7 Compelling Reasons To Start Eating Jackfruit
A sweet tropical giant
With individual fruits reaching up to 80 pounds (35 kilograms) in weight, up to 25 inches (60 cm) in length, and up to 30 inches (75 cm) across (in diameter); the Jackfruit throws all conventions of the scale of fruit growth out the window.
But its size, although a distinctive characteristic—it is the largest tree-born fruit on the planet after all, does not solely account for its recent surge in popularity.
Beyond its size, jak is known for its varied use, distinctive sweet flavor anecdotally described as a mix of different fruits, plenty of essential nutrients, and an eccentric texture similar to chicken or pulled pork making it a desirable meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.
In this concise vade mecum about this intriguing tropical fruit, we gloss over the most prominent reasons why adding jackfruit to your diet is a no-brainer.
Notable Jackfruit Details
|Alternate names||Jak, Jak-fruit, Jack tree [fruit]; Spanish: Jaca|
|Scientific name||Artocarpus heterophyllus|
|Family||Family Moraceae; Breadfruit, Fig, and Mulberry
|Origin||Rainforests of India’s South and the Western Ghats; spread over millennia to the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia (and later Brazil)|
|Ideal climate||Tropical; cultivated stateside primarily in Florida|
|Flavor||Sweet; described as a cross/combination of several fruits including apple, banana, mango, and pineapple|
|Appearance||Unripe – Green with spiky outer skin (similar to Durian fruit)
Ripe – Light Brown or Yellow with the blunt spikes becoming soft
|Edible parts||Thick yellow flesh (green when unripe) and orange-yellow pods/bulbs containing seeds|
Sold fresh (whole or in chunks), frozen, dried, freeze-dried, or canned (may contain brine or syrup)
Offered by specialty supermarkets, Asian food store, exotic grocers, even Amazon (canned, packaged)
Evidence-Based Benefits of Jackfruit
⦁ Manage blood sugar level
Jackfruit helps control blood sugar level via two main mechanisms.
The first is its relatively low glycemic index (GI): In layman speak this implies that your blood sugar doesn’t rise as quickly after eating it. The major component responsible for its low GI is the fiber content, which help slows digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes. Jackfruit’s protein also contributes marginally to limit the rise of blood sugar levels after a meal.
Corroborating research for this finding include a study conclusion that diets with lots of low-GI foods are helpful in promoting blood sugar control as well as a study identifying significantly improved blood sugar levels in adults who ingested jackfruit extract (another done with animal subjects led to similar conclusions).
The second mechanism is its bevy of flavonoid antioxidants, with established links pointing to an ability to promote balanced blood sugar levels.
Keep diabetes in check
A favorable follow-on of this benefit is the ability to lower your risk of diabetes, as keeping blood sugar levels within safe levels is associated with the regulated release of glucose and insulin as well as improved insulin sensitivity.
A study investigating the antidiabetic properties of jack-fruit uncovered findings described as “promising.”
⦁ Reduce levels of bad cholesterol
It’s all in the name. Bad cholesterol aka low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, is not great for your health. High levels of that icky stuff have been linked to high blood pressure with the attendant risks of heart attack or stroke.
Researchers explored the effects of several jackfruit seed diets on cholesterol levels in animals, and found that test subjects fed a diet rich in jackfruit seeds had relatively lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
⦁ Improve heart health
Jackfruit boosts cardiovascular health thanks to various beneficial nutritional components.
- Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which otherwise can trigger break down of blood vessels, eventually culminating in coronary heart disease
- Fiber content also helps manage cholesterol levels as well as limit plaque deposition in blood vessels
- Potassium regulates blood pressure and helps keep heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis at bay
- Vitamin B complex reduce homocysteine levels, which in turn helps lower the risk of heart disease
- Vitamin C prevents inflammation with proven connections to chronic conditions such as heart disease
⦁ Provide a chock-full of needful antioxidants
So, we just pointed out the deleterious effect of oxidative stress on the heart (causing coronary heart disease). Turns out, oxidative stress (and its no-good sibling inflammation) are implicated in a long list of damages pegged on molecules called free radicals.
These [aptly called] free radical damages have been linked to the whole gamut of chronic ailments from Alzheimer’s to cancer. Antioxidants constitute the police force that protects your cells from these damages.
Jackfruit is loaded with two powerful class of antioxidants called Carotenoids [1, 2, 3, 4] and Flavanones [1, 2, 3], both of which help reduce the risk of developing several serious health conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, antioxidants in jak help improve skin health, by amongst other things slowing skin aging [1, 2].
⦁ Boost the immune system
Another benefit of antioxidants is their indispensability to the body’s immune system. In addition to neutralizing free radicals and preventing oxidative stress before it can wreak havoc on bodily systems; antioxidants also:
- stimulate the production of white blood cells;
- reduce the risk of and treat viral infections [ 1, 2]; and
- promote wound healing
Finally, a scientific review of the phytochemistry (chemical composition) of jackfruit surmised that jackfruit contains components with antibacterial and antifungal properties.
⦁ Aid digestion
As a high-fiber food, jackfruit positively impacts digestive health by:
- stimulating digestive processes
- eliminating symptoms of bloating, constipation, and cramping
- inducing peristalsis (gut motility—where muscles in your gut contract and relax systematically to facilitate movement of gut contents) and bulking up stool (promoting bowel movement)
- contributing to improved efficiency of nutrient uptake in the gut
- contributing to the elimination of carcinogenic chemicals in the intestines
- protecting the mucus membrane of the colon; which helps prevent ulcers
- supporting the growth of beneficial (“good”) bacteria in the gut; thanks to its prebiotic content
⦁ Help you sleep better
The significant concentration of magnesium in Jak-fruit confers on it the benefit of being able to promote healthy sleep.
Magnesium has a measurable effect on neurotransmitter levels, which in turn helps stabilize circadian rhythms that famously regulates the sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours.
Bonus: Boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss
Jackfruit has a relatively low-calorie content. Add that to its high levels of dietary fiber and rich nutrient composition, and it is perhaps not surprise that jak is helpful in inducing satiety, with the attendant benefit of limiting overeating and snacking between meals.
The best part is that it taking jak wouldn’t compromise your daily caloric goals, objectives, or restrictions; while simultaneously kicking metabolism up a notch.
How to Eat Jackfruit
The sheer variety of ways you can consume jackfruit certainly adds to its eccentricity. Essentially, every part of it past its skin (green with spikes when unripe or light brown with soft projections when ripe) is par for the course… literally.
Suitability for eating
- Jackfruit is edible both when ripe and unripe
- The jak’s flesh can be eaten raw or cooked (via a wide range of cooking methods)
- Both the flesh and seeds are edible
How is jackfruit sold?
A: fresh (when in season) in chunks or whole (say 4-6 pounds), canned (which may contain syrup or brine), seasoned, frozen, dried, freeze-dried, or pre-cooked
Q: Where can you buy jackfruit?
A: at grocery stores, specialty supermarkets, Asian food stores, and even online. Amazon sells jackfruit fresh, canned, and even as packaged heat-and-eat products
You may eat the flesh raw with nothing else, as you would most other fruits. It is sweet and tastes like a mix of different fruits.
However, the culinary versatility of jackfruit makes it perfect for use as an ingredient in a dizzying array of dishes from soup to even ice cream.
Cooking techniques used for preparing jackfruit: boiled, candied, dried, steamed, or roasted
- unripe jackfruit is used in savory recipes such as soups or curries
- ripe jak is used in sweet dishes say for desserts; added to oatmeal or yogurt; or used uncooked in baked food or smoothies
- jak seeds are boiled, ground into flour, roasted, combined with seasons, and even used to make hummus
The flesh is also used by vegans and vegetarians as a meat substitute in jackfruit tacos, Tex-Mex recipes, barbecue, jackfruit pot pie, whole grain bowls, wraps, stir-fries, and more.
Other common dishes jackfruit is used in include chips, jams, jellies, juices, pies, salads, and sauces.
There is no shortage of resources to find dozens of delectable jackfruit recipes; from jackfruit cinnamon bacon to BBQ jackfruit buns with apple slaw.
Risks and Side Effects of Eating Jackfruit
It is crucial to state that for most people, eating jackfruit is safe and should not cause any serious side effects.
However, some demographics are at higher risk of developing complications. They include:
- As stated earlier on, jackfruit is able to regulate blood sugar levels and low insulin sensitivity. This is beneficial for most people; but for diabetics who take medication that lowers blood sugar; it can be dangerous.
- If you intend to add jackfruit to your diet safely as a diabetic, you have to consult your doctor to change your medication dosages.
- Birch pollen allergy sufferers
- Two independent studies by Dutch and British researchers have documented the increased propensity of birch pollen allergy sufferers to exhibit allergic reactions when they eat jackfruit.
- Besides individuals with birch pollen allergy, there has been only one case report in 2015 of an individual developing an allergic reaction after eating jackfruit. The individual in question had a latex allergy and scientists theorized that the anaphylactic shock experienced was due to the presence of latex-like proteins in jackfruit.
- In any case, jackfruit allergic reactions are extremely rare.
- Individuals awaiting surgery
- If you’re preparing for a surgery, it is important to steer clear of jackfruit until after your surgery to avoid any needless potential complications with surgical anesthesia.
- Pregnant women
- A few anecdotal instances have stated that jackfruit can stimulate menstruation.
- In light of the limited research into the properties of jackfruit, particularly to ascertain the veracity of this observation, it is best NOT to consume jackfruit when you are pregnant as a precautionary measure.
In a Nutshell
Jackfruit may be famous for its size, culinary versatility, or its repurposed use as a buzzy meat substitute in vegan diets.
But those peculiarities do not take away from its nutrient-rich and antioxidant-heavy nutritional profile that enables it to offer amazing benefits that range from improving cardiovascular and digestive health to boosting your immune system.
You can add it to your favorite meals (creatively too). And when out of season (after summer months) it is readily available year-round canned or as packaged products from brands like Upton’s Naturals and The Jackfruit Company.
You owe it to yourself to try it out and we’d love to hear of your experience with making jak-fruit a part of your diet.