Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, capable of weighing in at 100 lbs. While not yet well-known in the U.S., it has been widely cultivated in Southeast Asia for centuries, where it’s a dietary staple prized for its purported therapeutic benefits.
Although still a specialty produce item in North America, available only in Asian markets, jackfruit may soon be coming to a grocery store near you.
When cooked, it soaks up flavorings like a sponge and takes on a meat-like consistency. This unusual melon is fast becoming a favorite among vegans, vegetarians and health conscious consumers trying to limit their intake of saturated fats. You’ll find gourmet food trucks now offering “pulled pork” jackfruit tacos. Restaurants from Los Angeles, to Columbus, to Brooklyn, have begun serving dishes such as jackfruit salads and meatballs.
Jackfruit Nutritional Information
A one-cup serving of jackfruit contains about 150 calories, supplies 10% of your daily fiber needs, is a good source of complete plant protein and is almost fat-free. Jackfruit is a plentiful source of heart healthy magnesium, potassium and vitamins B-6 and vitamin C.
Jackfruit Health Benefits
1. Jackfruit helps keep blood sugar levels under control.
A nutritional assessment of jackfruit determined that this melon has a low glycemic index, meaning that helps keep glucose levels steady and is a diabetic friendly food. In one study, leaf and plant extracts were administered to both type 1 diabetics and non-diabetics and both groups experienced “significantly improved glucose tolerance.” Type 2 diabetics or pre-diabetics, which account for 50% of the U.S. population, also benefit from stable blood sugar levels.
2. Jackfruit has proven anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies have identified pathogen-fighting chemicals called phenolic compounds and phytochemicals in jackfruit, which exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. These compounds may prove instrumental in developing therapies to treat inflammation-associated disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, gastro-intestinal diseases and Parkinson’s disease.
3. Jackfruit helps keep blood pressure in check.
While about one-third of the general population suffers from high blood pressure, the prevalence increases to almost 75% for adults 65 and older. Jackfruit is a plentiful source of vitamin B-6, as well as potassium and magnesium, two minerals that we don’t absorb as efficiently as we age. These micronutrients help regulate blood pressure.
4. Eating jackfruit supplies a hefty dose of vitamin C.
Eating one serving of jackfruit supplies over 1/3 of our daily needs for vitamin C. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a meta-analysis demonstrated that older adults metabolize this anti-cell aging vitamin less efficiently, so it’s important to consume vitamin C-rich foods like jackfruits. Adequate vitamin C intake helps protect against heart disease, stroke and cataracts.
5. Jackfruit helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Many older adults suffer from uncomfortable constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A one-cup serving of jackfruit satisfies 10% of daily fiber needs. Increasing fiber intake can ameliorate these conditions and lead to better health.
Where to Buy Jackfruit
Because jackfruits are so large and difficult to dismantle, I recommend buying canned jackfruit, which is available in some mainstream grocers and in many health food stores. Or shop Amazon or The Jackfruit Company website, where you can purchase raw diced jackfruit, as well as different cooked spiced versions, including curry and teriyaki.
How to Eat Jackfruit
Because of jackfruit’s chameleon ability to take on other flavors and masquerade as a meat substitute, it lends itself to an almost endless variety of preparations. It works well in both savory and sweet dishes. A traditional way to enjoy raw jackfruit is Kathal Ki Biryani, a dish of fried raw jackfruit pieces cooked with a blend of spices and served with basmati rice.
For a healthier take, sauté it with spices, and add it to a quinoa bowl or vegetarian curry, or make it into a tasty soup or stirfry it. Jackfruit makes a novel addition to a smoothie or smoothie bowl. No need to discard the protein-rich seeds. They can be boiled, roasted or ground into a flour.