Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, capable of weighing in at 100 pounds. While not yet well-known in the U.S. and Canada, it has been widely cultivated in Southeast Asia for centuries, where it's a dietary staple prized for its purported therapeutic benefits.
Although still a specialty produce item in North America, available only in Asian markets, jackfruit may soon be coming to a grocery store near you.
When cooked, it soaks up flavourings like a sponge and takes on a meat-like consistency. This unusual melon is fast becoming a favourite among vegans, vegetarians and health-conscious consumers trying to limit their intake of saturated fats. You'll find gourmet food trucks now offering "pulled pork" jackfruit tacos. Restaurants from Los Angeles, to Columbus to Brooklyn, have begun serving dishes such as jackfruit salads and meatballs.
Jackfruit nutritional information
A one-cup serving of jackfruit contains about 150 calories, supplies 10 per cent of your daily fibre needs, is a good source of complete plant protein and is almost fat-free. Jackfruit is a plentiful source of heart healthy magnesium, potassium and vitamins B-6 and vitamin C.
1. Jackfruit helps keep blood sugar levels under control.
A nutritional assessment of jackfruit determined that this melon has a low glycemic index, meaning that helps keep glucose levels steady and is a diabetic-friendly food. In one study, leaf and plant extracts were administered to both type 1 diabetics and non-diabetics and both groups experienced "significantly improved glucose tolerance." Type 2 diabetics or pre-diabetics, which account for 50 per cent of the U.S. population, also benefit from stable blood sugar levels.
2. Jackfruit has proven anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies have identified pathogen-fighting chemicals called phenolic compounds and phytochemicals in jackfruit, which exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. These compounds may prove instrumental in developing therapies to treat inflammation-associated disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, gastro-intestinal diseases and Parkinson's disease.
3. Jackfruit helps keep blood pressure in check.
While about one-third of the U.S. population suffers from high blood pressure, the prevalence increases to almost 70 per cent for adults 65 and older. Jackfruit is a plentiful source of vitamin B-6, as well as potassium and magnesium, two minerals that we don't absorb as efficiently as we age. These micronutrients help regulate blood pressure.
4. Eating jackfruit supplies a hefty dose of vitamin C.
Eating one serving of jackfruit supplies over one-third of our daily needs for vitamin C. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a meta-analysis demonstrated that older adults metabolize this anti-cell aging vitamin less efficiently, so it's important to consume vitamin C-rich foods like jackfruits. Adequate vitamin C intake helps protect against heart disease, stroke and cataracts.
5. Jackfruit helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Many older adults suffer from uncomfortable constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A one-cup serving of jackfruit satisfies 10 per cent of daily fibre needs. Increasing fibre intake can ameliorate these conditions and lead to better health.
Where to buy it
Because jackfruits are so large and difficult to dismantle, I recommend buying canned jackfruit, which is available in some mainstream grocers and in many health food stores. Or shop Amazon.
How to eat it
Because of jackfruit's chameleon ability to take on other flavours and masquerade as a meat substitute, it lends itself to an almost endless variety of preparations. It works well in both savoury and sweet dishes.
A traditional way to enjoy raw jackfruit is Kathal Ki Biryani, a dish of fried raw jackfruit pieces cooked with a blend of spices and served with basmati rice.
For a healthier take, sauté it with spices, and add it to a quinoa bowl or vegetarian curry, or make it into a tasty soup or stir-fry it. Jackfruit makes a novel addition to a smoothie or smoothie bowl. No need to discard the protein-rich seeds. They can be boiled, roasted or ground into a flour.
Lorie Eber is a certified nutritionist and gerontology instructor who provides one-on-one weight loss coaching. She's also certified by the Mayo Clinic as a wellness coach and a NASM Personal Trainer. She's the author of 40 Ways to Leave Your Lover: That Would be Junk Food and How to Stay Healthy in A World Designed to Make Us Fat and Lazy.
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