Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a small citrus fruit that’s grown in many parts of the world, including China, Japan, Australia, and Korea. Yuzu fruits resemble tiny grapefruits with bumpy, yellow skin, and have a highly acidic and sour flesh.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), yuzu is used as a natural remedy for conditions such as poor blood circulation and colds.
In addition to its medicinal uses, yuzu is an important culinary ingredient in Asian cuisine. Unlike other citrus fruits, such as oranges and clementines, yuzu fruits are intensely tart and are rarely consumed raw. Instead, the juice, rinds, and seeds of the yuzu fruit are used as ingredients in cocktails, teas, and sweet and savory dishes.
Studies show that yuzu fruits contain a variety of health-promoting nutrients and plant compounds, such as vitamin C and essential oils, that could positively impact health in several ways.
Here’s everything you need to know about yuzu, including its potential health benefits, nutrition facts, and how to incorporate it into your diet.
Yuzu is high in vitamin C, a water-soluble nutrient that must be consumed on a consistent basis, as the body lacks the ability to produce or store this critical vitamin.
Vitamin C plays a number of important roles in the body and is needed for the production of collagen, dietary iron absorption, protein metabolism, proper immune function, and the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
What’s more, vitamin C functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body, constantly working to protect cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing unstable compounds called free radicals. Additionally, vitamin C helps regenerate other antioxidants in the body, such as vitamin E.
Studies show that yuzu is an excellent source of vitamin C and provides more vitamin C than some popular citrus fruits such as mandarins and limes. Just one tablespoon of yuzu juice provides 15 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which covers 17% of the daily value (DV) for this nutrient. In comparison, the same serving of fresh lemon juice contains just 6 mg or 7% of the DV for vitamin C.
Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin C is essential to overall health, and studies show that people who consume vitamin C-rich diets have a lower risk of several health conditions compared to people who consume diets lower in this nutrient.
A 2021 study that included data on over 52,000 people found that higher blood levels of vitamin C were associated with a lower risk of cardioembolic stroke—a type of stroke caused by blood clot formation in the heart—and Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2021 review that included 57 meta-analyses found that when comparing the highest versus lowest vitamin C intake, people who consumed more vitamin C had a significantly lower risk of developing bladder cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, and kidney cancer. The researchers also found that high vitamin C intake decreased the risk of death caused by breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence.
This suggests that consuming more vitamin C-rich fruits, like yuzu, could be an effective way to protect your health.
In addition to vitamin C, yuzu contains a variety of plant compounds that have protective effects in the body. Yuzu peel and yuzu juice are excellent sources of antioxidants, including hesperidin and naringin, the two most concentrated flavonoid compounds in yuzu juice.
Flavonoids found in citrus fruits, such as hesperidin and naringin, are known to support health in various ways. According to research, these compounds help reduce oxidative stress, suppress inflammation, and improve blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. The health benefits related to eating citrus are thought to be due in large part to the flavonoids and other bioactive compounds found in these fruits.
For example, the protective compounds found in yuzu and other citrus fruits may help combat cellular damage, reduce inflammation, and lower certain disease risk factors, which may be why diets high in citrus fruits have been shown to offer protection against several health conditions, including heart disease and certain cancers.
Yuzu has a pleasing fragrance and is often used in aromatherapy treatments. Some research findings suggest that inhaling yuzu essential oils may help boost mood, reduce heart rate, and improve emotional distress in certain populations.
A 2017 study that included 17 women with premenstrual symptoms found that inhaling yuzu essential oil for ten minutes significantly decreased heart rate and significantly decreased premenstrual symptoms like tension, anxiety, anger, hostility, and fatigue.
Additionally, a 2021 study of 32 adults found that inhaling yuzu essential oil for two minutes reduced feelings of fatigue and improved feelings of refreshment. The yuzu treatment improved task performance, which the researchers attributed to yuzu’s ability to increase the concentration of oxygenated blood in the brain.
This suggests that yuzu aromatherapy may be an effective way to boost mood, increase energy, and improve attention, though more research is needed.
