fruit, decreases the risk of developing colon cancer by “reducing digestion and absorption of macronutrients, and decreasing the contact time of carcinogens with the intestinal lumen.”
A third study published by the American Association for Cancer Research determined that some properties of guava leaves can block signals in the body that lead to the development of tumors. So, while there’s no proof that drinking guava leaf tea, such as GuavaDNA Guava Leaf Tea (Buy It, $25, amazon.com) will prevent cancer, it’s not a bad way to start or end your day regardless. (Plus, the health benefits of tea will definitely convince you to brew a pot.)
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, daily intake of vitamins A and C (both found in guava), supports eye health. Vitamin C, in particular, slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration and subsequent vision loss.
Aids In Weight Loss
So often, when you’re in the thick of a new diet, the only low-calorie options are bland and devoid of nutrients, but not guava. It’s a perfect healthy snack because it’s low in calories and packed with flavor and nutrients. “In regard to weight loss, fresh fruit like guava contains high amounts of dietary fiber—especially pectin—a soluble fiber that can help you to feel full and regulates the digestive system, moving waste through the body quickly and encouraging elimination,” says Savage. “When a sweet craving hits, guava is a naturally satisfying, healthy alternative to typical sugar-sweetened treats, and provides a variety of health benefits,” she says. (Or, try one of these delicious no-sugar-added desserts.)
Supports Reproductive Health
Vitamin C and folate are two naturally-occurring nutrients found in guava that are important for fetal development during pregnancy. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), folate, a B-vitamin, allows your cells to divide and helps your body create DNA and genetic material for the fetus. “During pregnancy, folic acid is critical for preventing neural tube defects in babies,” says Savage. “The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) is usually about 400-600 mcg per day.” For reference, one guava fruit contains 27 mcg (micrograms) of folate, according to the USDA. While guava should not be the sole source of folate in your diet, it could be a great addition to the folate in a prenatal vitamin, she adds. In addition, the 377 mg of vitamin C in guava promotes fetal growth, reports the NLM. (Psst, you can get these essential nutrients in prenatal vitamins too.)
Promotes Healthy Skin
“Guava’s vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which is protective against damage by free radicals and is essential for the creation of collagen, which provides structural support for your skin and nails,” says Davar. One study from the NLM also suggests that tropical guava leaf extract may even be beneficial in treating acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties. While the verdict is still out on whether guava-infused products are worth the hype, you can try it out yourself with Eminence Organics Guava and Bamboo Age-Defying Moisturizer (Buy It, $58, dermstore.com) or Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer (Buy It, $35, dermstore.com).
However, “there is limited data to suggest that guava extract, which contains phytochemicals, may help reduce sebum [the natural oils that coat and moisturize skin] protection,” which can also clog pores and cause acne, says New York City-based dermatologic surgeon Mary L. Stevenson, M.D. “And methanol extract from the guava fruit may inhibit pathways by which UV damage to the skin, including the creation of pigment, may be reduced. For my own patients, I recommend different topicals, treatments, and prescriptions for acne or UV damage which are first-line treatments with solid evidence behind them.”.
How to Eat Guava
Raw Guava Fruit
“To reap the most health benefits of guava’s fiber content, I recommend eating raw guava as a snack or a dessert, typically cut into quarters or eaten like an apple (some people eat with a pinch of salt and pepper),” says Davar. The guava skin and seeds are completely edible, just make sure the fruit is ripe (soft to the touch when gently squeezed, similar to an avocado).
Guava Jelly, Candy, Sauce, Jam, or Marmalade
“Because of its high level of pectin, guavas are extensively used to make candies, preserves, and jams to serve on a toast,” says Davar. When sugar is added to pectin, a soluble fiber, and water, the pectin-water balance breaks down forming the gelatinous texture that is used in jelly. Therefore, the basis of most guava jam recipes and products like Guava Gourmet Guava Jam (Buy It, $13, amazon.com) is sugar, the pectin from the guava, and heat. In addition, “red guavas can be used as the base of salted products such as sauces, substituting for tomatoes, especially to minimize the acidity,” says Davar. Just keep in mind that guava fruit has high sugar content (about 5 grams per whole fruit), so you’ll want to avoid going overboard, she says.
“Guava juice is a popular packaged product; however, it often contains added sugar to it which makes it highly caloric and less beneficial due to the fact that the fruit fiber has been stripped off,” says Davar. “In Latin American countries, the guava-based beverage ‘agua fresca’ is very popular.” Agua Fresca is made with fruit, water, lime juice, and your choice of sweetener, such as raw sugar or honey. (You can use a natural sweetener like allulose too.)
Guava fruit is also a key ingredient in punch drinks (see: Sparkling Guava Punch) and you can add fresh guava fruit slices to any juice for an extra burst of flavor. Guava juice is often used in culinary sauces, salad dressing, dried snacks, fruit bars, and desserts, adds Davar. Don’t feel like DIY-ing? Try: Goya Guava Nectar (Buy It, $11 for two, amazon.com).
For a delicious meal using both raw guava and natural guava juice, follow the guava recipe below courtesy of Davar.
Pomegranate and Guava Salad Recipe
Total time: Approximately 10-15 minutes
- 6 guavas
- 4 cups pomegranate arils
- 2 cups cold water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon raw honey (sugar-substitute)
- 1 tablespoon hemp or sesame seeds (optional)
- Cut guavas in half, then peel and seed guava fruit. Cut guava fruit into small cubes, and place in a bowl. Retain seeds and peel separately.
- Make guava juice: Place guava peel and seeds in a blender, then add water, lemon juice, and honey. Blend on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
- Run the guava juice through a sieve to get rid of any pulp or waste. Add more honey/sugar for taste, as needed.
- Make the salad: Mix guava cubes and pomegranate arils with strained guava juice in a bowl.
- Optional: Add sesame or hemp seeds for extra flavor, crunch, and fiber.