Can you eat Christmas palm berries? (5 Main Facts)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, Can you eat Christmas palm berries? We will discuss the physical and chemical characteristics of Christmas palm berries, and also the nutritional value, and toxicity levels. 

Can you eat Christmas palm berries?

You can eat Christmas palm berries. Bats and birds already do eat Christmas palm berries and humans can do so as well. Although, Christmas palm berries do not taste quite good. Adonidia merrilli is commonly known as Adonidia palm, Manila palm or Christmas palm. Manila palm is native to the Philippines and Sabah (2).

Palm berries produce an uncountable number of fruits every year. The berries have either one, two, or three seeds in them. The Christmas palm berries are enjoyed as a masticatory as a substitute for betel nuts. 

Palm oil and palm kernel oil are extracted from the oil palm’s fruit flesh and seed, respectively, providing ingredients for numerous edible and personal care products as well as feedstock for biofuels. Breaking consumption down by industry sector, the processed food industry consumes approximately 72% of all palm oil production, the personal care and cleaning products industry consumes 18%, and the biofuel industry consumes the balance at 10% (7).

The palm trees are usually edible, however, not pleasant-tasting in most cases. The only palm berries that are poisonous are sago palm or Cycas Revoluta. Historically, the inner bark of the sago palm was used as a food source in Japan during times of famine. However, sago palm contains a powerful neurotoxin that can cause paralysis or even death if it is not prepared properly. The seeds can also be poisonous to humans and animals if ingested (1).

Acute toxicity of the fruits from A. merrilli was found to be 866.03 mg/Kg, according to a study (2).The palm berries are lethal when the dose exceeds 750 mg per body weight. 

What are Christmas palm berries?

Christmas palm berries are a red fruit that has two mesocarpo, one thin and the other thick. 

Christmas palms are also known as Manila palms, with the scientific name being Adonidia Merrilli. Christmas palm trees grow very well even in congested areas. 

Christmas palm trees have bright red fruits that have a festive aura to them. The red fruits would remind a person of red Christmas ornaments. The berries are ovoid in shape that are 3-4m 0.5 to 1 in length. The berries are beaked, with a pale green color when unripe but change to red on maturity (3). 

The Christmas palm trees originate from the Philippines, even though the US is no stranger to them. The palm trees grow as tall as 25 feet, while their trunk spreads to a diameter of 6 inches.

The Christmas palm tree grows in groups and is a pleasant sight as they curve outwards and put an interesting aura with the red, glossy fruits as embellishment. 

What are the conditions required by Christmas palm trees?

The Christmas palm trees thrive in plenty of sunlight and do not fare well if the temperature exceeds 30 Fahrenheit. 

What is the composition of Christmas palm berries?

Science tests have brought forth the nutritional value of Christmas palm berries. The research has concluded that Christmas palm berries make a viable source of nutrition for animals as well as humans. However, animals are not attracted to this fruit (4).

With that said, there is a lack of research on ornamental fruit palms, and it can make a reliable source of food in the long run. 

Research in Nigeria helped to detect the amino acids, fatty acids, and mineral content in Christmas palm berries. 

The Christmas palm berries have many bioactive compounds that have antioxidative and antimicrobial properties. The radical scavenging activity of Veitchia merrillii fruit extracts are attributed to the various bioactive compounds comprising flavonoids and phenolic compounds (4). However, some of these compounds are cytotoxic and are harmful at the cellular level. Chemical components such as tannins, cyanide and phytates were found in the fruit, which limit the amount to be safely consumed (2).

  1. Proteins

The most abundant amino acids in Christmas palm berries are glutamic acid and leucine.  Glutamic acid is an essential amino acid while leucine is a non-essential amino acid (2). 

Thus, Christmas palm berries can provide the consumer with proteins. Another amino acid present in Christmas palm berries is known as L-aspartic acid, which aids in mineral absorption, reduces blood pressure and fatigue, and protects the liver (2).

  1. Fatty acids

Fatty acids are fats such as oil, cholesterol, and steroids. Out of all the fatty acids found in food, they are classified as either saturated or unsaturated. The fatty acids in Christmas palm berries are palmitic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid (2). 

Oleic acid is known as omega-9 fatty acid and is found to prevent cholesterol, and heart diseases. Monounsaturated oils rich in oleic acid are currently touted to be the healthiest of the edible fats in the human diet (5).  

Palmitic acid, on the other hand, is a long-chain saturated fatty acid that must be consumed in modest quantities to prevent a rise in cholesterol levels. However, studies showed that high levels of palmitic acid in the diet did not significantly affect serum total and LDL-cholesterol levels. Fractional synthesis rate of cholesterol was not different between dietary treatments (high versus low palmitic acid content).  This suggested that there was no relation between endogenous synthesis of cholesterol and palmitic acid content in the diet (5).

Linoleic acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that support heart functions and also have an anti-inflammatory effect. The anti-inflammatory activity of these fatty acids has been reported in vitro and in vivo. Initially, cellular experiments with bone marrow–derived dendritic cells showed that treatment of cells with linoleic acids reduced the amplitude of cytokine secretion and expression of cellular inflammation markers (6). 

  1. Some other compounds 

Christmas Palm berries have a high carbohydrate and oxalate content. High carbohydrate levels mean that it is a filling food. Processing of the kernels could reduce the oxalate content (2).

On the other hand, a high oxalate level is a drawback of Christmas palm berries and implies that a person should consume them in controlled amounts. The other potentially unhealthy compounds that are found in Christmas palm berries are cyanides, phytates, and tannins that are found in minute quantities in Christmas berries (2). 

The minerals found to be present in Christmas palm berries are copper, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and manganese (2). 

To conclude, Christmas palm berries have acute toxicity levels and can be consumed in modest quantities. To get rid of the oxalate levels, the seeds would need to be processed. On the other hand, processing of these fruits will decrease their antioxidant level, thus the conversion of anthocyanins into other molecules during food processing, leads to loss (4).

In this brief guide, we answered the question, Can you eat Christmas palm berries? We discussed the physical and chemical characteristics of Christmas palm berries, and also the nutritional value, and toxicity levels. 

Citations

  1. Northrop, Robert J., et al. Cycas revoluta, sago palm. EDIS 2010, 4. University of Florida.
  2. Essien, Emmanuel E., et al. In vitro cytotoxic, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of Adoninia merrilli and Archontopheonix tukeri fruit pericarps. Pharmaceut Biosci J, 2017, 68-75.
  3. Gilmar, E. F. and Watson, D. G. Veitchia merrillii Christmas Palm. University of Florida.
  4. Vafaei, Ali. Antioxidant and cytotoxicity activities of Veitchia merrillii fruits. Diss. University of Malaya, 2013.
  5. Sundram, Kalyana, Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi, and Yew-Ai Tan. Palm fruit chemistry and nutrition. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr, 2003, 12, 355-362.
  6. Kolar, Matthew J., et al. Linoleic acid esters of hydroxy linoleic acids are anti-inflammatory lipids found in plants and mammals. J Biol Chem, 2019, 294, 10698.
  7. Voora, Vivek, et al. Global market report: Palm oil. Manitoba: Canada: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2019.