The most important health benefits of ackee fruit include its ability to lower blood pressure, boost energy levels, support healing and growth, aid digestion, protect against diabetes, lower cholesterol, build strong bones, improve the immune system, and increase circulation.
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What is Ackee Fruit?
Although it was not widely known outside of Jamaica for many years, ackee is a colorful and delicious fruit that is a popular addition to many exotic dishes and has become a mainstay in Caribbean cuisine, both for its flavor and its beneficial health properties. Scientifically known as Blighia sapida, this fruit is actually native to many of the nations of West Africa, not Jamaica, but it was likely exported there on a slave ship in the 18th century, where it became internationally known. The tree on which ackee grows is an evergreen, and the fruit itself resembles a pear. It is green in its unripened state, but it gradually turns to a yellow, orange, and then reddish fruit that is very recognizable. The fruit eventually splits to reveal three large black seeds surrounded by spongy flesh called the aril, which is the edible part of the fruit.
Most famously, ackee is the complementary part of saltfish and ackee, the national dish of Jamaica, and is beloved in almost every shop and street of that Caribbean island. More important than its flavor and availability, this fruit is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and organic components that make it a useful dietary tool for a number of health conditions. Now, let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of ackee.
Health Benefits of Ackee Fruit
The rich fiber content of ackee makes it an ideal digestive aid, given that dietary fiber helps to bulk up stool, as well as eliminate constipation, by inducing peristaltic motion in the gut. This helps move food along, preventing bloating, cramping, constipation, and other inflammation of the colon, which can lead to even more serious issues, such as colorectal cancer. Dietary fiber also helps to lower cholesterol and boost heart health!
Lowers Blood Pressure
For those suffering from elevated blood pressure, most natural health practitioners suggest increasing your intake of potassium, which is easily accomplished with ackee. The high potassium content acts as a vasodilator, reducing the strain and work that your cardiovascular system must do to pump blood through the body, thereby lowering your chances of atherosclerosis and damage to your arteries and blood vessels.
Instead of being packed with empty carbs and calories, ackee is rich in complex, energy-producing carbs, which can help to regulate the sugar levels in your body. By preventing the dips and spike in glucose levels that you get from simple sugars, ackee is able to help fend off Type II diabetes. The high fiber content in ackee is also a great way to regulate glucose and insulin levels in the blood.
Improves Heart Health
Aside from its impact on blood pressure, ackee also boasts an impressive range of beneficial fatty acids, including stearic, linoleic, and palmitic acids. Those particular acids are unsaturated fats, which is the type of fat that you want to improve your heart health and lower dangerous cholesterol levels. By eliminating most unhealthy saturated fats from your diet, you protect yourself against atherosclerosis, strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart disease.
Boosts Protein Power
One of the key ingredients in a healthy diet is protein, and getting it from a delicious fruit like ackee is even smarter! Protein is essentially the building block of cells, muscle tissue, and other important aspects of our body that needs to be continually replenished. Ackee isn’t always praised for its high protein content, but it is unusually high for a fruit.
Increases Bone Strength
There are a number of essential minerals found in ackee, including calcium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc, all of which contribute to healthier bones and help to prevent bone loss and demineralization. Having a consistently high intake of minerals can slow, stop, or reverse the effects of osteoporosis as we age, leaving us stronger for longer!
One of the most common vitamins found in fruits and vegetables is vitamin C, and ackee is no exception. With a rich ascorbic acid content, ackee helps to boost our immune system by promoting the development of white blood cells, and contributing some of its antioxidant powers to preventing chronic diseases and cellular mutation. Furthermore, vitamin C is an integral part of collagen, which is required by the body to make muscles, blood vessels, and tissues.
If you suffer from anemia, it means you have a lack of iron in your diet. Ackee’s iron content solves that problem perfectly, ensuring that you avoid the side effects of anemia, such as weakness, cognitive disorders, lightheadedness, and digestive distress. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which is necessary to produce RBC (red blood cells).
Word of Caution: Despite the many benefits of this fruit, it is highly toxic when eaten before it ripens. Never consume an ackee fruit until it opens naturally; that is when you know it is safe. Prior to that, it can cause “Jamaican vomiting sickness”, and in the most extreme cases, coma and death. In other words, be careful where you get your ackee for that saltfish dish!