Could you be tempted by a tropical fruit that not only tastes good but also carries many health benefits? Persimmon, a fruit native to Asia is full of fiber and antioxidants. It fights inflammation and weight gain, improves heart and gut health, and lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. Read on to learn more about this amazing fruit.

What Is a Persimmon?

Persimmon is the berry fruit of the Diospyros plant, native to China, Japan, Korea, and other East-Asian countries. More than 350 different species of Diospyros exist [1].

The most commonly grown species in both Asia and the US is Diospyros Kaki, also known as Japanese or Oriental persimmon. A less widespread variety is Diospyros Virginiana, also known as North American or common persimmon [1, 2].

Tea made from persimmon leaves has been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine at least since the Ming Dynasty. Persimmon fruits, bark, and roots are cherished remedies in folk medicine. Their use spans high blood pressure, clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), stroke, and constipation [3].

Varieties

Persimmon comes in two types, astringent and non-astringent.

Astringent persimmon has a bitter taste when not fully ripe. It can only be eaten after becoming completely soft. This variety owes its bitterness to the tannins concentrated in the skin [4, 2].

The non-astringent variety is also called sweet persimmon. It can be eaten while still firm or later when it is has become soft [4, 2].

Common persimmons are all the astringent type, while the Japanese variety can be found as either the astringent or sweet type [4, 2].

Snapshot

PROS

  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Fights inflammation and obesity
  • May lower cholesterol levels
  • Controls blood sugar
  • Protects your brain

CONS

  • Eating unripe persimmon may result in intestinal blockage [5]
  • Allergic reactions possible in people who are allergic to birch pollen [6]
  • More than 1-2 fruits per day might negatively affect the gut microbiota [7]
  • May interact with blood pressure medications [8]

Persimmon Nutrition

Persimmons are an excellent source of provitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. They also contain significant amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper and potassium [9].

Depending on size, one raw Japanese persimmon (168 g) will provide around 118 calories, and [9]:

  • 31 g of carbohydrates
  • 21 g of sugar
  • 6 g of fiber

Like most fruits, it’s very low in fat and protein [9].

Compared to the raw fruit, dried persimmon contains about 4 times the amount of calories and carbohydrates due to its lower water content [10].

Health Benefits of Persimmon Fruit & Leaves

1) Packed with Vitamins

Persimmons are filled with vitamins and minerals. One raw Japanese persimmon (around 168 grams) will provide the following Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of nutrients [9]:

  • Vitamin A: 19%
  • Vitamin C: 22%
  • Vitamin B6: 13%
  • Vitamin E: 8%
  • Vitamin K: 5%
  • Manganese: 30%
  • Copper: 9%
  • Potassium: 8%

2) Rich in Antioxidants

Persimmons are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C, polyphenols and carotenoids (provitamin A). Both the skin and fruit abound in carotenoids, which give persimmons their characteristic rich orange color. These include lutein, astaxanthin, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin [4].

In rodent studies, beta-cryptoxanthin from persimmon reversed fatty liver disease. It also reduced inflammation and insulin resistance. Carotenoids are also vital for eye and heart health [4, 11, 12].

The polyphenols in persimmon can be divided into three groups [4, 13]:

  • Phenolic acids (e.g. caffeic, ferulic, gallic and coumaric acids)
  • Flavonoids (e.g. anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and catechins)
  • Tannins (found in the skin)

Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants concentrated in the skin, fruit, and leaves of persimmon. In a recent study, these molecules extended the lifespan and prevented memory impairment in rapidly aging mice [14].

Fisetin is another powerful flavonoid phenol found in persimmons. In both cell and animal studies, fisetin inhibited pathways linked with tumor growth (Akt and mTOR). In other words, fisetin may help to slow the growth of cancer [15, 16].

3) May Fight Inflammation and Obesity

Obesity and inflammation conspire together in a vicious spiral. Inflammation leads to problems such as insulin- and leptin resistance, which increases fat gain. All the while, fat cells release cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which further worsen inflammation [17, 18, 19].

Hence, lowering inflammation may help break this dangerous cycle. In cell- and rodent studies, phenols from persimmon decreased various inflammatory compounds (nitric oxide, TNF-α, IL-1,  IL-6, prostaglandin E₂, and COX-2) [20, 21, 22].

In a Korean pilot trial of 20 obese people, persimmon vinegar (with or without ginger) reduced inflammatory markers, body weight, and fat after 6 weeks [23].

Pancreatic lipase is an enzyme that breaks down and helps absorb dietary fats. In test tubes, tannins from persimmon skin bound to pancreatic lipase, making it less available to aid fat absorption. In mice, persimmon fruit and citrus peel had a similar effect [24, 25].

What’s more, persimmon leaf extract reduced weight gain, liver and belly fat gain in obese mice on a high-fat diet. It also reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL, blood sugar, insulin and leptin levels [26].

All in all, eating more persimmons may be a safe and effective way to support weight and fat loss in overweight people with inflammation.

4) Keep Your Heart Healthy

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside the arteries. Antioxidants in persimmon may slow atherosclerosis by lowering inflammation and oxidative damage to the bad (LDL) cholesterol [4, 27].

Traditionally, the leaves of Japanese persimmon are used in Japan to reduce blood pressure. Flavonoids from the leaves can lower the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), similar to several blood-pressure-lowering drugs [28].

In rats, the flavonoids from persimmon leaf extract lowered blood pressure (by increasing eNOS and cGMP) [29].

Additionally, persimmon may protect heart cells against hypoxia or the lack of oxygen, according to research on rat cells [30].

5) Lower Bad Cholesterol

In a clinical trial of 66 people, persimmon extract was effective at lowering blood fat levels. It worked even better in combination with a statin drug [31].

