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Five Myths about Durians

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​Source: The Straits Times 

1. People with high cholesterol should not eat durian as it will cause one's blood cholesterol levels to spike.

Dr Soh: Contrary to belief, durians contain no cholesterol. The fats which are found in durians are monounsaturated fats and these may help to lower an individual’s LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Ms Chia: Durian is a fruit that has a ‘bad’ name.  It is a myth that durian increases cholesterol levels as it does not contain cholesterol and limited saturated fat.  When looking to reduce cholesterols levels, other parts of our diet that contributes more fat, cholesterol and calories should be first assessed. 

2. The fruit is heaty and can cause coughs and even fever if you overindulge.

Dr Wong: The link between heatiness and symptoms of fever and cough is likely to be a Traditional Chinese Medicine concept. Scientifically, it is possible that there may be a slight increase in body temperature during digestion due to metabolic and chemical processes that arise from it. However, it does not constitute a fever nor does it lead to neither cough nor respiratory infection.

Mr Chew: From a TCM perspective, durian is a nutritious fruit that has a strong ‘warming’ property. For those of us whose body constitutions are pre-disposed to heatiness, over-indulgence in durians can induce symptoms such as phlegmy cough, sore throat and constipation. Fever may also result in some cases.

 3. Eating durian together with alcohol can be lethal and also taking together with milk can be dangerous.

 Dr Wong: There has been no conclusive scientific evidence establishing that eating durian and alcohol together may be fatal. However, due to the its relatively high fibre and carbohydrate content, excessive intake may actually give rise to heartburn and bloatedness in some people, which may be worsened with alcohol intake.

Mr Chew: Both durians and alcohol share similar warming properties according to TCM. Taken together or separately, we would always advise moderate consumption as aggressive warming of the body’s systems can be harmful.

 4. To get rid of the after-smell, pour water into the husk and drink from it. This will also help you to regulate the "heatiness".

Mr Chew: There is a practice of drinking salt water from the durian husk. TCM believes that salt water has the effect of reducing toxins and heatiness, and thus can moderate the undesirable effects of eating durians. As for ridding the after-smell, we do not know of a good medical basis to support this practice.

 5. Diabetics can eat durians without much worry as the fruit does not taste sugary.

Dr Soh: Individuals with diabetes need to limit their consumption of durians as the fruit has high sugar content. Three seeds of durians (depending on the size) can contain between 20 and 30 grams of carbohydrates. That is equivalent to the sugar content in half a can of regular Coke (20 grams) or one bowl of white rice (30 grams). Therefore, persons with diabetes should only eat durians in moderation and be keenly aware of the approximate amount of carbohydrates consumed at each time.

Ms Chia: Durians is high in carbohydrates.  Per 100g it has double the amount of carbohydrates compared to apples and 3-4 x more than strawberries.  Thus, people with diabetes should limit the intake of durian to 1 -2 seeds as a serve of fruit. 


Nutritional benefits of durian

Nutritional content of durian per 100 grams (about 3 fruits with seed) 

   Durian, Malaysian, mid-range    Durian, Thai, raw 
 Energy (kcal)  160 kcal   165 kcal
 Protein (g)  2.50 g  2.50 g
 Total fat (g)  2.80 g  4.10 g
 Saturated fat (g)   0.85 g  1.10 g
 Dietary fibre (g)  3.10 g  3.20 g
 Carbohydrate (g)  ​31.10 g  29.60 g
 Cholesterol (mg)  NA  NA
 Sodium (mg)   8 mg  3 mg

Ms Chia: Lastly when comparing between fruits, durians does have more calories than most fruits including bananas and similar calorie content with avocadoes.  Thus I would recommend eating in moderation.

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Respondents:
Dr Abel Soh, Specialist in Endocrinology & Consultant, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre
Dr Michael Wong, Deputy Medical Director, Raffles Medical
Mr Chew Hong Gian, TCM Physician, Raffles Chinese Medicine
Ms Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian, Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre