Rambutan vs. Lychee — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
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.
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.
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).
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (188.8.131.52).
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.
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).
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).
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.
- Rambutan - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168167/nutrients
- Lychee - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169086/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.