Ackee (Blighia sapida), the national fruit of Jamaica may be lesser known to the world but is slowly gaining popularity as it is packed with plenty of health benefits. In spite of its reputation of being a toxic fruit, it is used as an ingredient in many cuisines. The seeds of the ackee fruit are poisonous and unless the fruit is matured, it is better to avoid eating the flesh and pulpy seed coat as well. With beautiful red exterior and yellow colored flesh, this fruit can be seen widely grown in West Africa, parts of Caribbean islands and South America. Salted cod fish and ackee fruit happens to be a popular breakfast dish in Jamaica, infact Jamaican national dish. This fruit can be added to curries, stews and other savory dishes.
Ackee nutrition facts
Ackee fruit is rich in a wide variety of nutrients that are extremely beneficial to the human body. It has absolutely no cholesterol and saturated fat. Instead, it is a rich source of various healthy fatty acids such as palmitic, stearic and linoleic acids. The intake of these unsaturated fats is a great way to protect your heart, as they help lower the cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Ackee is also a great source of dietary fiber that helps lower your weight, improve the functioning of your digestive system and helps keep the blood sugar levels under control. Additionally, ackee is also a storehouse of various vitamins such as vitamin C and B complex vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and folate), and minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc.
Health benefits of Ackee
The ackee fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that makes it not only a weight loss food but also beneficial for maintaining good health and preventing various diseases. Here are some of the health benefits obtained by consuming this fruit on a regular basis:
Ackee fruit is good for digestion
Ackee is high in dietary fiber content, which enhances the process of digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. This property makes this fruit an effective natural remedy for constipation and other digestive disorders like indigestion, cramping and bloating. Fiber also helps prevent inflammation of the colon, thus lowering your risks of serious conditions like colorectal cancer.
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Ackee helps control high blood pressure
The regular intake of foods high in potassium content is often recommended by health practitioners to people who suffer from high blood pressure. This is because potassium acts as a vasodilator, which widens the blood vessels, allowing the blood to easily flow through them without putting much strain on the cardiovascular system. The vaso-dilating properties of potassium thus helps maintain a healthy blood pressure and also lowers the chances of conditions like atherosclerosis and damage to blood vessels and arteries. The ackee fruit is a great source of potassium and so eating it regularly can help keep your blood pressure under check.
Ackee protects your cardiovascular health
One of the ways by which the ackee fruit protects your heart is by preventing a rise in the blood pressure levels. It also offers cardiovascular protection by lowering the levels of cholesterol in the blood. The high amount of fiber in the fruit is not just beneficial for weight loss and improving the functions of the digestive system. It is also helpful in getting rid of the excess amounts of cholesterol that may otherwise get absorbed in the blood vessels. Additionally, ackee is also rich in a wide range of healthy fatty acids including linoleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid. These unsaturated fats help improve your heart health by lowering the bad cholesterol levels or LDL. By introducing ackee fruit into your diet, you can gain protection against conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis.
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Ackee is good for people with diabetes
Ackee is a good source of various nutrients that help control the blood sugar levels. It is therefore a perfect choice of food for people suffering from diabetes. The simple sugars and high fiber content in the fruit helps prevent unnecessary spikes in the blood glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity. The ackee fruit is used in various places, as a natural remedy for the treatment of diabetes.
Ackee enhances bone strength
Calcium and phosphorus are two important minerals associated with healthy and stronger bones. The ackee fruit is rich in these two minerals along with plenty of other nutrients that help enhance the health of your bones. These nutrients can also help prevent the demineralization of bones as well as the loss of bone density. The regular intake of foods rich in these nutrients, such as the ackee fruit is thus very helpful in contributing to the formation of healthier bones and also lowering the risks of bone related disorders like osteoporosis.
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Ackee can boost your immune health
Our immune system is a complex collection of cells, tissues and organs that play specific roles in protecting your body against diseases and infections caused by foreign substances and microorganisms like bacteria, virus and fungi. Deficiencies in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals can adversely affect the proper functioning of the immune system, making you vulnerable to diseases and infections. The Ackee fruit is rich in many of these nutrients that enhance the strength of your immune system. Of these micronutrients, vitamin C deserves special mention because it also acts as an antioxidant and protects your body against oxidative stress cause by the free radicals. Vitamin C also stimulates the production of white blood cells that attack the invading microorganisms.
Ackee prevents anemia
A common type of anemia seen in many people is the iron deficiency anemia, which is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, headache and dizziness. Without enough iron, your body will not be able to produce enough hemoglobin, a substance present in the red blood cells that helps these cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. The high iron content in the ackee fruit makes it a perfect remedy for preventing iron deficiency anemia.
Ackee helps with weight loss
Ackee, as mentioned before is a low calorie fruit with a high fiber content. The fiber in the fruit gives you the feeling of fullness, which lasts for quite a long period of time. This prevents you from frequent snacking and overeating, thus playing a key role in helping you maintain a healthy weight. Ackee is therefore a perfect addition to any weight loss diet.
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Ackee leaves have medicinal properties too
The leaves of ackee are also loaded with plenty of medicinal properties and are used widely in Jamaica for treating various ailments. People in Jamaica and West Indies make a traditional herbal tea using ackee leaves and this tea is believed to be an effective remedy for colds, flu, asthma and various digestive problems. The leaves can also be used as a poultice over sprains and inflammation.
Caution: Ackee fruit should not be consumed before it is fully ripened. When ripened the protective pods turn red and open naturally. The yellow fleshy portion surrounding the toxic black seed is the edible portion of the fruit. Eating unripe ackee may lead to severe vomiting and hypoglycemia; popularly termed as Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. It is safe to eat the fruit once it opens by itself because when exposed to sunlight, the poison in the fruit gets neutralized.
In addition to the above mentioned health benefits, the ackee fruit is also used in Jamaica and certain parts of Africa for medicinal purposes. It is used for treating conjunctivitis, colds, influenza, malaria and hemorrhage. Ackee has also been found to play a great role in dental health by preventing the buildup of plaque and tooth decay.
Try out the famous Jamaican ackee and saltfish recipe and enjoy its health benefits.