Breadfruit is a unique, starchy, versatile fruit that can be used as a fruit and a vegetable. It has a potato-like texture and is often considered a complex carbohydrate that can do what a potato or rice can do. But what are the health benefits of breadfruit? Find out more in this article below!
What is Breadfruit?
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a tropical fruit that belongs to the fig or mulberry family. It grows on large trees that can reach up to 85 feet tall!
The name “breadfruit” comes from the texture of the mature fruit when roasted in a fire, which resembles freshly baked bread in aroma and texture.
Breadfruit is round or oval, with lumpy prickly green skin and yellowish flesh inside. The texture of breadfruit is starchy and potato-like, making it an excellent substitute for grains and potatoes in various dishes.
Its unique flavor falls somewhere between potato, jackfruit, and artichoke hearts. While some people dislike its slightly bitter aftertaste, most find it delicious when prepared correctly.
With its versatility in cooking, from savory dishes like chips or curries to sweet desserts like cakes or puddings, breadfruit has become increasingly popular among food lovers around the world.
Where Did Breadfruit Come From?
There are many theories about the origins of breadfruit, but most scholars believe that it originated in New Guinea.
The breadfruit tree is native to the South Pacific Islands, and New Guinea is thought to be where it was first domesticated.
There are several different varieties of breadfruit, and they are all believed to have originated in New Guinea.
The most common variety is the Artocarpus altilis, which is also known as the common breadfruit. This variety is found in tropical areas throughout the world.
A mature breadfruit tree can produce hundreds of pounds of breadfruit each year, making it a staple food in the regions this fruit is grown.
In fact, some organizations are encouraging the locals to plant more breadfruits as a way of curbing hunger.
Breadfruit Nutrition Facts:
According to USDA, one cup of raw breadfruit (about 220 grams) contains about:
- Calories: 227
- Carbohydrates: 59.7 grams
- Protein: 2.4 grams
- Fat: 0.5 gram
- Fiber: 10.8 grams
- Vitamin C: 63.8 milligrams, or 106 percent of the daily recommended value (DV)
- Potassium: 1,078 milligrams, or 31 percent DV
- Thiamine: 0.2 milligram, or 16 percent DV
- Magnesium: 55 milligrams, or 14 percent DV
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 milligram, or 11 percent DV
- Niacin: 2 milligrams, or 10 percent DV
- Pantothenic acid: 1 milligram, or 10 percent DV
- Copper: 0.2 milligram, or 9 percent DV
- Folate: 30.8 micrograms, or 8 percent DV
- Manganese: 0.1 milligram, or 7 percent DV
- Phosphorus: 66 milligrams, or 7 percent DV
- Iron: 1.2 milligrams, or 7 percent DV
- Riboflavin: 0.1 milligram, or 4 percent DV
- Calcium: 37.4 milligrams, 4 percent DV
Breadfruit also provides some antioxidants, including carotenoids, such as β-carotene and lutein, and flavonoids.
Health Benefits of Breadfruit
Breadfruit is rich in nutrients such as fiber, potassium, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and thiamine – all essential for maintaining good health.
Additionally, this fruit contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and fight free radicals.
1. It can boost your immune system
The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against invaders. When your immune system is strong, you’re in a better position to prevent infections from developing. It can also help you recover fast from an illness.
Eating breadfruit is one way you can boost your immune system. It contains bioflavonoids which have been shown to lower the risk of infection.
Also, the fruit contains thiamine or vitamin B 1, which is essential for producing stomach acid (Hydrochloric acid).
Hydrochloric acid is responsible for the efficient breakdown of food during digestion which promotes nutrient absorption.
This means the body will be in a better position to absorb essential nutrients needed to keep your immune system strong.
Thiamine is also an anti-stress nutrient, meaning it can lower the stress hormone cortisol. While cortisol can help the body cope with stress, chronic elevation may reduce disease-fighting immune cells (white blood cells), putting you at risk of catching an infection.
2. It can fight oxidative stress
Oxidative stress is simply an imbalance between free radicles in the body vs antioxidants. In other words, oxidative stress occurs when the free radicals in the body are more than the antioxidants can control.
In case you have no idea what free radicals are, they are natural byproducts of many chemical reactions in the body.
They can also be created by exposure to environmental factors like cigarette smoke, UV radiation from the sun, and pollution.
In nature, free radicals are unstable and can easily react to cause cell damage which may result in various chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Antioxidants work by neutralizing these compounds, making them stable and less likely to react.
Research shows that breadfruit contains various antioxidant compounds, including triterpenes and flavonoids, which can help prevent the effects of free radicals in the body.
3. It’s a good source of vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that has also been shown to fight oxidative stress and boost the immune system.
With one cup of raw breadfruit providing more than 100% of your daily vitamin C requirements, it’s such a great source to consider.
Getting enough vitamin C can also help:
- Promote wound healing and tissue repair by increasing collagen production.
- Promoting healthy skin
- Preventing premature signs of aging
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting bone density
- Reduces chances of UTI
- Decreases high blood pressure
- Treats cold
- Reduces chances of stroke
- Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevents scurvy
- Cures cataracts
4. Breadfruit is a good source of essential amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are molecules that combine to form protein.
