Photo: Island Fruits

by By Tandis Bishop, RDN, CDE

Summer in Hawaii means an abundance of local fruit. Fresh fruit is a healthy alternative to candy, sugar-filled drinks, and desserts. We are lucky to live in Hawaii where we have amazing fruit year-round but some local favorites pop up during the summer months.

Research shows that sugar can cause cravings comparable to drugs1. For some people sugar brings about changes in the brain that are comparable to cocaine and alcohol2. This effect may contribute to increased sugar cravings and difficulty controlling portion sizes when consuming sugary foods and beverages.

As a healthy alternative to eating food items with added sugar, fresh fruit can help satisfy sweet cravings without causing a domino effect. Fruit is sweet but it also contains water and fiber, which help you feel full. Additionally, the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruit add nutritional value versus the empty calories found in many food items with added sugar.

Summer Fruits in Hawaii 

Avocado - This local favorite is actually a fruit. If you have a green thumb, some yard space and patience you can plant and grow the seed. Avocados are packed with nutrients such as potassium (more than a banana) and good fats that can contribute to heart health and healthy skin. Avocados go beyond guacamole and can be used in sweet and savory recipes.

Banana - There is a reason why bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are so many different varieties to try! In Hawaii, we enjoy apple bananas, which are portable and the perfect size for a quick and healthy snack. This summer look for other varieties such as "ice cream bananas" which have a softer texture and subtle vanilla flavor. 

Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) - Beyond its unique appearance and taste, dragon fruit has many health promoting properties. Pitaya contains cell-protective antioxidants such as betalains, flavonoids, and hydroxycinnamates.3 This vibrantly colored fruit is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, and iron. 

Lychee - Known for its sweet flavor, lychee can be found in abundance during summer months. Lychee is an excellent source of vitamin C.  Refrigeration and storage in a plastic bag can help prolong storage of lychee. 

Mango - There is nothing quite as wonderful as mango from the tree of a co-worker or friend. Besides being a local favorite, mangoes contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals and numerous antioxidants. Studies have found that mangoes help improve blood pressure, blood sugars, and gut health.4,5,6 What's not to love about this satisfyingly sweet fruit! 

Papaya - Available year round but most abundant during summer months, papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain that may help aid digestion. High in fiber, water, Vitamins C and A, folate, potassium, manganese and copper makes papaya a great choice to add for healthy digestion and nutrition!

Strawberry Guava - This “sweet invader” is often found and enjoyed straight off the bush while hiking. Strawberry guavas are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. Additionally, they pack a punch of fiber which helps you feel full longer and promotes healthy digestion.

Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) - This tart yet sweet fruit contains a nutritious and delicious pulp. Lilikoi is loaded with antioxidants particularly Vitamin C, beta-carotene and polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that offer a wide range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which helps fight chronic inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.  Look for lilikoi that have wrinkled skin, they tend to be the sweetest! 

This summer when you’re craving sweets, instead opt for some delicious and nutritious local fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Focus on picking naturally sweet fresh fruits that are high in fiber, minerals, and vitamins… they will satisfy cravings without creating more. Enjoy a happy and healthy summer!


1 Sugar Addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit.
2 University of California San Francisco. Sugar Science the Unsweetened Truth.

3 Mahattanatawee K. et al. Total antioxidant activity and fiber content of select Florida-grown tropical fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Sep 20;54(19):7355-63.

Fang, al. Daily Mango (Mangifera Indica L.) Consumption for 42 Days Differentially Modulates Metabolism and Inflammation in Lean and Obese Individuals. The FASEB Journal, April 2017, vol. 31 no.1 Supplement 431.3.

O'Hara, C. Babjide, O. Simenson, A. Hermann, J. Payton, M. Smith, B. Lucas, E. The Effects of Acute Freeze-Dried Mango Consumption with a High-Fat Meal on Post-Prandial Responses in Healthy Young Adult Males. The FASEB Journal, April 2017, vol. 31 no. 1 Supplement 166.3.

Kim, H. Barnes, R. Fang, C. Talcott, S. Mertens-Talcott, SU. Intestinal Microbiota and Host Metabolism Respond Differentially in Lean and Obese Individuals Following Six-Week Consumption of Galloyl Derivatives from Mango (Mangifera Indica L.) Pulp. The FASEB Journal, April 2017, vol. 31 no. 1 Supplement 431.3.