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Is it Bad to Eat Unripe Fruits?

Health Tips
Last Updated Jun 21, 2021

Depending on your choice, unripened fruit can either be a delicious, nutritious treat or sickening to the stomach. Many Asian and other cultures eat unripened fruit and believe the unsweetened flavour is nutritious and good for health. They often eat unripened mangoes, papayas and other fruits and enjoy them.

We in western countries feel that unripened fruit is not good for health. While it is true that unripened fruit is highly acidic, other cultures eat unripened fruit and feel no side effects such as a stomach complaint. If a fruit is not naturally green, and yet appears to be so, you can be sure it is not yet ripe.

It is a common mistake to think that all fruit at your local fruit store is the ripest you are going to get. Climacteric fruits may be purchased unripened and left a day or two in the fruit bowl at home to ripen naturally. Some of these fruits include apples, apricots, avocado, bananas, rockmelon (but not honeydews or watermelons), figs, guavas, mangoes, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes.

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How to Ripen Fruit Fast

Follow these easy tips to speed up the ripening of your unripened fruit at home:

Placing the unripe fruit in the paper bag on a counter and leave it for a day or two. Place bananas next to the unripe fruit. Be sure to check the fruit daily to make sure it hasn't started to rot. As seen in the summertime, fruit generally ripens at a greater speed in lighter and warmer conditions. Avoid placing unripened fruit in the fridge because the fridge is cold and dark and the fruit won't ripen.

Cooking is also another solution to unripened fruit. It doesn't speed up the ripening process, but it does:

  • Increase the sweetness of the fruit
  • Decrease the bitterness and astringency of the fruit
  • Soften the fruit, allowing it to be eaten more easily

Cooking fruit can also destroy the nutrients in the fruit, so it should only be used moderately. Fruits have Vitamin C and other nutrients in them and cooking can be detrimental to their health benefits.

There are several fruits however that when eaten unripened, prove as delicious as they are nutritious. This may be why Asian and indigenous cultures eat unripened fruit as a matter of course. They may be aware that unripened fruit has many health benefits.

Health benefits of unripened fruits

Papaya in all its forms is deliciously sweet and refreshing. Papayas, including that of the green variety, are laden with antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, vitamin C, flavonoids, B vitamins, folate, pantothenic acid and the minerals potassium and magnesium. They also contain a high amount of fibre and the digestive enzyme papain.

Unripened green papaya may be used to treat:

  • Digestive Disorders; The enzyme papain found in unripened papaya is reported to relieve symptoms of gastric juice deficiency, excess digestive mucus, intestinal irritation and dyspepsia.
  • Menstrual Irregularities: For those seeking relief from irregular periods, raw papaya juice should be drunk. The muscle fibres of the womb are stimulated by unripe papaya juice, which trigger a natural menstrual flow.
  • Skin Disorders; Unripe papaya can relieve the swelling and inflammation of wounds, as well as reducing the severity of symptoms of other skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis. It has also been anecdotally reported as a natural exfoliant that decreases skin pigmentation and other brown spots.
  • Throat Conditions: Raw papaya juice mixed with honey has been known to reduce the inflammation and infection of throat disorders such as tonsillitis by dissolving the mucus membrane

Green mangoes are a rich source of starch and offer many medicinal qualities derived from the astringent, acidic qualities of the fruit. The sour taste is due to the presence of oxalic, citric, malic and succinic acids, and it is also rich in other antioxidant nutrients such as pectin, Vitamin C, niacin and the vitamins B1 and B2.

Unripened, green mangoes may be used to treat:

  • Heat Stroke: Drinks prepared with unripened mangoes have been anecdotally reported to relieve heat exhaustion and stroke. Preparing the beverage with salt relieves dehydration and replaces sodium chloride and iron otherwise lost due through sweating.
  • Digestive Disorders: Diarrhea, dysentery, piles, morning sickness, dyspepsia, indigestion and constipation may also be relieved after eating an unripened mango. Make sure to chose one in which the seed is not fully formed and add honey to taste.
  • Bilious Disorders: Green mangoes contain acids that stimulate the secretion of bile and act as intestinal antiseptic. This prevents bacteria from decomposing, toning the liver, keeping the system healthy.
  • Blood Disorders: The high vitamin C content of green mangoes increases the elasticity of blood vessels, helps form new blood cells, allows for greater iron absorption from food and increases the body's resistance to diseases such as anemia, cholera, dysentery and TB

Excessive consumption (more than 1-2/day) of green mangoes may lead throat irritation, indigestion, dysentery and abdominal colic. Water should also be avoided after eating a green mango because it coagulates the sap and makes it more irritant.

Many people don't even know about unripened green tomatoes, and the different taste they offer to their red counterparts. They are calorie poor, high in vitamin C, vitamin A, lycopene and beta-carotene.

Before eating an unripened green tomato remember that not all green tomatoes are unripened. Some are bred specifically green and may be ripe. Make sure to check with your grocer before purchasing the fruit. Avoid smaller green tomatoes that carry an overly bitter taste that can ruin your green tomato recipe. Before cooking your green tomatoes, make sure to extract the woodier stem and core piece.

It is recommended green tomatoes be cooked before consumption and limited to 1-2 per day. Excess consumption of Green tomatoes may cause diarrhea and vomiting as they contain the natural toxins glycoalkaloids that can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. These toxins are generally not present in ripened, red tomatoes and give the green tomatoes their bitter taste.

Green bananas are another fruit that has health benefits. Green bananas can:

  • Treat diarrhea in children and adults
  • Resistant starch in green bananas can increase the fat burning process
  • Resistant starch also increases the body's sensitivity to insulin and may be helpful to type 2 diabetes sufferers

Consider the health benefits of unripened fruit

We all like sweet fruit, but there are many health benefits to unripened fruit. They can be hard to find on supermarket shelves, but you may find unripened fruits in a smaller shop that sells organic fruits and vegetables. They may be unripe and you can tell just by looking at the skin. If it is green, it is probably unripe, but there are exceptions to this rule. Oranges should be orange, but organic oranges are often green and when opened, have the sweet flavour of oranges. They may be even sweeter than large oranges bought in the supermarket because organic oranges tend to be sweeter than those that are large in size.

You don't need to eat unripened fruit all the time, but when you feel you need some, they can be of benefit to your health. We all love the flavour of sweet fruit and should enjoy sweet fruit in most cases, but don't forget the health benefits of unripe fruit.

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Originally published on Jun 10, 2018

FAQs About Unripe Fruits

Are all unripe fruits green?

Yes. Unripe fruits contain chlorophyll in their cells, which enable them to absorb energy from sunlight during photosynthesis. Chlorophyll disintegrates as the fruit ripens and carotenoids are produced.

How is unripe fruit stored?

If you picked a fruit prematurely, you can ripen it quickly by placing it in a paper bag and rolling down the top of the bag. This process traps the fruit's ethylene gas and ripens the fruit faster. But placing a banana next to the unripe fruit will double the ripening rate.

Is unripe fruit less nutritious?

No. Several unripened fruits offer a host of health benefits. Green papaya, for instance, is packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, carotenes, potassium, B vitamins and many others. Green mangoes have high levels of vitamins B1 and B2, niacin, pectin and succinic acids which help boost the immune system.

What should you do if you accidentally cut an unripe fruit?

Whilst some fruits can be kept from rotting after they've been cut open before reaching maturity, others that contain small amounts of ethylene gas just don't stand a chance. In case you've cut an avocado only to realise that it isn't ripe yet, rub its flesh with lime, put both halves of the fruit back together and then wrap it with a plastic wrap before refrigerating. Leave it there for a couple of days to ripen.

Why are unripe fruits sour?

Unripe fruits contain high acid concentration, specifically malic and citric acids. As the fruit ripens, the organic acids decrease and are converted to sugar.

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