Limited research suggests that yuzu may be helpful in protecting against neurodegenerative diseases by positively impacting something called the blood–brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a protective network composed of tightly packed, specialized cells that line the inner surfaces of the blood vessels inside your brain. The BBB protects the brain by preventing toxins and other harmful substances from entering the brain.
Damage caused by compounds called reactive oxygen species (ROS) contributes to BBB breakdown and brain inflammation, which can lead to cognitive impairment.
Yuzu is rich in compounds, such as vitamin C and hesperidin, that may help protect against BBB breakdown and dysfunction by inhibiting the damage to a protein called claudin-5, which is responsible for the sealing properties of the BBB and regulating BBB permeability.
Claudin-5 dysfunction has been linked to brain and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and depression.
The antioxidants found in yuzu could also help prevent inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain, offering further protection from cognitive damage and decline.
Although these findings are promising, research is limited at this time, and more studies are needed to fully understand how yuzu may benefit and protect brain health.
Because yuzu is so tart, this fruit isn’t usually consumed raw. Instead, its juice and rind is used in small amounts in recipes like cocktails, teas, desserts, and meat dishes.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 3.5-ounce serving of yuzu juice:
- Calories: 67
- Carbohydrates: 20 grams (g)
- Iron: 1.2 mg or 7% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 100 mg or 111% of the DV
Yuzu juice is low in calories and high in carbs and vitamin C. It also contains a small amount of iron, a mineral that’s necessary for growth, development, and the production of hemoglobin—the oxygen-carry portion of blood.
Keep in mind that yuzu is typically consumed in small amounts. For example, a tablespoon of yuzu juice may be used in a cocktail, while a teaspoon of its zest may be added to a marinade to provide a citrusy flavor. This is because yuzu has an intense sour taste that easily overpower other flavors.
Yuzu is safe to consume for most people as long as it’s consumed appropriately. Consuming too much of any acidic and sour food could cause stomach upset, so it’s best to enjoy yuzu in small amounts.
Yuzu is a citrus fruit, so it’s unsafe for people who are allergic to citrus. People with a citrus allergy should avoid consuming yuzu and using yuzu-based products.
Additionally, although there’s no research on yuzu’s impact on blood clotting in humans, research conducted on rodents suggests that yuzu has blood-thinning properties. For this reason, people on blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin, should avoid consuming large amounts of yuzu.
You can find yuzu juice and fresh yuzu fruit as well as yuzu-based products like yuzu powder, jam, and vinegar at specialty grocery stores.
Fresh yuzu and yuzu-based products can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen.
Here are a few ways to incorporate yuzu into your diet:
- Add yuzu juice to cocktails and mocktails for a tangy, citrusy flavor.
- Use yuzu powder in place of lime and lemon zest to brighten the taste of seafood and meat dishes and add a hint of fresh flavor to decadent chocolate desserts.
- Spread yuzu jam on toast or pair it with cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit for a flavorful snack.
- Use fresh, sliced yuzu and a sweetener to make a refreshing, homemade yuzu tea.
- Make a traditional Japanese ponzu sauce using yuzu juice, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and kombu—a type of seaweed.
- Zest fresh yuzu rind on citrus-based desserts as a garnish.
- Add yuzu vinegar to salad dressings and homemade marinades.
Fresh yuzu juice is sour and can be overwhelming in large amounts. For this reason, it’s best to use yuzu sparingly and to taste yuzu products before using them in drinks and recipes.
Yuzu is a sour-tasting citrus fruit that’s popular in Asian cuisine.
This fruit is rich in health-promoting compounds, such as vitamin C and the flavonoids hesperidin and naringin, all of which have powerful antioxidant effects in the body.
Though research in humans is limited, some of the nutrients in yuzu fruits are known to benefit health and may reduce the risk of common health conditions such as certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, yuzu essential oil can be used as aromatherapy for boosting mood and improving energy levels.
If you’d like to incorporate yuzu into your diet, try using yuzu juice, yuzu jam, and other yuzu-based products to create citrusy drinks and sauces and to add a bright flavor to sweet and savory recipes.