Remarkably nutritious and touted as a super food, breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a high protein fruit that comes from the mulberry family. This wonder fruit that has the potential to feed the world can be found growing in abundance all through South India, Southeast Asia, and almost all parts of the Pacific Ocean islands. Breadfruit has a potato like taste and forms the staple food of people living in many tropical regions. It is rich in starch, which turns into sugars like sucrose and simple sugars like fructose and glucose as the fruit becomes ripe, giving it a sweet smell and taste. The leaves, fruit, and other parts of the breadfruit tree are believed to be effective for the treatment of a variety of ailments.
Breadfruit is native to the South East Asia and South Asia. Breadfruit is one of the highest-yielding food plants. A single trea bears around 200 plus fruits in single season. The breadfruit though related to breadnut. However the fruit resembles like small jackfruit, hence often called false jackfruit or foreign jackfruit. When fully ripe the fruit is creamy and fragrant from inside.
Did you know? Breadfruit is also known as bakri-chajhar(Hindi), Nirphanas (Marathi), irppla or kadapila (Tamil), gujjekai (Kannada), jivi Kadgi (konkani), Nagadamani (Sanskrit), Dhel (Sinhalese), Sukun, Timbul (Indonesian), Buah Sukun (Malaysian), Ukwa (Nigerian), Friyapen (Seychelles, Mauritius)
Breadfruit is rich in carbohydrate and used as staple source of food in many places in Southeast Asia. They are often cooked – roasted, baked, fried, pickled, steamed or boiled before eating. Cooked breadfruit tastes very much like potato or baked bread.
Breadfruit can be consumed at all stages of development. Mature fruit can be used as vegetable while ripe fruit is consumed as fruit. Breadfruit starch is gluten free and can replace conventional starches. Fruit is often shredded, dried and stored in form of gluten free flour.
Nutritional value of Breadfruit
Breadfruit is a great source of protein and carbohydrates. A single fruit can serve the carbohydrate requirements of about five people. Half a cup of breadfruit can provide 121 calories. Breadfruit is low in fat and has a moderate glycemic index value. It is also a rich source of dietary fiber and several important mineral like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, selenium and copper. Vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate can be found in good amounts in this fruit. The seeds that resemble chestnuts in texture and flavor are also edible and constitute a rich source of minerals and protein. Some varieties of breadfruit are found to be excellent sources of carotenoids and antioxidants.
Health benefits of breadfruit
Once used mainly as a source of carbohydrates, breadfruit has now been found to contain a wide range of nutrients, which makes it a fruit with immense health benefits. It has also been found to posses many medicinal properties. Here are some of the health benefits that you obtain by making breadfruit a part of your diet:
Breadfruit is a rich source of fiber
Breadfruit is significantly an excellent source of fiber. One of the advantages of eating fiber rich foods is that fiber helps in decreasing the levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol, also known as LDL. A high level of LDL is often associated with increased risks of cardiovascular problems. Fiber also helps in increasing the good cholesterol levels or HDL in the body. Thus by keeping the cholesterol levels under control, breadfruit proves to be beneficial in protecting your body against heart attacks and heart diseases. Another use of fiber is that it helps in controlling the blood sugar levels by reducing the rate of absorption of glucose or sugars from the food that you eat. This is very helpful for people suffering from diabetes. Fiber is also associated with maintaining a healthy digestive system. Not only does it prevent constipation by adding bulk to the stools and promoting its easy removal from the body, fiber also helps in making your bowel movements regular. Therefore the regular consumption of breadfruit can help in preventing many digestive disorders as well as in reducing your risks of diseases like colon cancer.
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Breadfruit and diabetes
In addition to being a great source of fiber that helps in controlling the blood sugar levels, breadfruit is also found to contain certain compounds that help the pancreas to produce insulin in the body. Moreover it is a fruit that has moderate glycemic index (GI). Foods with high glycemic index will break down easily causing the insulin blood glucose to spike and then fall rapidly to low levels. Breadfruit is a good option for people with diabetes as it is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, thus preventing considerable changes in the blood glucose levels.
Breadfruit for weight loss
Weight loss is another important aspect of eating foods high in fiber content. Not only is breadfruit rich in fiber but is also low in fat, which makes it an ideal food to be included in a weight loss diet. Breadfruit provides you with high energy and eating a small amount can satiate your hunger as the fiber in this fruit gives you the feeling of fullness that will last for a long time. This prevents you from indulging in snacks and unhealthy foods.
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Breadfruit contains omega fatty acids
Breadfruit contains good amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are beneficial in keeping your heart healthy. It is also good for the skin and hair. Omega-3 fatty acid plays an important role in the growth and development of the brain and also in the proper functioning of the nervous system. Therefore the regular consumption of breadfruit can ensure the proper development of both the body and mind.
Breadfruit provides resistance against diseases
Breadfruit is a good source of vitamin C and other nutrients that help to boost your immunity and help the body to fight off infectious agents. The antioxidants scavenge the dangerous free radicals that are formed in the body as a byproduct of metabolism. These free radicals attack the healthy cells and damage them by causing oxidative stress. This can lead to many serious diseases including cancer. Eating antioxidant–rich breadfruit on a regular basis can thus protect your body from free radical damage.
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Skin benefits of breadfruit
In addition to its various health benefits, breadfruit is also a wonderful fruit when it comes to skin health. Nutrients like vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are considered to be very beneficial for the skin. The high levels of Vitamin C in this fruit stimulate the production of collagen, which increases elasticity of the skin, thereby keeping the skin smooth, supple and flawless. Breadfruit helps in enhancing the skin tone. The antioxidants in this fruit are helpful in neutralizing the free radical damage caused to the skin cells, which in turn helps in slowing down the aging process. As a result the skin remains young and free from aging signs such as wrinkles, fine lines and pigmentation. These antioxidants also protect the skin against the harmful rays of the sun. It promotes the growth of new cells, thus helping to repair the damaged skin at a faster rate.
The extracts of breadfruit are found to help in reducing inflammation by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes thus preventing the excessive production of nitric oxides. The leaves of breadfruit have been long used in the treatment of skin infections. The latex is used as a remedy for skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, dry skin and inflammation.
Breadfruit benefits for the hair
Breadfruit is abundant in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that essential for the healthy growth of hair. It is a rich source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which strengthens your hair follicles and conditions it naturally. By providing strength to the hair, these nutrients help in reducing hair breakage. The fatty acids also control the production of sebum in the scalp, which is helpful in preventing dry scalp, itchiness and dandruff. It also inhibits scalp inflammation and cell death, preventing hair loss. Breadfruit contains moderate amounts of the mineral iron that promote increased blood circulation in the scalp, which in turn stimulates hair growth. Incorporating breadfruit in your diet is a healthy and safe way to maintain healthy hair and prevent hair loss.
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Breadfruits maintains proper bone health
Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese are some of the important mineral associated with the growth of healthy and strong bones. Breadfruit is a rich source of these minerals and hence its consumption is a great way to maintain healthy bones.
Breadfruit for high blood pressure
Regular intake of breadfruit may be helpful for people suffering from high blood pressure. The high levels of potassium in this fruit not only neutralize the effects of sodium but also act as a vasodilator. It widens the blood vessels, allowing the blood to flow easily through them.
Breadfruit boosts your energy
Breadfruit is a good source of carbohydrates, which can provide your body with high levels of energy that will last throughout the day. If you are looking for natural ways to boost your energy levels and stay active, then breadfruit is definitely a good choice.
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Other uses of Breadfruit
Male breadfruit flower is highly effective in repelling mosquitoes and insects. Sap from breadfruit trees is used for waterproofing or as chewing gum. Fibers from breadfruit tree bark are used to make mosquito nets, paper and other clothing.
Selection and storage of breadfruit
Breadfruit is available in the local stores and markets in different shapes sizes and colors. Breadfruits with seeds and without seeds are also in the markets. Unripe but mature fruit is usually used as a vegetable and added as an ingredient in many recipes. Breadfruit will continue to ripe even after it is harvested. As it ripens the skin color changes from green to light brown. While buying breadfruit, look for the ones that are firm and has no signs of molding around the stem. Fully ripe fruits will emit a sweet fruity smell. After buying breadfruit, keep it in a well-ventilated cool place. Make sure to use it within two or three days as they will start ripening and will deteriorate fast. Storing breadfruit in the refrigerator is not recommended as storing the fruit below 12 degrees C fruit may result in chilling injury. Drying, burying and freeze-drying are methods to store breadfruit when not in season.
Recipes of Breadfruit
Breadfruit is often cooked with coconut milk and spices. Breadfruit is often peeled and boiled until tender. These bland tender breadfruit pieces as used in salads, curries or fried as chips. Fritters of breadfruit are often consumed as snacks. Boiled breadfruit is often consumed with rice in main course. In Seychelles, Ladob friyapen is dessert made from breadfruit boiled in coconut milk, sugar, vanialla and cinnamon. Ripe breadfruit is also used in making custard in Puerto Rico. You may like to try this Spicy breadfruit recipe by Sarada Venugopal or Breadfruit curry made in coconut milk by Peter Kuruvita.
Because of its high nutritional value, scientists recommend the use of breadfruit in countries where the food security is very poor. It is an extremely versatile fruit that can be eaten at any stage of its development. Eating healthy food and leading an active life is what makes a healthier lifestyle. Breadfruit is without a doubt one of the nutritious foods that you can add to your regular diet and that will benefit your overall health.Image Credits: Flickr - Ibrahim Iujaz, Flickr - 3Point141, US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Global Breadfruit