Sapodilla (Sapota) nutrition facts

Sapodilla or sapota (chikoo) is another popular tropical fruit in line with mango, banana, jackfruit, etc. Sapota composes of soft, easily digestible pulp made of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose.

Sapota is a tropical evergreen, fruit-bearing tree belongs to the family of Sapotaceae, in the genus: Manilkara. Scientific name: Manilkara zapota.


sapodilla with seed
Sapota fruit cut section. Note for dark brown seed.

Sapote thought to have originated in the Central American rain forests, probably in Mexico and Belize. Today, its cultivation has spread all over the tropical belt and grown as a major commercial crop in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The tree is one of fast growing, wind and drought resistant, and it flourishes well even under dry arid regions receiving scanty rains. However, water irrigation during summer would result in good fruit yields.

Botanically, each sapodilla fruit is a berry; round or oval measures about 10 cm in diameter and weigh about 150 g. A tree bears as many as 2,000 fruits/year.

sapodilla plant
Sapota fruits. Note for rusty gray raw fruits. (Photo courtesy by Narith5)

Sapota fruit has gray/brown, sandy, kiwifruit-like outer surface but without the fuzziness. Unripe fruits possess white, hard, inedible pulp that secretes sticky latex containing toxic substance saponin. This milky latex gradually disappears, and its white flesh turns brown as the fruit ripe. Once ripen, it becomes soft, acquires a sweet taste and smooth or grainy texture with slight musky flavor. It contains about 3-10 black, smooth, shiny biconvex/bean shaped, inedible seeds, located at its center.


Health benefits of sapodilla

  • Sapodilla is one of the high-calorie fruits; 100 g provides 83 calories (almost same as that of calories in sweet potato, and banana). Additionally, it is an excellent source of dietary fiber (5.6 g/100g), which makes it a good bulk laxative. This fiber content helps relieve constipation episodes and help protect mucosa of the colon from cancer-causing toxins.

  • The fruit is rich in antioxidant polyphenolic compound tannin. Tannins are a composite family of naturally occurring polyphenols. Research studies suggest that tannins possess astringent properties, and shown to have potential anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic effects. Hence, these compounds may found useful applications in traditional medicines as antidiarrheal, hemostatic (stops bleeding) and as a remedy for hemorrhoids.

  • Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory effect of tannins helps limit conditions like erosive gastritis, reflux esophagitis, enteritis, and irritating bowel disorders. Some other fruits that also rich in tannins include pomegranate, persimmon, and grapes.

  • Sapote contains a good amount of antioxidant vitamins like vitamin-C (24.5% of recommended daily intake per 100 g of fruit), and vitamin A. Vitamin-A is essential for vision. It also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A has been known to offer protection from lung and oral cavity cancers. So also, consumption of foods containing vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and help scavenge harmful free radicals from the human body

  • Fresh ripe sapodilla is a good source of minerals like potassium, copper, iron and vitamins like folate, niacin and pantothenic acid. These compounds are essential for optimal health as they involve in various metabolic processes in the body as cofactors for the enzymes.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), fresh, Nutritive value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 83 Kcal 4%
Carbohydrates 19.9 g 15%
Protein 0.44 g <1%
Total Fat 1.10 g 3.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 5.3 g 14%
Vitamins
Folates 14 µg 3.5%
Niacin 0.200 mg 1%
Pantothenic acid 0.252 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.037 mg 3%
Riboflavin 0.020 mg 1.5%
Thiamin 0.058 mg 5%
Vitamin A 60 IU 2%
Vitamin C 14.7 mg 24.5%
Electrolytes
Sodium 12 mg 1%
Potassium 193 mg 4%
Minerals
Calcium 21 mg 2%
Copper 0.086 mg 9%
Iron 0.80 mg 10%
Magnesium 12 mg 3%
Phosphorous 12 mg 2%
Selenium
0.6 µg 1%
Zinc 0.10 mg 1%

There exists many cultivars of sapodilla are grown worldwide like:-

  • Brown Sugar variety -Fruit is medium to small, 2 to 2-1/2 inches long, nearly round. Skin is light, scruffy brown. Flesh pale brown, fragrant, juicy, very sweet and creamy, texture slightly granular. Quality is superb.

  • Prolific variety - the fruit is round-conical, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long and broad. Skin is scruffy, brown, becoming nearly smooth at maturity. Flesh is light-pinkish, mildly fragrant, texture smooth, flavor sweet, quality good. The tree bears early, consistently and heavily.

  • Russel type- The fruit is large, round, 3 to 5 inches in diameter and length. Skin is scruffy brown with gray patches. Flesh is pinkish, mildly fragrant, texture somewhat granular. Flavor is rich and sweet.

  • Tikal- A new seedling selection with excellent flavor. Elliptic in shape, light brown in color, smaller than Prolific. Ripe very early.


Selection and storage

Sapodillas can be available all around the season in the markets. Harvesting usually done by plucking each fruit gently as you do in mango. It is often difficult to tell when a sapodilla is ready to harvest. Mature fruit appears brown and easily separates from the stem without the leakage of latex. Scratch the fruit to make sure whether the skin is not green beneath the scurf.

In the stores, buy fresh sapodilla with smooth, intact skin and without cuts/cracks, bruises or wrinkles. Once ripen, the fruit just yields to gentle thumb pressure.

Mature but unripe fruits must be kept at room temperature for 7 to 10 days to ripen. Firm, ripe sapodillas can keep well for several days in the home refrigerator and if set at 35° F, they can be kept for up to six weeks.


Preparation and serving method

Wash the sandy scruff before eating in cold water. Fresh sapodilla should be eaten when it turns soft. Cut the fruit into two halves, then scoop the flesh using a spoon and discard the seeds. It should be enjoyed without any additions in order to experience its unique flavor.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Fresh sapota sections are a great addition to fruit salads.

  • Sapodilla-milk shakes/smoothie is a favorite drink in Asia.

  • It also used in ice-creams, fruit-jam, cakes, pie,...etc.


Safety profile

Latex and tannins are highly concentrated in the raw sapodilla fruits and, therefore, intensely bitter in taste. Eating unripe fruits may cause mouth ulcers, itchy sensation in the throat, and breathing difficulty, especially in the children. (Medical disclaimer).


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Further Resources:

1. Subtropical gardening- pdf.

2. USDA National Nutrient database.