What is Jackfruit?

By: Antonia DePace
 

This giant fruit is often used as a meat substitute. Here's what you should know.

If you've been to a grocery store lately, there's a good chance that you encountered a large, green and spiky fruit sitting next to other tropical produce. It's called a jackfruit and it's something you'll be seeing lots more of. The bulbous fruit can be used for both savory and sweet dishes depending on its ripeness. Because of its size, however, it can be an incredibly intimidating food. Not only can it weigh up to 50 pounds, but it has a thick, green rind surrounding the fleshy inside (luckily, it's also available prepped—in a can or in the refrigerated section). Here's the healthy scoop on the trendy fruit you may not have tried before.

Related: 9 Vegetarian & Vegan Protein Substitutes

What Is Jackfruit?

According to Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., director of the Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation at Northwestern University, the smallest jackfruit she's encountered was around 15 pounds. While the fruit is indigenous to India and Bangladesh, Zerega notes that it's also grown in Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. "It grows in the tropics and subtropics. So for example, it can survive in Florida, and people do grow it there," Zerega says.

For those who are new to jackfruit, you'll discover that there are multiple ways it can be used. It's often cooked in vegetarian dishes; many have compared the texture to pulled pork when marinated in a barbecue-like sauce. This type of jackfruit—used for savory dishes—is green and freshly picked. Once it ripens, however, it's orange-yellow, sweet, sticky and perfect for desserts and smoothies.

In the United States, jackfruit is having a moment as people rave about its unique flavors and savory applications. In countries where the fruit is indigenous, however, it's more of a neglected crop. "In India, a lot of times it is considered a poor man's crop. So, it isn't as valued," Zerega says. "Animals will eat them, but they can also just sit there and rot. It can go to waste."

Eating and Preparing Your Jackfruit

Pictured recipe: Vegan Jackfruit Tacos

Before using the fruit in his own menus, Richard Landau—chef and co-owner of Philadelphia vegan restaurants VedgeV Street and Wiz Kid—had heard of its magical abilities to taste like meat. Today, Landau still doesn't believe that it tastes like meat, but he does believe in its capabilities. According to him, the fruit—when savory—tastes similar to artichokes. "It's not going to suddenly wean all of these Southern people off of pork," he jokes.

Even as a chef, Landau sees the fruit as an intimidating animal. His recommendation? Buy it canned. "You can be heroic and make some great Facebook and Instagram pictures if you want to get your own jackfruit from the store and hack it up, but it's a lot of work. If you're not comfortable with a knife it can be a little dangerous," he says. "It's OK to experiment slowly. You don't have to be a cowboy."

According to Landau, the voluminous fruit—both whole or prepared—can be found in Asian markets, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

While menu items at his restaurants include tasty concoctions such as jackfruit Philly cheese steaks sautéed with mushrooms and fried onions, Landau enjoys cooking it up a different way when at home. Two words: jackfruit carnitas.

Jackfruit Nutrition

Jackfruit is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6 and fiber. While registered dietitian Theresa Shank agrees that buying canned versions are easier, she recommends double-checking that the fruit is packaged in water or its own juice and doesn't contain sweeteners.

And while jackfruit may mimic the texture of pulled pork, Shank makes it clear that it is actually very low in protein. So low, in fact, that you get only about 1-2 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving. So if you're hankering for jackfruit carnitas for dinner, make sure the rest of your day has some healthy protein sources.

Amazing Jackfruit Benefits:

1. Fights wrinkles:

Dip jackfruit seed in some cold milk for a minute. Grind this well and apply gently on the wrinkles. This can reduce wrinkles in just about 6 weeks. Use regularly for best results.

2. Helps to get a glowing complexion:

You can consume jackfruit seeds directly to prevent constipation. This fibre rich fruit also detoxifies your system to add a glowing complexion.

3. Flawless skin:

Jackfruit seed can give you flawless skin. Soak some dry seed with milk and honey. Grind them into a fine paste and apply on your face. Let it dry, and then wash off to reveal flawless skin in just few minutes.

4. High in protein:

 

Jackfruit seeds contain a good amount of protein. This can be added to different dishes that you prepare. You can also replace lentils in your daily diet with jackfruit seeds!

5. Promotes hair growth:

Jackfruit seeds can aid in healthy blood circulation that is vital for good hair growth.

6. Vitamin A:

Jackfruit seeds contain vitamin A that is an essential vitamin for healthy hair and to prevent dryness and brittle hair.

7. Immunity:

Jackfruit is a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can strengthen your immune system. A strong immune system can protect the body from many common diseases such as cough, cold and flu.

8. Energy:

Jackfruit is loaded with carbohydrate and calorie. This is a rich source of simple sugar like fructose and sucrose that gives instant energy. The fruit contains zero cholesterol that makes it a safe and healthy food.

9. Prevents cancer:

Jackfruit has antioxidants, phytonutrients and flavonoid that provide protection from cancer. Antioxidants in jackfruit protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are produced due to oxidative stress in the body. This damages the DNA of your cell and produces cancer cell. But, antioxidants can neutralize these free radicals to protect DNA from free radicals damage. Jackfruit also provides protection against colon, lung and oral cavity cancer.

10. Maintains blood pressure:

Jackfruit has potassium that maintains the sodium level in the body. Good level of potassium helps to maintain the fluid level to balance electrolyte. Hence, it is useful to reduce high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

11. Improves digestion:

Jackfruit is a rich source of dietary fiber that makes it a bulk laxative. This helps to improve digestion and prevents constipation.

12. Prevents colon cancer:

Jackfruit is high in dietary fats that cleanse the toxins from the colon. Hence, it reduces the toxin effects in the colon and gives protection from colon cancer.

Antioxidants in jackfruit protects from cancer, ageing and degenerative disease.

13. Improves eyesight:

Rich antioxidant content in jackfruit increases eye vision and provides protection against cataract and macular degeneration. Jackfruit also contains vitamin A that is a vital nutrient for eye health.

14. Skin health and ageing:

Many natural factors such as increase in age, menopause, and low nutrition cause the body to age. Pollution, UV radiation and smoke also promote ageing process at an early age. Antioxidants present in jackfruit can destroy the free radicals in the body to slow down the ageing process.

15. Asthma:

Jackfruit provides relief to people suffering from asthma. Asthma is a respiratory disorder affecting a number of people today.

16. Bone health:

Jackfruit contains calcium, which strengthens and promotes healthy bone. This can also prevent osteoporosis. Jackfruit also contains good level of potassium, which can decrease the loss of calcium through the kidney and increase bone density.

17. Anemia:

Jackfruit comes loaded with Vitamin A, C, E, K, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Copper, Manganese and Magnesium that are required for blood formation. This also increases your body’s capacity to absorb iron, thus preventing and curing anemia.

18. Cold and infections:

Vitamin C supplements are known to prevent cold and infections. One cup of jackfruit can give your body a good amount of this antioxidant, strengthening your immune system.

19. Regulates blood sugar levels:

High blood sugar level can be caused due to manganese deficiency in the body. Jackfruit has a rich amount of this nutrient and thus helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body.

20. Prevents bone loss:

Jackfruit is rich in magnesium that helps build and strengthen your bones. People who consume potassium and magnesium rich food have higher bone density and stronger bones.

21. Keeps thyroid healthy:

Copper is vital for thyroid metabolism, especially for hormone production and absorption. Jackfruit is filled with this potent micro mineral and keeps your metabolism rate healthy.

22. Supports bowel regularity:

Jackfruit has high a fiber content that can give relief and prevention from constipation.

23. Helps prevent night blindness:

Jackfruit can be very good for your eyes. This ‘jack of all fruits’ contain a good amount of vitamin A and can prevent night blindness.

24. Lowers risk of heart disease:

Jackfruit is very heart-friendly. Vitamin B6 present in the fruit helps to reduce homocystein levels in your blood and keeps your heart hale and hearty!

25. Ulcers:

Jackfruit has strong anti-ulcerative properties that can cure ulcers and many other digestive system disorders.

USDA Nutrition Chart Of Jackfruit:

Principle

Nutrient Value

Percentage of RDA

Energy 95 Kcal 5%
Carbohydrates 23.5 g 18%
Protein 1.72 g 3%
Total Fat 0.64 g 3%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g 4%

Vitamins

   
Folates 24 µg 6%
Niacin 0.920 mg 6%
Pyridoxine 0.329 mg 25%
Riboflavin 0.055 mg 4%
Thiamin 0.105 mg 9%
Vitamin A 110 IU 3.5%
Vitamin C 13.7 mg 23%
Vitamin E 0.34 mg 2%

Electrolytes

   
Sodium 3 mg 0%
Potassium 303 mg 6.5%

Minerals

   
Calcium 34 mg 3.4%
Iron 0.60 mg 7.5%
Magnesium 37 mg 9%
Manganese 0.197 mg 8.5%
Phosphorus 36 mg 5%
Phosphorus 21 mg 3%
Selenium 0.6 mg 1%
Zinc 0.42 mg 4%

Phyto-nutrients

   
Carotene-ß 61 µg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 5 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 157 µg

With so many benefits, jackfruit definitely deserves a place of honour in your diet! So, eat jackfruit and enjoy its health benefits!

 

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