In another clinical trial of 40 people divided, 5 g/day of persimmon fibers greatly reduced the bad (LDL) cholesterol, while 3 grams had a much milder effect [32].

Numerous animal studies attest to its ability to lower LDL. This is how it probably works [33, 4, 34]:

  • Its highly concentrated antioxidants reduce LDL damage (carotenoids and proanthocyanidins)
  • Its fibers bind fats in the gut

6) Support Gut Health

Persimmon is high in fiber, which supports gut health in several ways [35]:

  • It increases the bulk of the stool, speeding up food transit
  • It feeds the good gut bacteria, which go on to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids

Tannins in persimmon also help rebalance the gut microbiota when given in moderation. In rats, they increased the good gut bacteria (Bifidobacterium sp. and Lactobacillus sp), while killing the bad gut bacteria (like E. Coli). However, only low to moderate doses were beneficial. High doses affected the microbiota negatively [7].

7) May Reduce High Blood Sugar

The way persimmon leaves work to lower blood sugar has long remained a mystery, despite their millennia-long use in traditional medicine.

In a recent clinical trial of 68 prediabetic people, scientists discovered that persimmon leaf extract can positively affect complex protein signatures in the body. This means that persimmons probably affect gene expression to help prevent diabetes and high blood sugar [36].

These fruits may limit the activity of genes that lead to fat accumulation. In diabetic mice, persimmons prevented fat build-up in the liver and improved blood sugar control. And in another rodent study, proanthocyanidins from persimmon also lowered blood sugar [37, 38].

According to additional research, persimmons might prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal by lowering amylase enzymes that break down complex sugars. In animals, persimmon limited the digestion of starch and reduced the uptake glucose into the bloodstream [39, 40, 41, 42].

8) Protect Your Brain

Cognition & Alzheimer’s Disease

Persimmon leaf extract improved cognitive function in rats with Alzheimer’s disease. Its flavonoids and triterpenoids likely carry this effect since they can increase key antioxidants in brain cells [43].

Another study highlights its brain-protective effect: persimmon leaf extract limited brain cell injury and death caused by free radicals. It boosted antioxidants inside cells, including glutathione and catalase [44].

Plus, the extract reversed learning and memory impairment in mice. It could reduce amyloid-beta production, oxidative stress, and neuroinflammation–all crucial to Alzheimer’s risk [45].

Our cells have “molecular switches” for communication called Rho GTPases. When these switches become overactive, synapses in the brain can get destroyed, impairing cognition. By blocking Rho GTPases, persimmon leaf extract reduced synapse loss and improved learning and memory in mice Alzheimer’s [46, 47, 48].

Brain Inflammation & Blood Flow

In rats, the extract lowered inflammatory waste products and NF-κB, which means that it may reduce brain inflammation. NF-kB is one of the main drivers of stress-triggered inflammation in the brain, which can lead to depression [49, 50].

It may also protect brain cells against damage from poor blood flow and oxygen levels (ischemia and hypoxia). It protected rats against glutamate toxicity [51].

Lacking Evidence: Persimmon Tea for Acid Reflux

There are no trials, but persimmon tea for acid reflux is a popular natural home remedy. The so-called ‘Persimmon Punch’ is a tea made of persimmon, ginger and cinnamon said to ease heartburn [52].

Limitations and Caveats

Only limited research on persimmon has been carried out in humans.

There are a good amount of cell and animal studies. But it is important to remember that human physiology is different from that of animals or test tubes.

Eating persimmons or drinking persimmon tea is likely safe.

Taste & How to Eat a Persimmon

Ripe persimmons are known for their sweet flavor, akin to honey. You can eat them raw, dried, cooked, or prepare them as tea. It’s easy to bite into firm and ripe non-astringent persimmons. Or simply cut them into pieces or slice them up and add to a salad or smoothie [53, 54].

But be careful to choose the right persimmon type. The astringent ones can only be eaten when soft, when you can cut them open and eat the flesh using a spoon. They can also be pureed or added to various savory dishes, such as curries [53, 54].

Dried fruit is an easy snack to bring along, but remember that it’s high in carbohydrates.

Persimmons can be used in baking and for making puddings and pies.

You can make a tea from dried persimmons or from persimmon leaves. Various studies mentioned above used persimmon leaf extracts, not the dried fruit. Leaf extracts are commercially available, but not widespread [54, 55, 3].

Buy Persimmons

Search for fresh persimmons at your local market.

The extract, dried leaves, and dried fruit are available online.

Note: This section contains sponsored links, which means that we may receive a small percentage of profit from your purchase, while the price remains the same to you. The proceeds from your purchase support our research and work. Thank you for your support.

Can Dogs Eat Persimmon?

Persimmons are not safe to eat for dogs. The seeds and pits can cause intestinal problems as well as blockage. If you have persimmon in your home or garden, take precautions to make sure your dog doesn’t get to them [56].

Takeaway

Persimmons are nutrient- and antioxidant-dense fruits that may lower oxidative stress, inflammation, and support heart health. They’re a great source of carotenoids (provitamin A), to which they owe their bright orange color. Their fiber content also boosts the good gut bacteria while eliminating the bad bacteria.

But remember: moderation is key. More than 2 fruits a day may be too much of a good thing. Also, watch out for your potassium levels and blood pressure if you are on blood pressure lowering medications.

Aside from the fruit, persimmon leaf extracts may lower blood sugar and protect the brain.

About the Author

Jimmy Julajak, MSc

MS (Psychology)

Jimmy got his MSc from the University of Copenhagen.

Jimmy is a psychologist and researcher. He is particularly interested in the workings of the brain and strategies for improving brain health. He believes that people shouldn't hand over the responsibility for their health only to their doctors. His aim is to empower each person with easy-to-understand, science-based health knowledge.

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