Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit native to southwest India. It belongs to the Moraceae plant family, which also includes mulberries, figs, and breadfruit.
A jackfruit is large, with thick, yellow flesh and edible seeds and pods. The flesh has a sweet, distinctive flavor, which some describe as a cross between banana and pineapple.
Due to its fibrous texture, people often use jackfruit flesh as a meat substitute in vegetarian or vegan dishes.In this article, we explore some of the potential health benefits of jackfruit. We also look into its nutritional contents, any risks and considerations, and how to add it to the diet.
Eating jackfruit may help lower levels of bad cholesterol.
Animal studies suggest that jackfruit seeds may help reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, is a waxy deposit that can stick to the inner walls of arteries. As these deposits build up, they can restrict the flow of blood, which can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
HDL cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, helps remove LDL cholesterol from blood vessels and send it back to the liver.
A 2015 study investigated the effects of various jackfruit seed diets on cholesterol levels in rats.
Rats who ate a diet rich in jackfruit seeds had increased levels of HDL cholesterol and reduced levels of LDL cholesterol, compared with the rats who ate fewer seeds.
Jackfruit is a good source of potassium. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), foods rich in potassium can help reduce blood pressure.
Potassium lowers blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium and reducing tension in the walls of blood vessels.
The AHA recommend that healthy adults consume 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. A cup of raw, sliced jackfruit contains 739 mg of potassium.
However, a potassium-rich diet can be harmful to people with kidney disease or any condition that alters the way that the body regulates potassium.
Jackfruit contains substances called phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, saponins, and tannins.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, many phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, which means that they may help to counter the effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that occur naturally in the body and can damage cells. This damage, known as oxidative stress, may play a role in the development of several chronic diseases, including cancer.
Phytochemicals may also prevent new blood vessels from growing around cancerous cells. A lack of blood vessels reduces the cells' blood supply and growth.
A 2017 study found that jackfruit seed extracts inhibited the growth of induced, ectopic blood vessels in chicken embryos.
The researchers noted that the effect may result from the combination of flavonoids, saponins, and tannins in the extracts and that jackfruit extract may have potential as a future anticancer therapy.
They concluded that further in-depth studies are necessary to confirm and better understand their findings.
Blood sugar levels
Research into the benefits of jackfruit is ongoing.
The glycemic index (GI) is a system for rating how specific foods affect a person's blood glucose levels.
Foods with higher GI scores are likelier to cause spikes in blood sugar than those with lower scores. The GI system can help people with diabetes plan their meals.
Jackfruit has an intermediate GI score, but other parts of the plant may help treat type 2 diabetes.
A 2011 study investigated the effect of jackfruit leaf extract in rats with induced diabetes. At the end of the study, the rats who had consumed jackfruit leaf extract had higher insulin levels and lower blood glucose levels than those who had eaten a control diet.
The researchers determined that jackfruit leaf extract contains flavonoids that may help prevent cell death in the pancreas, which is the organ that produces insulin.
A test tube study from 2016 found that extract from the bark of the jackfruit tree contains chemicals that prevent the breakdown of fats and complex carbohydrates into sugars. The researchers suggested that the chemicals may be useful in managing diabetes.
However, confirming these effects will require future studies in humans.
Jackfruit is a good source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that is essential for a healthy immune system.
Also, the body requires vitamin C to make a protein called collagen, which is vital for maintaining healthy skin, bones, and connective tissues, such as blood vessels and cartilage. Collagen is also important for wound healing.
According to a 2014 review, jackfruit contains substances with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that may also help promote wound healing.
A 2013 study investigated the wound-healing properties of jackfruit leaf extract on samples of pig skin. The researchers concluded that extracts from jackfruit leaves may promote wound healing.
Jackfruit, particularly the seeds, is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, which can help prevent spikes in blood glucose after eating.
Research suggests that dietary fiber may also reduce a person's risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and colon cancer.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that women consume 25 grams (g) and men 38 g of fiber per day.
Jackfruit seeds also contain prebiotics, which can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Jackfruit is a healthful source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and some other essential vitamins and minerals.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a cup of raw, sliced jackfruit contains:
- 157 calories
- 2.84 g of protein
- 1.06 g of fat
- 38.36 g of carbohydrates
- 2.5 g of dietary fiber
- 31.48 g of sugars
- 48 mg of magnesium
- 739 mg of potassium
- 22.6 mg of vitamin C
Risks and considerations
According to a 2015 case report, a woman with a latex allergy went into anaphylactic shock, which is a severe allergic reaction, after eating jackfruit.
The authors suggest that this reaction may have resulted from the presence of latex-like proteins in jackfruit.
Other case reports suggest that consuming jackfruit can also trigger allergic reactions in people with birch pollen allergies.
However, allergic reactions to jackfruit are extremely rare.
How to eat jackfruit
Jackfruit is a versatile meat substitute.
Many specialty supermarkets and Asian food stores sell fresh, canned, or frozen jackfruit. Canned jackfruit may contain syrup or brine.
The flesh of unripe jackfruit is green, and it changes to yellow as it ripens. A person can eat the flesh of fresh, ripe jackfruit on its own or use it in a range of recipes, including desserts.
Also, many people use fresh, unripe jackfruit as a meat substitute in curries, pies, stir-fries, wraps, and other dishes.
To prepare fresh, unripe jackfruit:
- Cut the fruit into halves, then into smaller chunks, without removing the skin.
- Boil the chunks until the flesh is soft and has a stringy texture similar to pulled pork or chicken. This may take 30–60 minutes.
- Peel off the skin and remove the seeds and their pods.
Some recipes for jackfruit include:
Jackfruit is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and other important vitamins and minerals.
Also, research suggests that compounds in the flesh, seeds, and other parts of the plant may have the potential to treat or prevent a number of health conditions.
Jackfruit is a popular meat substitute. When cooked, the unripe flesh has a texture similar to chicken or pulled pork.
Jackfruit is safe and nutritious for most people. However, anyone with an allergy to latex or birch pollen should take caution when eating or handling the fruit.
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