Experts weigh in on the hard-to-find purple fruit—and the über-popular powdered version.
Photo: Ekaterina_Minaeva / Shutterstock.com
Adding an extra serving of fruit to your diet is a no-brainer. Fruit contains tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, while also providing a dose of natural sugar to help fight your sweet cravings. (And FYI, only 1 in 10 adults actually get the two servings a day recommended by the USDA.)
But if you want to add more fruit to your diet without adding in more sugar, don't have access to fresh fruit while traveling, or simply want to expand your horizons beyond your typical grocery store selection, that's where fruit powders come in. Made primarily from fruits that don't grow in the United States, these powders are popping up everywhere. Fruit powders—made from dried fruit—pack more nutrition per tablespoon due to their reduced volume. "In the same way dried herbs have three times the nutritional density as fresh, the concept is similar in fruits as dried fruits have more fruit per tablespoon," explains Lauren Slayton, M.S., R.D., and founder of NYC-based nutrition practice Foodtrainers.
As with so many other healthy trends, "I think people just really like the idea of a very fast, easy solution," says Mascha Davis, M.P.H., R.D. "They don't have to worry about going to the market, picking the fruit, and then worrying that it might spoil."
Of all the new fruit powders available now, though, there's one that seems to be taking center stage: mangosteen.
What is mangosteen?
Grown in tropical regions like Indonesia and Thailand, mangosteen is a small purple fruit with a thick, fleshy exterior (similar to jackfruit). It has a slightly tart yet refreshing flavor. It's a delicate fruit that can spoil quickly once harvested, which is why exporting it can be difficult. For a time, mangosteens weren't able to be legally imported into the United States, and there are still restrictions on it, making it hard to find in grocery stores.
To create mangosteen powder, the fruit is picked at peak freshness and then freeze-dried. The result is a pure mangosteen powder without the need for additives. As the powder includes everything from the rind to the flesh (the parts with the most fiber), it may also help keep you fuller longer, says Davis.
How can you eat or use mangosteen?
The fresh fruit can be peeled and eaten similar to a tangerine. As for the powder, since it can be added to pretty much anything, you can use it in the foods you already make, such as adding it to salad dressings, oatmeal, smoothies, or even baked goods.
What are the nutritional benefits of mangosteen?
Mangosteen as a whole fruit boasts high levels of vitamin C, iron, potassium, disease-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants, and even fatty acids, according to Davis. "In terms of vitamin C, it's pretty high, which is great. It's an antioxidant and it boosts your immune system and also helps brighten the skin," she says.
So, should you try powdered mangosteen?
Bottom line? While mangosteen powder has high levels of vitamin C (the antioxidant is beneficial for your skin and immunity), that doesn't exactly make it stand out in a crowd. "Having high levels of vitamin C is actually the case for most fruits," says Davis, who usually recommends citrus fruits like tangerines and oranges for similar benefits and nutritional value.
"Aside from a small amount of vitamin C that you can get through whole foods fairly easily, the nutritional labels read pretty much zero," adds Slayton. "I would only recommend it if it were hard for you to get whole fruits otherwise, because you could probably get similar benefits from fruits that are easier to find and cheaper," says Davis.
However, if you're someone who doesn't like fruit, or finds it hard to fit it into your diet on a daily basis, there's no reason you shouldn't add the powder to your daily smoothie or oatmeal, says Slayton. The powders also work really well for traveling, especially if you're in a place where fresh produce is hard to find.
Where can you buy mangosteen?
While the whole fruit is nearly impossible to find in a U.S. supermarket, you can easily find mangosteen powders online. However, there aren't any regulations from the USDA when it comes to powdered fruit, so be sure to check the ingredients so you know exactly what you're getting. Below are some RD-approved options that make use of the whole fruit, without any additional chemicals.
1. Mangosteen Powder by Terrasoul, $8 for 6 ounces
2. Mangosteen + Hibiscus Superfood by Amina Mundi, $24 for 4 ounces
3. Organic Mangosteen Powder by Live Superfoods, $17.49 for 8 ounces