Lychees 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

The lychee (Litchi chinensis), also known as litchi or lichee, is a small tropical fruit from the soapberry family.

It is closely related to other fruits, such as rambutan and longan.

Lychees are grown in subtropical regions throughout the world, and are especially popular in China (where they are native) and southeast Asia.

Known for their sweet and flowery flavor, they are typically eaten fresh, and are sometimes used in ice creams or processed into juice, wine, sherbert, and jelly.

They are a good source of several vitamins, minerals and healthy antioxidants.

This is what lychees look like:

Lychees in a White Bowl

The lychee is covered by an inedible, pink-red, leathery skin, which is removed before consumption. The flesh is white, and surrounds a dark seed in the center.

Contents

  1. Nutrition Facts
  2. Carbs and Fibers
  3. Vitamins and Minerals
  4. Plant Compounds
  5. Health Benefits
  6. Adverse Effects
  7. Summary

Nutrition Facts

Lychees are mainly composed of water (82%) and carbohydrates (16.5%) (1).

The table below shows the main nutrients in fresh and dried lychees.

Lychees - Nutrition Facts

General information
Amount
Calories66
Water82 %
Protein0.8 g
Carbs16.5 g
Sugar15.2 g
Fiber1.3 g
Fat0.4 g
Saturated0.1 g
Monounsaturated0.12 g
Polyunsaturated0.13 g
Omega-30.07 g
Omega-60.07 g
Trans fat~
Vitamins
Amount %DV
Vitamin A0 µg~
Vitamin C71.5 mg79%
Vitamin D0 µg~
Vitamin E0.07 mg0%
Vitamin K0.4 µg0%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)0.01 mg1%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.07 mg5%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)0.6 mg4%
Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid)~~
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.1 mg8%
Vitamin B120 µg~
Folate14 µg4%
Choline7.1 mg1%
Minerals
Amount %DV
Calcium5 mg1%
Iron0.31 mg4%
Magnesium10 mg3%
Phosphorus31 mg4%
Potassium171 mg4%
Sodium1 mg0%
Zinc0.07 mg1%
Copper0.15 mg16%
Manganese0.06 mg2%
Selenium0.6 µg1%
Carbohydrates
Amount
Carbohydrate16.5 g
Fiber1.3 g
Sugars15.2 g
Sucrose~
Glucose~
Fructose~
Lactose~
Maltose~
Galactose~
Starch~
Amino Acids
Amount
Tryptophan7 mg
Threonine~
Isoleucine~
Leucine~
Lysine41 mg
Methionine9 mg
Cysteine~
Tyrosine~
Valine~
Arginine~
Histidine~
Alanine~
Aspartic acid~
Glutamic acid~
Glycine~
Proline~
Serine~
Fats
Amount
Saturated fatty acids0.099 g
4:00 mg
6:00 mg
8:00 mg
10:00 mg
12:00 mg
14:02 mg
16:070 mg
18:024 mg
Monounsaturated fatty acids0.12 g
16:11 mg
18:1119 mg
20:10 mg
22:10 mg
Polyunsaturated fatty acids0.132 g
18:267 mg
18:365 mg
18:40 mg
20:40 mg
20:5 n-3 (EPA)0 mg
22:5 n-3 (DPA)0 mg
22:6 n-3 (DHA)0 mg
Sterols~
Cholesterol0 mg
Phytosterols~

Carbohydrates and Fibers

Besides water, lychees are mainly composed of carbohydrates.

A single lychee (either fresh or dried) contains 1.5-1.7 grams of carbs (1).

The majority of the carbs in lychees comes from sugars, which are responsible for their sweet taste. They are relatively low in fiber.

Bottom Line: Lychees are primarily composed of water and carbohydrates, most of which are sugars. They are relatively low in fiber.

Vitamins and Minerals

Lychees are a decent source of several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C.

  • Vitamin C: The most abundant vitamin in lychees. One lychee provides around 8% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C (1).
  • Copper: Lychees are a decent source of copper. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on hearth health (2).
  • Potassium: An essential nutrient that may improve heart health when eaten in sufficient amounts (3).

Bottom Line: Lychees are high in vitamin C, and contain decent amounts of copper and potassium.

Other Plant Compounds

Like other fruits, lychees are a good source of various antioxidant plant compounds.

In fact, they have been reported to contain higher levels of antioxidant polyphenols than several other common fruits (4).

These include:

  • Epicatechin: An antioxidant that may improve heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and diabetes (5, 6).
  • Rutin: A powerful antioxidant. Studies indicate that it may help protect against chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease (6, 7).

Oligonol

Oligonol is a dietary supplement that is often mentioned with a reference to lychees.

It is a patented mixture of antioxidants (proanthocyanidins) from lychee skin and green tea, developed by the Amino Up Chemical Corporation in Japan.

The antioxidants are chemically altered to increase their uptake from the gut (8).

Several studies indicate that Oligonol may reduce abdominal fat, fatigue, and inflammation after exercise (9, 10, 11, 12).

However, Oligonol is not found naturally in lychee fruits, so its health effects do not apply to lychees.

Bottom Line: Like most fruits and vegetables, lychees are a good source of antioxidants and other healthy plant compounds. These include epicatechin and rutin. They do not contain any Oligonol, as is often claimed.

Health Benefits of Lychees

The health effects of lychees have not been studied yet.

Woman in Lychee Garden

However, they are a fruit, and studies suggest that eating fruits and vegetables may improve health and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases (13, 14, 15).

In fact, lychees contain several healthy minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as potassium, copper, vitamin C, epicatechin, and rutin, which may help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (3, 6, 7, 16).

Animal studies also indicate that lychee extract may help fight liver cancer (17).

Further studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of lychees in humans.

Bottom Line: The health effects of lychees have not been studied directly. However, they contain several nutrients and antioxidants that are important for health.

Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns

When eaten in moderation as a part of a healthy diet, lychees do not have any known adverse health effects.

However, in rare cases they may cause allergies (18).

Summary

Lychees are popular in southeast Asia and China, but less common in other countries.

They taste good, and are also a good source of vitamin C and several beneficial antioxidants. This makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet.