This GIGANTIC tropical fruit tastes amazing and has some decent health benefits too
Ever heard of Jackfruit?
Most people haven’t.
While it is a delicious, sweet, juicy fruit when it is ripe, it is also becoming one of the newest, hottest meat substitutes for vegans and vegetarians in its unripe form. (read our warnings about strict vegan and vegetarian diets here if you missed it)
Jackfruit is one of the largest tree fruits in the world, and these monsters can weigh up to 100 lbs! Walking under a jackfruit tree is truly a dangerous endeavor! Jackfruit grows primarily in Southeast Asia and island countries like Hawaii and the South Pacific, and its been a dietary staple over there for years. It is also grown in many other countries with tropical climates too.
These large, oval shaped, lumpy, bumpy fruits are strange looking and have a taste reminiscent of “Juicy Fruit” gum when ripe. Similar to Durian in looks, (another tropical fruit), and related to breadfruit and mulberries, they contain small, orange-ish colored fleshy seed pods inside their skin that have to be separated out to eat.
Nutrition of Jackfruit
Jackfruit can be eaten at most any point in its maturity, so the nutrients in the fruit vary, but you can be sure that jackfruit contains a wide variety of super-nutrients including vitamin C, A, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, sodium and folic acid, any time you eat it. It is especially rich with B vitamins, especially B6, a very essential nutrient for the nervous system.
Like many exotic fruits, it contains powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants that fight cancer, lower blood pressure, prevent stomach ulcers and remove inflammation. In addition, it is antibacterial and antiviral, which help to beef up the immune system and prevent foodborne illnesses as well.
Health Benefits of Jackfruit:
Helps prevent cancer – Jackfruit is loaded with powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients, including a decent dose of vitamin C, all of which can fight and protect against certain cancers, such as lung, breast, gastric, skin and prostate cancer. The antioxidants help to protect cell damage and mutation.
Maintains electrolytes – Jackfruit contains a good quantity of potassium, which helps to balance out sodium in our bodies. Potassium is also great for muscle coordination and preventing muscle cramps. All these different functions of potassium help in maintaining ideal blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Helps with digestion – Because of its very high soluble and insoluble fiber content, it is very protective against colon cancer, plus its anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents protect against inflammation. Its high fiber content also helps to improve digestion and prevent constipation.
Helps you sleep – Jackfruit contains a rich supply of magnesium and iron which relax you and help you sleep more soundly.
Fights anemia – Anemia is a condition related to a shortage of red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Many vegans are prone to anemia due to a shortage of usable iron in their diets. Jackfruit contains a good dose of iron, plus it is high in vitamin C, which helps the body to absorb iron better. Without a good supply of iron, much of it can pass right through the body.
Protects the eyes and skin – Jackfruits high vitamin A content helps improve vision and protects the eyes from macular degeneration. Vitamin A protects and nourishes the skin, and the vitamin C helps to replenish collagen, which holds the skin up and prevents sagging. Anti-oxidants also scavenge for free radicals, known to increase aging.
Helps improve mood – Since jackfruit contains a large amount of B6 and tryptophan, it helps improve mood and brain function. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter essential helping us feel happy and calm—and especially helpful for banishing depression and anxiety.
Diabetic friendly – Although extremely sweet in taste, jackfruits are safely consumed by diabetics because it slowly absorbs sugar into the bloodstream which enables diabetic patients to safely consume it while getting all its health benefits. It also increases glucose tolerance for both types of diabetes.
While jackfruit is a delicious sweet, juicy fruit when it is ripe, many food companies are looking at it with great eagerness to use as a meat substitute in its unripe state, based on its very ‘meat-like’ texture. Although it is not a huge source of protein, the unripe form of jackfruit used for meat substitutes has a very meat-y texture and feel to it. The texture is similar to shredded chicken or pulled pork when cooked. And, since it has relatively mild flavor when it is unripe, it can easily be seasoned or sauced and pick up any flavor added to it. It is popular as a taco filling or ‘pulled pork BBQ’ style dish.
Ripe jackfruit has a delicious, sweet, mango-banana-pineapple flavor. And if you remember Juicy Fruit gum, the flavor was based on jackfruit. Jackfruit is not appearing in many stores so far in the US, but that may change soon as its popularity spreads. And you may be lucky enough to find it in your local Asian market—at least in cans or frozen, but sometimes can be found fresh too.
Jackfruit is a labor-intensive fruit to cut up and prepare, however. It can be very messy, as you have to cut through its tough skin, and dig out the seeds and pods. It has a very sticky natural latex-like substance in it that sticks to everything. To consume cooked jackfruit is much easier than the fresh mature fruit. You can buy the pre-seasoned and precooked product and just reheat.
And if you want to try the unripe meat substitute jackfruit, it may be easier to find. Look for pre-packaged and pre-seasoned jackfruit in the meat alternative section of your local supermarket, or in many vegan friendly restaurants.
While I think meat is a necessary ingredient of a healthy diet, we do not need to eat large quantities of it, and many meals are delicious and satisfying without meat. Give jackfruit a try in your next taco!
Here’s another article from my friend Danette May that you may enjoy…
8 super-fruits that live up to the health hype (enjoy these)