The A-Z of Indian Superfoods: Kokum

By Adarsh Soni
12 Sep 2021

When you hear the word kokum, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is Marathi and Konkani cuisine. And that’s fair because this tangy tropical fruit is most commonly found in the Western Ghats of India. Almost reminiscent of cherries with its deep red colour and berry-like appearance, kokum is a summer fruit that is extremely versatile in nature. From sherbet to butter—it can be used in plenty of ways. But most commonly, the fruit is used as a tamarind alternative in sautés and curries, thanks to its sour aroma. It can also be used as a natural food colouring ingredient as it lends a purple colour to the dishes it’s used in.

Kokum is also rich in antioxidants and contains several important nutrients like Vitamin-A, Vitamin-B3, Vitamin-C, folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc, due to which it has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine since the dawn of time. Let’s have a closer look at the health benefits of kokum


The health benefits of kokum

Contains powerful antioxidants

Free radicals are harmful compounds that are known to cause major health-related problems including heart attack, cancer and diabetes. Antioxidants are micronutrients that can help neutralise these free radicals of their actions and potentially prevent several diseases. According to research by Dr Manoj R Chate, Department of Food Engineering and Technology, Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Punjab, kokum contains naturally occurring compounds like citric acid, malic acid, polyphenols, flavonoids and ascorbic acid—all of which are known to be powerful antioxidants.


Helps improve digestion

Kokum extract has both antifungal and antibacterial properties. According to a study published in the American-Eurasian Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, kokum rind extracts showed antifungal effects against commonly found fungi species like Candida albicans, Penicillium and Aspergillus flavus. Its antibacterial nature counteracts the harmful effects of certain bacteria that cause health-related problems like indigestion, dysentery, constipation, ulcers, bloating, nausea, and flatulence.


Can help reduce obesity

Kokum fruit juice is very acidic with a pH level somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0. According to a research paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, kokum rind is made up of around 20 to 30 percent hydroxy citric acid which has been proven to reduce both cholesterol levels and obesity. It is commonly used as an appetite suppressant and can induce healthy weight loss.


Can help with anxiety

Due to the presence of flavonoids in kokum, its moderate consumption can help ease mild anxiety and also uplift your mood. This is because these flavonoids help boost serotonin levels in your body. Serotonin is a popular mood elevator and can help treat several mental-health related issues.


Good for skin

According to research by Dr Subhash Padhye, Department of Pathology, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, USA, Kokum, when used in the form of butter, is a potent emollient. When applied topically, it is known to moisturise and soothe inflamed skin, along with curing dry scalp. Kokum butter is also very lightweight and doesn’t leave an oily cast after its application, making it the perfect moisturiser for acne-prone skin. It is also non-comedogenic, which means that it won’t clog your pores unlike other face oils and body butters like coconut oil, shea butter etc.


How to consume kokum

Use kokum as a tamarind alternative in curries.
The dried kokum fruit packs a powerful punch of nutrients and is way healthier than tamarind. You can easily make it a part of your diet by soaking the dried kokum fruit in water and grinding it into a fine paste. This paste can be added to a wide variety of savoury dishes.



Drink it in the form of juice.
Due to its cooling properties, kokum juice or sherbet is a mainstay in the southern and western parts of the country. It can be easily concocted by grinding a paste out of soaked kokum fruit and cooking the paste with sugar and rock salt. Once the sugar dissolves, refrigerate this mixture and use it as a concentrate for summer drinks.



Preserve it for year-long use.
Since kokum is a seasonal fruit, it is only available for a limited period of time. But that can be easily solved by preserving the fruit in the form of a pickle or jam so that you can enjoy it all year long. Fermented foods are also rich in probiotics, which are important for gut health.

With inputs by Dr Lakshmi K, Ph.D Food Science & Nutrition, University of Georgia (USA), Head Nutritionist, URLife


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