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What the heck is Jackfruit?

by Cat Ebeling & Mike Geary
co-authors of the best-sellers:  The Fat Burning KitchenThe Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix

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)

References
Orwig, J. ( 2015). Experts are hailing this exotic fruit that tastes like pulled pork, as a ‘miracle’ crop, which could save millions from starvation. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/this-miracle-fruit-tastes-like-pulled-pork-2015-8
Ettinger, J. (July, 2016). What is jackfruit and why is it in your tacos? Organic Authority. Retrieved from http://www.organicauthority.com/what-is-jackfruit-and-why-is-it-in-your-tacos/
Stukin, S. (July, 2016). Is jackfruit the next big meat substitute? National Geographic. Retrieved from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2016/07/jackfruit-sustainable-vegetarian-meat-substitute/

About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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18 comments

  1. Mike
    Try this sandwich

    I use all organic stuff.

    food for life, flax bread toasted,
    I use what used to be tree of life brand creamy almond butter.
    It got bought out by a Japanese Co. I’ts now called CADIA so
    far it still taste good. You have to stir it real good to mix the
    oil in. spread almond butter on both slices. take one banana
    peel and cut tips off,make banana same length as bread,cut
    into 3 slices place on bread Sprinkle cinn. on it, then put
    other slice of toast with almond butter on top and ENJOY.
    I’m not person who made this,but I have turned a lot of
    people on to it.

    P.S. I tried at least 5 or 6 different brands of almond butter
    and none of can compare to. My original now CADIA brand.
    Let me know if you like it. Any questions feel free to call 1-586-764-7832. I’ve been VEGAN for 6 years.
    I’m 74 years old & healthy. WT. down to 131,can’t find time to wt. train.

  2. Aloha Mike
    Two more “exotics” to check out: NONI and ULU (Breadfruit). Visit The Noni farm on Kauai with Steve and learn. http://www.Real-Noni.com Raw Noni fruit has been eaten by Polynesians for centuries. I try to eat a few ounces every meal while on vacation. I will eat the fruit leather when home I had breadfruit pancakes this morning. Less ripe and they are like potatoes but a little sweet. Very versatile. One expert thinks it could “save the world”. Jack fruit was my next exotic for this trip.
    Mahalo
    Holo Holo Cindy

  3. where does a normal elderly person get this Jackfruit, and how much does it cost?

  4. Thanks for making a stand

  5. mostly found in South East Asia like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand…..its deliciously sweet with aromatic smell when its ripe …. the inner part of the jackfruit’s skin called umbut can be used as vegetable and cook curry with coconut milk…..mmmmm its awesome eat it with rice ……

  6. I would like to share a very interesting characteristic of jack fruit or durian. The fruit when it falls to the ground looks and smells like poo. It is so offensive you have to block your nose to go up to it. But when you do get close enough and take the courage to dig in and get the edible parts it is the most amazing taste. Here is truly hidden treasure.i didn’t know it was that good for you too. No wonder the tree would want to hide its goodness or it would not be able to survive and reproduce.

    • Pamela: I disagree; any fruit that is overriped has a pungent smell whether it’s bananas, mangoes etc . It doesn’t smell bad it it well ripe.

    • Jack fruit and Durian are two different fruit, although they look similar on the outside. Jack Fruit has no offensive smell, but Durian does. We had a large Jack fruit tree that grew in our garden in Sri Lanka and always looked forward to enjoying the fruit in season. They are different in colour too on the inside.

  7. Where can I buy this in Mexico ?

  8. I grew up on it Jamaica, as it is quite conman there; but I was not aware of the nutritional vales. Street vendors sell it along the highway in the north coast of Jamaica; for those Americian tourists visiting Jamaica, you can check it out towards Ocho Rious.

  9. I’ve never seen this fruit in any grocery stores I shop in Eastern PA. But in the picture of it’s edible form with the slotted side and the holes down the middle, it looks like something you’d slip around your air conditioning pipes. LOL!

  10. Trader Joe’s is carrying canned jack fruit for tacos and dried for snacking. Pls share successful recipes. Excited to try

  11. We were the only family that grew jackfruit I Kenya. My father won a prize for the biggest one in the country. Adored and relished the fruit, even cooked the seeds in pork dishes. I have bought jackfruit in Asian markets in Canada, pick the fruit with plastic gloves otherwise horrible white sticky stuff remains on your hands, or you can oil your hands first.

  12. The seed of the Jack fruit is very tasty if boiled. It has to boiled as it is but then remove the outer skin before eating it. The taste of the seed is closer to a peanut taste, a think. But not quite because it has a special taste of its own. Fresh jack fruit tastes a lot better than canned jack fruit.

    • I made a wonderful hummus out of the boiled seeds. The. skin of. the seed was a bit laborious to take off, but I think if I did it more often, I’d find a shortcut like squishing it with the flat side of a knife.

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