This Underutilized Crop May Be Answer to Food Prayers


2017-03-02 16:23

Have you heard of jackfruit? This member of the mulberry family could be a “miracle” for many around the world.

The jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world – it can reach up to 100 pounds! Thought to originate in India, it thrives in a tropical-to-subtropical climate such as that of South America or Southeast Asia. But what is so great about this crop you have probably never heard of?

Jackfruit is considered a “nutritional bonanza.” It is high in protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamin B. It is also quite versatile. Jackfruit flesh can be dried, roasted, added to soups, used in chips, or jams. It is very popular as a meat substitute for vegans and vegetarians – especially as an alternative to pulled pork.

Even the seeds are quite useful – they can be boiled, roasted or ground into flour. The American Chemical Society notes that they may be a good low-cost replacement for cocoa beans, which are under threat of shortage. A team of researchers found that roasting jackfruit seeds and grinding them into flour could produce a chocolate powder substitute.

Currently, about 75% of the jackfruit grown in India goes to waste. Historically, it has been known as a “poor man’s fruit.”

But because jackfruit trees are easy to grow once established (they don’t need a lot of irrigation and pesticides as does some other crops such as wheat and rice) and because they are perennial (they don’t require constant replanting), they could potentially provide a great food source to those in need.

Health benefits of jackfruit

  • 100 g of edible jackfruit bulbs provide 95 calories. The fruit made of soft, easily digestible flesh (arils) made up of simple sugars like fructose and sucrose that replenishes energy.
  •  Jackfruit is rich in dietary fiber, which makes it a good bulk laxative. The fiber content helps protect the colon mucous membrane by binding to and eliminating cancer-causing chemicals from the colon.
  •  The fresh fruit has small but significant amounts of vitamin-A, and flavonoid pigments such as carotene-ß, xanthin, lutein, and cryptoxanthin-ß. Together, these compounds play vital roles in antioxidant and vision functions.
  •  Jackfruit is a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C, provides about 13.7 mg or 23% of RDA. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
  •  It is one of the rare fruits that is rich in a B-complex group of vitamins. It contains outstanding amounts of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
  •  Further, fresh fruit is a good source of important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

References:
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
NPR
Business Insider
Nutrition and You

Photo Credit:
By Dan Lundberg - 20160127_Sri Lanka_4053 sRGB, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons