Durian myths and facts: The truth about its connection to alcohol, cholesterol, libido and more

Durian is widely regarded as the King of Fruits because of its distinctive characteristics. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Durian is widely regarded as the King of Fruits because of its distinctive characteristics. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — The King of Fruits or Fruit of the Kings? Well, when it comes to durian, it’s probably both.

With its highly flavourful taste and strong odour – whether you find it pleasant or dreadful – the durian fruit is perhaps the most mysterious and at times notorious fruit of all.

Growing on trees in moist, tropical climate throughout Southeast Asia, the fruit has gained widespread fame because of its large thorn-covered husk, strong taste and of course, infamous scent, although some enjoy the smell and regard it as highly fragrant.

But, besides its distinctive characteristics, the fruit is clouded with numerous myths such as its supposed high cholesterol, potentially fatal if eaten with beer and is very “heaty” in nature. 

To clear the air, National University Hospital in Singapore recently published an infographic on their Facebook page rejecting such myths.

Malay Mail decided to reach out to Malaysia’s second largest durian retailer Durian King to get a broader insight about the spiky fruit. 

Durian King owner Erik Ong, who has been running his durian business since 2015 and has just ventured into the Australian market, agreed that there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the fruit.

Common myths and little-known facts about durian. — Graphic by Nurul Huda Mohd Dan
Common myths and little-known facts about durian. — Graphic by Nurul Huda Mohd Dan

Common myths about durian:

Myth 1: Eating durian with alcohol can kill you

Fortunately, Ong said there is no scientific evidence to show that durian and alcohol is a lethal combination.

According to him, durian in general can cause indigestion and bloating due to the high content of carbohydrates, hence consuming the fruit with alcohol, beer or any other gassy drinks like soda may add to the discomfort, but it certainly won’t be fatal.

Myth 2: Durian is loaded with cholesterol

If anyone tells you durian is high in cholesterol, you can now confidently say “no”!

Ong confirmed that durians have zero cholesterol and in fact is a heart-healthy food.

A 2018 study published in Malaysia also found that durians have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which help to lower bad cholesterol low-density lipoprotein and triglyceride levels.

Durian King owner Erik Ong has been running the business since 2015 and has recently ventured into the Australian market. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Durian King owner Erik Ong has been running the business since 2015 and has recently ventured into the Australian market. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Myth 3: Durian improves libido

There are quite a number of myths about how the durian can boost one’s sex drive, but sadly Ong said no scientific research has yet to prove it.

However, he pointed out that the government showed some interest in investigating the matter when one of the ministers brought up the topic in Dewan Rakyat.

In 2017, it was reported that the Malaysian government was looking at conducting detailed studies on claims that durians have aphrodisiac value.

The topic was brought up in Parliament by the then Agriculture and Agro-based Resources Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek after a friend asked him about the myth.

Myth 4: Durian is heaty and must be eaten with mangosteen or coconut water

It is quite common to see mangosteen and coconut water along with the spiky fruit when you visit a durian stall.

Rumour has it that durian and mangosteen or coconut water goes hand in hand because they reduce the heat of eating durian due to their cooling nature.

Ong admitted that some people may feel their body temperature rise or even start sweating when they eat durian but there is no scientific research to support the myth.

Studies show that durians have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to help lower bad cholesterol. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Studies show that durians have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to help lower bad cholesterol. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Now, let’s take a look at some of the little-known facts about the fruit:

Fact 1: Durian husk is magical

Ever wondered why durian sellers hit the husk with their thick metal knife before cutting it open?

Ong call it a “secret” trick among durian sellers to instantly ripen the unripe durians.

According to him, if a durian is unripe, all it takes is to hit the husk for 10 seconds with the knife and it will magically ripen the fruit.

Another benefit of the husk has got something to do with its infamous odour.

Ong agreed that for many durian lovers, the major problem after consuming the fruit is “durian breath”.

The late American TV personality Anthony Bourdain also once said that your breath after eating durian will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.

But Ong has a trick to get rid of the smell, and that’s by drinking water from the durian shell.

Durian sellers often hit the unripe durian with their knife to ripen the fruit. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Durian sellers often hit the unripe durian with their knife to ripen the fruit. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Fact 2: Durian boosts energy

Because they are packed with carbohydrates, Ong said durians are a great source of energy and can help replenish energy levels quickly.

Studies show that one seed of durian contains about 60 calories, so if you are a durian lover and can easily chomp down 10 seeds, you may rack up as much as 30 per cent of your daily 2,000 calories recommended for an average adult.

Fact 3: People with diabetes must watch their durian intake

If you have diabetes and must count your carbs, Ong advised to eat the fruit in moderation to avoid sugar spikes.

Just like other fruits, durian also contains simple sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose.

The stem of a fresh durian is always moist and intact. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
The stem of a fresh durian is always moist and intact. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Fact 4: Durians are best eaten eight hours after they fall from the tree

If you don’t already know, durians will drop onto the ground by itself when it is fully ripe.

But Ong said they are best eaten eight hours after their fall.

“That’s when they are fully matured and have the best aroma and taste,” he added.

He also pointed out that it’s best not to keep the fruit for more than two days as they’ll become moist and rotten.

To quickly examine the freshness of the durian, he said the easiest way is to check the stems.

“If the stem is moist and intact, they are fresh but if they are dry and almost falling apart, its best to pick another one,” he added.

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