What is Jackfruit?
We will get onto the health benefits in a moment but if you have never eaten jackfruit, let me start by telling you that it is absolutely delicious. I have tried many times to describe its taste but it is not easy to come up with a comparison. While jackfruit closely resembles the durian fruit in appearance, its taste and smell are in no way similar.
While it may not taste like durian, it does have plenty of health factors in common. Jackfruit is very high in fiber while it also provides a great source of energy and nutrition making it not just a tasty treat but a valuable health food for you and the family.
The jackfruit grows on huge trees and belongs to the moraceae family and has the scientific name Artocarpus heterophyllus. It is related closely to other healthy and nutritious fruits like breadfruit, figs and mulberries. The tree grows up to 30 meters in height and is widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and parts of South America both for its wood and its fruit. It thrives best in tropical, humid climates and fares poorly in colder conditions.
The large jackfruit trees bear a great deal of fruit each season. And when I tell you that these fruits are big, I mean it. They are absolutely huge and can way as much as 30 kilograms. They are usually oblong or round in shape and measure up to 50 centimeters in length and a similar size in diameter. Each enormous fruit contains hundreds of delicious, edible yellow bulbs which are surrounded by thin sections of fiber.
We are fortunate enough to be living in a part of the world where jackfruit thrives and we even have a tree in the garden. Because you get so much edible goodness from each fruit, we have a huge amount left over. Fortunately, freezing jackfruit is very simple and we enjoy adding it to breakfast cereals, juices and ice cream. Each bulb also surrounds a large seed which can also be used for medicinal purposes
A 100 gram serving of jackfruit will provide you with around 95 calories. Once you have removed the bulb from its large case and extracted the seed, the fruit is soft and easy to digest. It is primarily made up of dietary fibers and sugars like fructose which help give you a quick boost of energy making it the ideal daytime snack for work or school.
As well as its dietary fiber content, jackfruit contains a significant amount of vitamin A and C and antioxidant flavonoids such as lutein, carotene and xanthin. Jackfruit also provides you with several of the B vitamin family including folic acid, niacin and riboflavin.
In terms of its mineral content, jackfruit contains a decent amount of magnesium, potassium, iron and manganese all of which play a vital role in numerous bodily functions.
The Health Benefits of Jackfruit
1) Antioxidant Value and Disease Prevention
As well as being a nutritional powerhouse to be savored, jackfruit is also home to several healthy antioxidants like flavonoids and phytonutrients. These compounds are known to help the body protect itself from free radical damage and the ensuing diseases. Free radicals are difficult to avoid and are in some cases necessary but when the balance shifts too far, they can cause oxidative stress which leads to cell and DNA damage and ultimately disease.
The antioxidants in jackfruit help reverse this damage and also protect against further damage which reduces the risk of various diseases from cancer to heart and brain disease. Antioxidants also have an anti-aging effect and eating as many as possible can have a dramatic effect on your skin and may even help you to look a little younger.
2) Weight Control
Of course, eating something more often is unlikely to have much of an effect on your weight unless you incorporate other lifestyle changes into your program. Having said that, jackfruit is an ideal choice to replace your less than healthy snacks. Jackfruit is a satisfying snack with very few calories so adding it to your daily diet can help satiate your appetite and provide you with all of its other goodness.
3) Heart Health
Being full of healthy antioxidants like vitamin C and minerals like potassium, jackfruit can aid your heart’s health and help to protect against disease. Eating jackfruit can have a significant impact on both blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are linked to a reduction in heart disease risks.
4) For Digestion
Each 100 gram serving of jackfruit will give your body around 3.6 grams of vital dietary fiber. And since most of us ignore the advice, it is something that we very much need especially for our digestive health. Jackfruit is a nice, easy way to increase your intake of fiber.
Chop it up and add it to your breakfast cereals or blend it to make a smoothie and your body will soon notice a difference. The sort of dietary fiber that jackfruit gives you can do a huge amount for your digestive health. It can help relieve constipation naturally as well as other common complaints like flatulence, cramps and indigestion.
5) For Diabetics
Despite being very sweet, jackfruit is considered to be a good choice for diabetics. Oddly enough, the unripe jackfruit is considered to be especially good for people with diabetes. Eating jackfruit helps reduce insulin dependency because of its low glycemic index and its high levels of insoluble fiber. Eating large amounts of jackfruit can also help satiate hunger in diabetic patients.
6) Skin Health
Because of its array of powerful antioxidants, jackfruit can help maintain healthy skin and also slow down the telltale signs that we are aging. Jackfruit is very rich in vitamin A which can help the skin to glow and also prevent sun damage and age blemishes.
7) Healthy Bones
Jackfruit contains many of the essential nutrients that can help protect your bones from damage. Every jackfruit you eat provides the body with a decent dose of calcium and also the magnesium necessary to help the calcium absorb properly.
I will admit that I tend to ignore the seeds but that researching this article has made me realize that I am wasting a valuable part of the fruit. The large seeds are actually extremely rich in minerals, protein and digestible starch and it is better to not let it go to waste.
In many countries the seeds are harvested at the same time as the fruit and stored for later use. They can be added to a variety of popular Asian dishes including curies and stews or even roasted and eaten as a healthy snack.
How to Select and Store your Jackfruit
Jackfruit is available during the summer months at the same time as other popular tropical fruit like mango and durian. You should choose fruit with a mild fragrance which yields slightly to your thumb pressure. Once the fruit has ripened, it tends to deteriorate quickly but you can store the bulbs in the refrigerator or even freeze them for future use.
You can eat them fresh or chop them up for use with your breakfast cereals, yogurts or ice creams. The fruit’s wonderful flavor also lends itself perfectly to your juice or smoothie recipe.