Jackfruit may have an unusual name and appearance, but it is an incredibly nutritious tropical fruit that has become very popular in recent years, due to its potential benefits for human health.
What is Jackfruit?
Scientifically known as Artocarpus heterophyllus, jackfruit is a tree that is native to the Indian subcontinent and is also known as the jacktree or jak. Closely related to figs and mulberries, these trees produce large, oblong fruits that are also known as jackfruit. These are unique fruits, growing up to 80 pounds in weight, making them the largest tree-borne fruits in the world. The trees are also quite prolific, a fact that has been enjoyed by tropical and Indian cultures for the past 6,000 years but the wonders of this fruit have only recently been spread to the rest of the world.
The fruit is cultivated throughout the South Asian and Pacific region of the world, but increasingly, it is being grown in many tropical areas due to an increase in demand and the hardy, prolific nature of the trees. The fruits are actually made up of hundreds of individual flowers and the meat of the fruit is technically the “petals” of these combined fruits, commonly called “bulbs”. The sweet taste and pleasant aroma of this fruit add to its popularity, along with its versatility in many different meals and varying preparations, from desserts to savory meals, salads, candied varieties and roasted fruit, as well as simply eating the fruit raw. The flavor of jackfruit has been compared to a cross between mangoes, bananas, and pineapples. The growing global popularity of this unique fruit is due to the impressive nutritional content.
Jackfruit Nutrition Facts
In terms of antioxidants, there are a number of powerful compounds such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. Most importantly, jackfruit contains a notable amount of protein, making this an important subsistence food in certain regions of the world. It is also high in calories, very high in water (roughly 80%) and is extremely low in fat.
Benefits of Jackfruit
The most impressive benefits of jackfruit include its ability to protect the skin, boost the immune system, provide an energy burst, lower cancer risk, improve vision health, aid respiratory conditions, improve sleep, help with weight loss, lower risk of diabetes, strengthen the heart, reduce blood pressure, optimize digestion and support the metabolism.
With a healthy dose of antioxidants, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, this fruit can be very beneficial for skin health, as it can minimize the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress, which can include wrinkles, blemishes and age spots, while also giving your skin a healthy glow.
Promotes Weight Loss
Due to the surprisingly low-calorie content, coupled with the rich nutrient supply and dietary fiber, this fruit is excellent for people trying to lose weight. It can induce satiety and prevent overeating and snacking between meals, without compromising your daily caloric restrictions or goals.
The high levels of dietary fiber found in jackfruit (1.5 grams per 100 grams of fruit) make it very good for stimulating digestive processes and reducing symptoms of constipation, bloating and cramping. It can induce peristaltic motion and bulk up the stool, while also helping to improve the efficiency of nutrient uptake in the gut.
With a range of B vitamins and a decent amount of protein, this fruit is an excellent energy source and is widely relied on as a staple food in certain tropical cultures. The fruit can improve your energy metabolism with healthy sugars and carbohydrates, without adding much fat to your overall intake.
The presence of vitamin C and various antioxidants makes the fruit an excellent booster for the immune system. Vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells, while antioxidants will prevent oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals before they can cause chronic disease and inflammation.
Improves Respiratory Health
This fruit is legendary for its ability to heal respiratory conditions and even alleviate symptoms of asthma. This fruit has a number of natural compounds that can reduce the allergic response of the body and prevent the wheezing, and difficult breathing that accompanies many respiratory afflictions.
Reduces Blood Pressure
There is a notable amount of potassium found in jackfruit, and a 100-gram serving can provide more than 5% of your daily recommended intake of this mineral. Potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can relax blood vessels and arteries, which will reduce blood pressure and generally lower the stress on the cardiovascular system, lowering your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
B vitamins are critical components of metabolic processes throughout the body, and jackfruit is a great source for pyridoxine and thiamine, as well as a good source of folate, niacin and riboflavin. This can improve energy metabolism and help support weight loss efforts.
A good supply of fiber and natural sugars is an excellent way to control blood sugar levels and lower your risk of diabetes. By regulating the release of glucose and insulin in the body, and improving insulin sensitivity, this fruit is an excellent way to prevent or manage diabetic symptoms.
There is a good amount of beta-carotene found in jackfruit, which is partly why this fruit is considered a new “superfood”. Beta-carotene breaks down into vitamin A, a powerful antioxidants that is specifically linked to reducing oxidative stress in the eyes, preventing macular degeneration and slowing the onset of cataracts.
Jackfruit contains a significant level of magnesium, an essential mineral that can affect neurotransmitter levels in the body, helping to regulate Circadian rhythms and ensure healthy sleep. If you struggle with insomnia or regularly interrupted sleep, having jackfruit before bed may help alleviate your exhaustion.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
The fiber content in jackfruit can help to manage your cholesterol levels and prevent the deposition of plaque in the arteries and blood vessels. Furthermore, the antioxidants and vitamin C in this fruit can help to repair the cardiovascular system and reduce oxidative stress, which can cause blood vessels to break down, leading to coronary heart disease.
How to Prepare Jackfruit?
You can prepare jackfruit in a number of ways, including raw, roasted, candied, steamed and boiled, as well as in salads, desserts, meat dishes and curries, among many others, but the initial preparation of a jackfruit is where most people struggle. These fruits take a bit of work before you can eat them, similar to a pineapple. After that, the recipe ideas are truly endless for this unique tropical fruit. Most supermarkets or exotic grocers will sell chunks of jackfruit (4-6 pounds), rather than full jackfruits, which have a tough outer shell that can be difficult to penetrate. Before starting this process, be sure to rub vegetable oil on your hands, as the inside of a jackfruit has a very sticky, resinous substance that is difficult to remove.
Step 1 – Remove the core from the center of the jackfruit, as this is what binds the bulbs (pods, petals) together.
Step 2 – Each of the separate pods should now be visible, coated in thick, fibrous strands.
Step 3 – Cut off each of these individual white/yellow pods.
Step 4 – Carefully trim off the fibrous strands from around the pod with a knife.
Step 5 – Slice along the side of each pod, exposing the central pit. Remove this pit.
Step 6 – The fruit can then be eaten raw, refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for future use!
Side Effects of Jackfruit
Despite the many health benefits, there are some potential side effects to jackfruits that should be taken into consideration, such as problems with blood sugar, pregnancy issues, surgical complications and possible allergic reactions.
- Diabetes – One of the notable effects of jackfruit is its ability to lower insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous when combined with blood sugar-lowering medication.
- Surgical Complications – There are certain sedative properties of jackfruit that could potentially cause complications with surgical anesthesia, so it is not recommended for people preparing for surgery.
- Allergies – Some people do have allergies to jackfruit, particularly those who are also allergic to plants in the birch family, and these reactions can include gastrointestinal distress, as well as swelling of the mouth, lips and tongue.
- Pregnancy – Some anecdotal reports have said that consuming jackfruit can stimulate menstruation, and the fruit is therefore not recommended for pregnant women, as it could potentially cause a miscarriage.