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Lychee vs. Rambutan — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on August 04, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan
Lychee
vs
Rambutan

Summary

Rambutan's peel is covered in numerous hairy spines, while lychee has a thin bumpy peel. Lychee is almost half the size of an average rambutan.

Rambutan tends to have a sweeter and more tart flavor with a softer texture. Lychee has a floral taste and a crunchier pulp.

Lychee is lower in calories and richer in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals than rambutan. Lychee also has a slightly lower glycemic index.

 

Introduction

Rambutan and lychee are two tropical Asian fruits closely related to each other. These two fruits can be so similar that some wonder if they're the same. This article will discuss the differences and similarities between rambutan and lychee, focusing on their nutrition and health impact. 

Classification and Origin

Rambutan and lychee have many apparent similarities. This is because they belong to the same Sapindaceae or soapberry family, along with fruits like longan and horse chestnut. They do, however, belong to different genera. Rambutan is a part of the Nephelium genus, while lychee makes up the Litchi genus.

Lychee is native to southern China, while the origins of rambutan can be found in Southeast Asia.   

Appearance and Taste

Rambutan and lychee are hard to tell apart at first glance. Both fruits are small, red, and round with white, almost translucent, fruits inside. However, rambutan has a distinctive quality - numerous hair-like long spines on its shell. The name rambutan stems from the Malay word for hair - rambut. It is sometimes even called "hairy lychee."

Lychee fruit is usually smaller with a thinner and bumpier peel.

Rambutan and lychee are more alike on the inside, with white jellylike flesh and glossy brown seeds.

Rambutan and lychee can both have creamy and sweet flavors, depending on the variety and level of ripeness. However, rambutan is usually softer and sweeter, sometimes with sour hints, while lychee can have a crispier texture and a more floral taste.  

Nutrition

The infographics below show the nutritional information for raw litchis and rambutan, canned in syrup, as provided by the USDA Food Database. However, we will also discuss the nutritional properties of fresh raw rambutan (1).

Macronutrients and Calories

Rambutan and lychee are similar in macronutrients, consisting of around 80% water and 20% nutrients. Rambutan tends to be only a little denser in nutrients due to carbohydrates.

Calories

Rambutan and lychee are low-calorie foods. Rambutan, canned in syrup, is higher in calories, providing 82 calories per 100g. A 100g serving of lychee contains 66 calories.

The same serving size of fresh rambutan provides around 75 calories (2). 

Carbohydrates

Rambutan, canned in syrup, is higher in carbohydrates than fresh lychee, containing 5g more carbs per 100g serving.

Fresh rambutan contains roughly the same number of carbohydrates as fresh lychee (2). However, lychee is richer in dietary fiber compared to rambutan.

Protein and Fats

Rambutan and lychee contain negligible amounts of fats and proteins, less than 0.5g and 1g, respectively, per 100g,

Vitamins

Lychee is a better source of vitamins than rambutan, being 15 times richer in vitamin C, 5 times richer in vitamin B6, and richer in vitamin B2 and folate.

Nevertheless, rambutan is higher in vitamin B3.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Lychee
8
:
Contains more Vitamin C +1359.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +195.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +400%
Contains more Folate +75%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +18.2%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +124.2%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 0% 2% 0% 239% 3% 15% 12% 0% 24% 11% 0% 4% 1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 0% 0% 17% 4% 6% 26% 2% 5% 6% 0% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin C +1359.2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +195.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +400%
Contains more Folate +75%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +18.2%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +124.2%

Minerals

Lychee also wins in the mineral category. Lychee is a better copper, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium source.

Rambutan is somewhat richer in calcium, iron, and zinc.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Magnesium +42.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +244.4%
Contains more Potassium +307.1%
Contains less Sodium -90.9%
Contains more Copper +124.2%
Contains more Calcium +340%
Contains more Iron +12.9%
Contains more Zinc +14.3%
Contains more Manganese +523.6%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 2% 12% 8% 14% 16% 1% 2% 50% 8% 4%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 7% 14% 5% 4% 4% 2% 3% 22% 45% 0%
Contains more Magnesium +42.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +244.4%
Contains more Potassium +307.1%
Contains less Sodium -90.9%
Contains more Copper +124.2%
Contains more Calcium +340%
Contains more Iron +12.9%
Contains more Zinc +14.3%
Contains more Manganese +523.6%

Glycemic Index

Lychee and rambutan have glycemic index values of 48 and 59, respectively (3, 4).

The glycemic index of lychee is a little lower than that of rambutan, which puts lychee in the low glycemic index category. In contrast, rambutan is classified as having a moderate glycemic index.

If interested, you can find more information about the glycemic index of rambutan.

Weight Loss & Diets

  • Lychee and rambutan are not keto-friendly due to their high carb content. Reduce your net carb consumption to 20–30 g daily to stay in ketosis.
  • The Mediterranean diet is based on the dietary habits of the 21 Mediterranean countries, which include Greece, Italy, and Turkey. Although residents in this diverse location eat a range of foods, fruits are part of their diet, so both of these products are recommended during this diet.
  • The Paleo diet, also known as the caveman diet or Stone-Age diet, is a dietary plan based on the intake of wild foods that were popular during the Palaeolithic epoch (2.5-0.01 million years ago), so rambutan and lychee are recommended during this diet.
  • Fasting intermittently has more in common with eating habits than diets because it regulates when you eat rather than what you eat. As a result, either of these products can be consumed while following this diet.
  • Additionally, they can be consumed as part of the DASH diet.

Health Impact

Vitamins

As mentioned above, lychee is a good vitamin C, B6, B2, and B9 source, while rambutan is rich in vitamin B3. Moderate consumption of rambutan and lychee may help prevent a deficiency in these vitamins.

The most prevalent reason for ascorbate (vitamin C) deficiency is a diet deficient in citrus fruits and green vegetables. Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include poor wound healing, easy bruising, bleeding gums, painful glossitis, and anemia.

Isoniazid therapy (used to treat tuberculosis) is the most common cause of deficiency in pyridoxine (vitamin B6). Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include sideroblastic anemia, convulsions, cheilosis, and stomatitis.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) insufficiency can lead to corneal neovascularization, which is harmful to vision; symptoms include cheilosis, stomatitis, and a magenta-colored tongue.

Alcoholism, pregnancy (body stores are depleted in 3 months), and hemodialysis are the most prevalent causes of folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency. A lack of vitamin B9 can lead to megaloblastic anemia, and a lack in early pregnancy can lead to neural tube abnormalities in the fetus.

Pellagra can be caused by a lack of niacin (vitamin B3). Pellagra symptoms include diarrhea, dementia, and dermatitis ("the three Ds"). If not treated, it may cause death.

Cardiovascular Health

Rambutan peel extract could inhibit ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme), so it may reduce arterial blood pressure like ACE-inhibitor medications (Captopril, Lisinopril, etc.) (5). This mechanism is unknown for lychee but may also regulate blood pressure and heart rate (6).

Because some flavonoids in rambutan peel have a diuretic action, they may lower blood pressure by helping the body flush away extra fluid (7). Lychee contains minerals (potassium and copper) that aid in regulating body fluid balance (6).

Lychee and rambutan consumption may decrease total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in the blood, which is essential for lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and for people with myocardial infarction (8.9.10.11).

It is known that high-dose niacin (vitamin B3) can be used to treat hyperlipidemia. As mentioned above, rambutan is rich in vitamin B3; the same can't be said for lychee.

Diabetes

Lychee and rambutan are low to moderate glycemic index fruits, meaning their intake does not spike blood glucose levels.

Rambutan peel and rambutan seeds have been studied to have anti-diabetic qualities; however, there's less research on the effect of rambutan pulp on diabetes (1).

Lychee may also have anti-diabetic properties by helping reduce blood sugar levels (12). 

Cancer

The extract of rambutan fruit has been studied to possess anticancer qualities and researched particularly against liver cancer cells (13).

Lychee has been tested to have similar anticancer effects against breast cancer (14).

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: August 04, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Grigoryan

Infographic

Lychee vs Rambutan infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Protein +27.7%
Contains more Fats +109.5%
Contains more Other +91.3%
Contains more Carbs +26.3%
Equal in Water - 78.04
17% 82%
Protein: 0.83 g
Fats: 0.44 g
Carbs: 16.53 g
Water: 81.76 g
Other: 0.44 g
21% 78%
Protein: 0.65 g
Fats: 0.21 g
Carbs: 20.87 g
Water: 78.04 g
Other: 0.23 g
Contains more Protein +27.7%
Contains more Fats +109.5%
Contains more Other +91.3%
Contains more Carbs +26.3%
Equal in Water - 78.04

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Lychee Rambutan
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Lychee Rambutan Opinion
Net carbs 15.23g 19.97g Rambutan
Protein 0.83g 0.65g Lychee
Fats 0.44g 0.21g Lychee
Carbs 16.53g 20.87g Rambutan
Calories 66kcal 82kcal Rambutan
Sugar 15.23g Rambutan
Fiber 1.3g 0.9g Lychee
Calcium 5mg 22mg Rambutan
Iron 0.31mg 0.35mg Rambutan
Magnesium 10mg 7mg Lychee
Phosphorus 31mg 9mg Lychee
Potassium 171mg 42mg Lychee
Sodium 1mg 11mg Lychee
Zinc 0.07mg 0.08mg Rambutan
Copper 0.148mg 0.066mg Lychee
Manganese 0.055mg 0.343mg Rambutan
Selenium 0.6µg Lychee
Vitamin A 0IU 3IU Rambutan
Vitamin E 0.07mg Lychee
Vitamin C 71.5mg 4.9mg Lychee
Vitamin B1 0.011mg 0.013mg Rambutan
Vitamin B2 0.065mg 0.022mg Lychee
Vitamin B3 0.603mg 1.352mg Rambutan
Vitamin B5 0.018mg Rambutan
Vitamin B6 0.1mg 0.02mg Lychee
Folate 14µg 8µg Lychee
Choline 7.1mg Lychee
Vitamin K 0.4µg Lychee
Tryptophan 0.007mg Lychee
Lysine 0.041mg Lychee
Methionine 0.009mg Lychee
Saturated Fat 0.099g Rambutan
Monounsaturated Fat 0.12g Lychee
Polyunsaturated fat 0.132g Lychee

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Lychee Rambutan
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
24%
Lychee
5%
Rambutan
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
11%
Lychee
10%
Rambutan

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Rambutan
Rambutan is lower in Sugar (difference - 15.23g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Rambutan
Rambutan is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.099g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Lychee
Lychee contains less Sodium (difference - 10mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Lychee
Lychee is lower in glycemic index (difference - 11)
Which food is cheaper?
Lychee
Lychee is cheaper (difference - $2.7)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Lychee
Lychee is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Lychee - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169086/nutrients
  2. Rambutan - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168167/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.