The North American caja is similar in taste and appearance to a miniature mango, reaching 2-inches in length when ripe. The fruit is widely used in commercially produced healthy juice drinks and smoothies because it is naturally rich in carotenoids, vitamins and minerals. Caja is low in fat and cholesterol-free, and it maintains its carotenoid properties even after heating or pureeing.
Caja fruit is rich in the health-boosting carotenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, according to research published in "Archives of Latin American Nutrition." Beta-cryptoxanthin is a provitamin that allows the body to produce its own retinol, also known as vitamin A, which is beneficial to bone growth, vision and increases immunity through the development of white blood cells, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Because beta-cryptoxanthin is a fat-soluble carotenoid, heating does not destroy its beneficial health effects.
Caja fruit contains high levels of the antioxidant vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C protects cells from free radicals found in the sun's ultraviolet rays and pollution in the air. It is also responsible for absorbing iron efficiently and enhancing healing through efficient collagen production. Vitamin C is water-soluble, so to obtain the best possible vitamin content from caja, eat the fruit raw and unprocessed. Some of the fruit's natural vitamin C content may be lost during the production process of juices and smoothies.
Caja fruit is high in calcium, magnesium and iron, according to Dr. Chad Edwards of Family Medicine Practice at Warren Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Magnesium is essential to supporting the immune system and stabilizing blood sugar levels. The body needs calcium to maintain healthy teeth, bones and muscle function. Iron is necessary for the body to use oxygen in the blood and ensure that cells receive adequate amounts of oxygen for optimum efficiency. The combination of iron and vitamin C in caja is beneficial because the fruit provides two substances that are dependent on each other for increased efficacy.
Low Fat Content
There is no saturated fat or cholesterol in caja fruit and the overall fat content is low, making it a healthy choice whether you consume it raw or as part of a mixed juice drink. Caja's low fat content makes it an ideal ingredient in healthy recipes where you want to keep the calorie content down. Add pureed caja to fat-free yogurt as a naturally sweet and tasty alternative to honey or sugar.
- Dr. Chad Edwards Health for Life: Caja is a Carotenoid Powerhouse
- Archive of Latin American Nutrition: Latin American Food Sources of Carotenoids
- Human Metabolone Database: Showing Metabocard for Beta-Cryptoxanthin
- Linus Pauling Institute: Carotenoids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin A
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Vitamins: Fat Soluble and Water Soluble
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A and Carotenoids
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron