If I gave you 10 guesses on which fruit is the largest tree fruit in the world, do you think you could get the answer? Well, if the jackfruit wasn’t on the tip of your tongue, or among your top 10 guesses, you can be forgiven, but the jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world, reaching up to 100 pounds.
But it’s not the fruit’s size that makes it so beneficial — it’s the nutrition. Is it a miracle food? While I wouldn’t go that far, jackfruit is high in magnesium, vitamin B6 and antioxidants all while offering a low-carb snack or even the perfect vegan “pulled-pork” sandwich. It can be found dried and roasted, and it can be added to soups, used in chips, jams, juices and even ice cream, in addition to simply eating fresh and raw. The seeds, containing a ton of nutritional benefits, can be boiled, roasted or ground into flour.
All this nutrition gives jackfruit some truly remarkable benefits. For instance, jackfruit benefits include the ability to enhance immunity, boost magnesium levels, improve digestion and more.
1. Enhances Immunity and May Help Fight Cancer
Jackfruit is a vitamin C food that contains many other antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, including lignans, isoflavones and saponins. (1) Additionally, we need to fight those damaging free radicals that enter the body daily. Antioxidants found in jackfruit and other foods boost immune function by kicking those free radicals to the curb.
According to Penn State University, by consuming antioxidants, we can neutralize the free radicals, which helps fight some forms of cancer and can give the immune system the support it needs to continue to manage it. In addition, a study published in the October 2012 issue of the journal Carcinogenesis found that vitamin C increased activity of an important antioxidant enzyme that helps prevent breast cancer. (2) Combined, all this makes jackfruit a potential cancer-fighting food.
2. Boosts Magnesium Levels
You may hear a lot of talk about magnesium levels and for good reason. Magnesium is crucial for the structure of our bones. Women are especially at risk for magnesium deficiency, and it’s common for African-Americans and the elderly to suffer from low magnesium levels too.
One cup of jackfruit contains 15 percent of the daily recommended value of magnesium, making it a great choice to add to your diet, especially since magnesium can help reduce the risk of many diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, in addition to helping provide strong bones. (3)
3. Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
This robust fruit contains a healthy dose of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 falls into a category along with folic acid and vitamin B12 that may help reduce heart disease. This occurs due to lower levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid and important building block of protein.
A clinical trial known as the the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2 including more than 5,500 adults with known cardiovascular disease learned that supplementation of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid for a period of five years reduced homocysteine levels, which decreased both heart disease risk and stroke risk by about 25 percent. (4) And while it’s uncertain as to how this affects the body, studies indicate that there may be a relationship to homocysteine and the arteries. (5)
4. Improves Digestion
Jackfruit may be a great choice for anyone suffering from constipation or issues with digestion, and it’s the seeds that come in handy. The seeds contain a good portion of dietary fiber, and as we know, high-fiber foods are great because they not only help with constipation, but they help fill you up, which may contribute to weight loss.
5. Aids in Preventing Osteoporosis
The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that our bones and teeth compile about 99 percent of the calcium found in our bodies. However, we lose calcium through our skin, nails and even our sweat on a daily basis. The problem is that our bodies cannot produce new calcium, which means we have to get it through the foods we eat. When we don’t do that, the body goes to our bones to get the calcium it needs. This is when osteopenia, which leads to osteoporosis, can occur. A serving of jackfruit contains about 6 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, making it a strong source to help stave off osteoporosis. (6)
One cup of raw, sliced, fresh jackfruit contains about: (7)
- 155 calories
- 39.6 grams carbohydrates
- 2.4 grams protein
- 0.5 gram fat
- 2.6 grams fiber
- 11.1 milligrams vitamin C (18 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams manganese (16 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram copper (15 percent DV)
- 61.1 milligrams magnesium (15 percent DV)
- 500 milligrams potassium (14 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram riboflavin (11 percent DV)
- 490 IU vitamin A (10 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
- 23.1 micrograms folate (6 percent DV)
- 56.1 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
- 1 milligram iron (6 percent DV)
- 59.4 milligrams phosphorus (6 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligram zinc (5 percent DV)
How to Prepare and Buy Jackfruit
This amazing fruit can be found fresh or canned. Of course, if choosing canned jackfruit, make sure there aren’t any added sugars or preservatives. Instead look for young jackfruit found in water and brine.
If buying it fresh, which I recommend, make sure to get a ripe jackfruit. To do this, look for yellowish skin with spikes that have softened. Just apply gentle pressure to make sure it gives a little. Another sign that it’s ready to eat is its musky fragrance, which should be rather distinctive. You can also buy one that’s green and firm and allow it to sit in a window or on your counter until it has reached the recommended ripeness.
This fruit can pretty much take on whatever flavor you want it to have. Want a curried chutney? Add some curry to chopped-up jackfruit, toss in a few raisins and you have a delicious curried chutney packed with nutrition. Some versions, such as the green jackfruit, are stringy, making them perfect to add to pulled chicken for a delicious pulled chicken sandwich. In fact, many vegans use jackfruit as a meat substitute since it contains a “pulled pork-like” consistency.
Ripe jackfruit contains a flavor similar to banana and the look of mango but is rather mild. Fresh jackfruit is definitely worth trying by itself, but if that doesn’t do much for you, try adding it to your favorite dishes, pies, jellies, sauces and ice cream. The texture of it reminds me of chicken — and pork for some, though I don’t eat pork — and in Asia, it’s often used as a meat substitute.
Meanwhile, I’m beginning to find jackfruit in even certain products in my local food stores, such as jackfruit chips at Trader Joe’s! While these have too much salt along with preservatives, they’re certainly healthier than the average bag of chips.
Jackfruit can be added to so many different recipes. In fact, you can even make BBQ jackfruit sandwich or teriyaki jackfruit! Try this jackfruit recipe for starters:
Jackfruit Cinnamon Bacon
- 2 cans young green jackfruit (unsweetened)
- 4 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons pure organic maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar or molasses
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Then using 3 large baking sheets, line them with parchment paper.
- Open the can of jackfruit, drain and rinse.
- Dry the jackfruit using clean paper towels.
- Slice thin like bacon using a mandoline. Set aside.
- Mix together all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl.
- Once well-blended, add the jackfruit and blend again until the jackfruit is well-coated.
- Cover and allow it to marinate in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes or longer.
- Once marinated, you’re ready to place the strips onto the baking sheets. Place in the oven for about 12 minutes, then flip and allow them to bake for another 12–15 minutes. Make sure to keep a close watch as it can burn easily and oven temperatures can vary.
- Once done, allow it to cool for about 10–15 minutes.
- To store, place it in a glass container and seal. It should keep for about 6–7 days.
Here are a couple other jackfruit recipes to try:
History and Interesting Facts
Jackfruit grows on the branches and trunks of the jackfruit tree, and the average weight of the fruit itself is 10–25 pounds. Though some compare it to durian in appearance, it has more of a musky smell versus the unpleasant aroma that durian provides. Belonging to the mulberry family and thought to have originated in India, it is exceptional when it comes to nutrition.
To maximize this profitable, yet to be fully used resource, the tree itself provides high-quality, rot-resistant timber for furniture and musical instruments. (8)
The jackfruit grows wild in India, but it’s not until now that it’s even getting a moment on the stage and becoming quite the hot topic. Why? It has long been thought of as the poor man’s fruit in that country, though Bangladesh values this fruit as it’s second only to the mango. One of these fruits could feed an entire family for dinner, but tons of it goes to waste since it’s not harvested in time to put it to good use, rotting instead. But the nutritional benefits are really starting to get noticed, especially in the vegetarian and vegan communities. (9)
Common names are jakfruit, jaca and nangka. It’s related to the breadfruit, breadnut, champedak, lakoocha and marang. It’s been noted to have a distant association to figs, mulberries and African breadfruit. Jackfruit grows best in tropical climates and is believed to have originated in the rain forest of Western Ghats of India. It made its way to other parts of India, southeast Asia, the East Indies and the Philippines. It’s often planted in central and eastern Africa and is fairly popular in Brazil and Surinam.
It’s been reported that plants were found on a French ship that was captured in 1782 and were taken to Jamaica, where they were planted. About a century later and thought to have been imported by a nursery, the jackfruit was grown in Florida though today there are maybe a dozen remaining that bear fruit due to a freeze that occurred in 1886, as reported by the United States Department of Agriculture. Typically, however, it ripens and becomes ready for harvest at different points in the year, depending on the climatic region, with the fruits reaching maturity at 3–8 months from flowering. (10a)
Interestingly enough, in Vietnam lactating goats are often fed jackfruit in order to improve the health of both the “kid” and the mother. (10b)
Potential Side Effects
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, take caution since jackfruit is somewhat new to the U.S. market and needs to be further investigated. If you have an allergy to birch pollen, you may experience an allergic reaction to jackfruit. Take caution.
Though it may help reduce levels of blood sugar, diabetics should be cautious. You may experience drowsiness if using certain medications while consuming it. It may be best to stop consuming any form of this fruit prior to surgery.
Jackfruit is definitely a powerful superfruit that’s worth exploring. The nutritional benefits makes it a great addition to your recipes, and if you’re vegetarian or vegan, this fruit may provide many benefits as a supplement to your diet.
How? Because it’s been shown to enhance immunity, boost magnesium levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve digestion and aid in preventing osteoporosis. In fact, it’s even believed to help fight certain cancers — all the more reason to consume the largest tree fruit in the world.