You'll smell this fruit before you see it. Durian, also known as "the king of fruits" is a unique tropical fruit that looks somewhat similar to soursop and jackfruit, but is native to Southeast Asia and is especially known for its pungent smell, turning off people who aren't used to it, but enticing others with its astonishing health benefits.

In fact, the fruit is banned on local public transportation in Singapore, at several hotels in Thailand, and even some storefronts hang banners saying: "No Durian Fruit Allowed." That's because Durian Fruit is so smelly, it's possibly the stinkiest fruit on the planet. Tourists describe the smell as "rotten onions" or "old cheese."

Despite the smell, this fruit is one of the most expensive and sought-after in the world, for its rare volatile compounds that have been proven to reduce prevent chronic diseases, and keep blood sugar in check, while also being known to cure insomnia, and now scientists are looking into whether it has applications against cancer. Regardless of odor, some people actually love the taste and describe it as a "sweet caramel," and eat it daily. The fruit isn't for everyone, but Durian's astonishing health benefits are hard to argue with. Here's what you need to know about the fruit that's trending, even as it has people holding their noses.

1. Durian has been proven to help prevent diabetes

About 1 in 10 people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes, and more than 90 percent of them are coping with type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. However, eating certain foods high in fiber and antioxidants has been shown to help prevent and even reverse the symptoms of pre-diabetes, and durian fruit appears to be a powerful ally in the fight to regulate blood sugar in people who have high levels or want to bring theirs down.

In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, researchers explain that durian fruit is a rich source of polyphenols, plant-based compounds that help to lower your risk of diabetes and other diseases, including obesity. Researchers suggest that the fruit can help in the  "prevention of oxidative stress" as well as lower the incidence of "diabetic and obesity complications." In addition, writing about the powerful fruit, researchers added that durian contains "specific components that can be used as therapeutic complements to combat diabetes, obesity and their associated metabolic [conditions]."

These researchers cited another interesting study that explained how durian fruit "improves glucose homeostasis by altering insulin secretion." While you need some glucose to fuel your cells, too much can cause an insulin surge and a signal to the body to store fat. The authors of the study explained: "After ingestion of durian, the insulin response curve of 10 diabetic patients was significantly improved compared to the ingestion of other fruits (mango, pineapple, banana, rambutan) and control (no fruit)." Durian works to keep blood sugar stable.

2. Durian fruit may help boost your metabolism

Our metabolism needs rest and restorative sleep in order to function properly, but there are also some foods that help boost your metabolism naturally. Most of these foods are plant-based, low in fat, high in fiber, and good at keeping our energy levels burning steadily. Durian is at the top of the list. In the same study, when rats were fed durian (in addition to a  cholesterol-rich diet) "it positively influenced the plasma lipid profile, plasma glucose, and antioxidant activity," according to researchers, making durian a "metabolic enhancer."

3. Durian fruit may help promote bone health

Bone health is important for everyone but is critical for anyone over 50 or runners, dancers, and athletes who are subject to over-use injuries. A study published in the National Library of Medicine examined the "association between fruits and vegetables and bone mineral density and osteoporosis in adults." The review study found that a diet rich in plant-based foods was associated with higher BMD and lower the presence of osteoporosis in middle-aged and elderly adults. Researchers found that eating fruit had more of an impact on bone density health than vegetables. One of the fruits used in the study was durian along with persimmons, mangoes, and other melons. All of these showed significant positive associations with BMD.

Durian is also rich in potassium, a nutrient beneficial for bone density. Potassium may neutralize acid load and reduce calcium loss, according to a study that concluded: "Dietary potassium intake was associated with improved bone mineral density in older men and postmenopausal women." Durian fruit is known for its high potassium content, with 426 milligrams for every 100 grams, which is almost double the amount of potassium in a banana.

4. Durian fruit may help people get a better night's sleep

In a review study published by the National Library of Medicine, the authors call out the many health benefits of durian, which include that it may "cure insomnia." Although they are referring to reports on the fruit without backing up the claim with science, there are other health publications that provide more evidence that durian may help you sleep better because it contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that has been proven to help people fall asleep easier.

"Tryptophan, at a dose of 1 gram taken 45 minutes before bedtime, will decrease the time taken to fall asleep in those with mild insomnia and in those with a long sleep latency," according to a study, also published by the National Library of Medicine, If you have trouble falling asleep or are diagnosed with a sleeping disorder, always consult your doctor first, and if you're looking for a natural remedy, but don't want to take a supplement or tryptophan, health experts recommend eating durian fruit before bedtime for a better night's sleep.

5. Durian fruit may help digestion and promote weight loss

Compared to other tropical fruits like mango and papaya, durian contains an even higher amount of soluble fiber with 9 grams for one cup of durian fruit, compared to papaya that has 3 grams of fiber per fruit and mango with 5 grams per fruit. This kind of fiber slows down the rate at which foods are absorbed and digested which increases bowel movements and helps people with constipation. Because fiber slows down the rate of digestion, we are likely to feel fuller longer which may result in weight loss.

However, durian fruit is high in calories with 357 calories in a cup but it also contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B complex making it a nutritional powerhouse and not to be dismissed for its calorie count.

Gold pillow durian
Getty Images

6. Durian fruit may reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including certain cancers

Durian is so rich in polyphenols, plant-based compounds that help lower disease risk, that researchers are now looking for applications that will use durian to help fight heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Foods. "Durian is rich in bioactive compounds, and hence can be used as an active ingredient for the development of functional foods," the researchers concluded. Studies are underway to figure out how to harness the power of these compounds for pharmaceutical purposes, according to another study. The polyphenols in durian have been shown in the lab to halt the proliferation of cell growth and researchers hope to someday use this in the prevention of cancer growth.

Note: Not all durian species in nature are edible. It's best to buy your fruit from a trusted grocery store or market. In the US, many durian fruits are sold in Asian markets or you can order them online. Durian fruit in freeze-dried form is sold on Amazon. One such link is here.

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