Although Breadfruit is not a very rich source of protein, it’s a complete protein. Meaning it provides all the essential amino acids that the body needs but cannot produce.
It’s especially high in the 2 most important amino acids, lycine and leucine.
Lycine benefits in the body are many, including:
- Providing immune support
- Converting fatty acids into energy
- Helping the body absorb calcium, iron, and zinc
- Promoting collagen production
- Supporting healthy lips
On the other hand, leucine can help:
- Promote muscle building
- Stimulate growth hormone production
- Improve muscle mass, strength, and function
- Promote growth and repair of bone tissue
- Speeds wound healing
- Burns fat
- Increases insulin sensitivity
5. Reduces joint
Joint pain is a common problem, especially in old age. This can occur as a result of an injury or conditions like arthritis. Whatever the cause, eating breadfruit may help alleviate the pain.
It contains various anti-inflammatory compounds like coumarins, stilbenoids, flavonoids, and xanthones, which can help fight inflammation and reduce joint pain and swelling.
6. Breadfruit flour is a good gluten-free alternative
Also known as ulu flour, breadfruit flour is made by drying and grounding the breadfruit. This results in a low glycemic, gluten-free alternative that can be used in place of wheat flour.
Besides, research shows that it’s easily digestible, meaning less digestive issues such as those associated with wheat.
You can use ulu flour in various recipes, including pancakes, bread, muffins, and other baked goods.
Ulu flour is also high in fiber but low in calories making it an excellent choice for those looking to lose weight.
This flour is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and potassium.
You can easily find breadfruit flour in most health stores online.
7. It can lower the risk of diabetes
Breadfruit is a good source of fiber, which is an essential nutrient for regulating blood sugar. Fiber is the carbohydrate in plant food that doesn’t get digested during digestion, which helps slow down digestion. This causes a slow but steady release of glucose into the blood for an extended period.
It’s also high in antioxidants and other natural compounds that can help fight cell damage and prevent inflammation and prevent insulin resistance.
Additionally, breadfruit is a low-glycemic fruit, meaning it does not spike your blood sugar levels after eating.
This is especially important for someone with an existing condition, as a lack of control over the blood sugar level can lead to various complications.
8. Breadfruit has anti-cancer effects
Often, cancer develops due to cell DNA damage that causes cells to grow uncontrollably. This damage is usually due to too much exposure to free radicals over a long period of time.
The antioxidants in breadfruit can help scavenge free radicals, preventing them from causing damage.
Research also shows that antioxidants can eliminate cancer cells when used alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy cancer treatments.
9. It can lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent health conditions affecting Americans today. In fact, 1 in every 3 American adults have high blood pressure, and 20% of them don’t know it.
Lifestyle changes, especially diet changes and exercise, are the main things that can bring this number down. Eating foods rich in certain nutrients like potassium can help.
Breadfruit is a good source of potassium and other essential minerals that can help regulate blood pressure levels.
In addition, research shows that breadfruit leaf extract has been used as an effective hypertensive remedy.
How to Prepare Breadfruit?
Breadfruit may seem like a mystery to some people in the West since it’s not a common ingredient in the Western diet. In this section, I’ll show you how to prepare your fruit based on different stages of ripeness.
First, it’s important to note that mature breadfruit is often deep green on the outside. However, this color will begin to change to a more yellowish green even if the fruit is not ripe yet.
At this point, unripe breadfruit will still be firm to the touch, making them suitable for a potato or rice substitute.
When ripened, the breadfruit is soft to the touch and can easily be stripped apart with ease using your hands.
Its flesh is usually soft and sweet and can be eaten raw or be used in various dessert recipes, like cakes, custards, and sweet bread.
How to Cook Breadfruit the Healthy Way:
Breadfruit can be prepared in various ways, including boiling, roasting, and frying. But since frying is not a healthy method, we’ll be focusing on the other two.
Before cooking it, some people like to peel off the skin before cooking it, but I find it easy to cook it before taking out the skin. Just ensure you wash the skin properly to remove all dirt before cooking.
Pre-cooked breadfruit can be added to soups and stews or be used as a side dish. It can also be used in different other recipes of choice.
You can boil it whole or slice it into wedges. Place your breadfruit in boiling water and cover. Let it boil for about 40 minutes or until fork tender. If using whole fruit, it should be cooked through but remain sliceable.
If you plan to eat it plain, you can throw in some red peppers and garlic to boost the flavor.
Also, be careful not to overcook it, as this can make it soggy.
Breadfruit is often roasted on an open fire or homemade coal stove. You can also roast it in the oven.
For better texture and flavor, choose ripe breadfruit over an unripe one. This should be soft to the touch but not too soft.
To roast your breadfruit on the stovetop, place the fruit in a hot fire and turn every 5-10 minutes to ensure it cooks evenly depending o the size of the fruit, some can cook for 50 minutes to about an hour.
When cooked properly, the breadfruit skin will become charred. If you drop it down at this point, it will crack open, filling the air with its pleasant aroma.
Allow the ulu to cool down for 10-15 minutes before peeling.
If using an oven, preheat the oven to 425℉. Clean and dry the fruit, then curve out the stem and cut a small X at the opposite end of the fruit. Lightly coat the skin with some oil, then roast directly on the middle rack for 1-1 1/2 hours.
A good sign that it’s ready will be steam coming out of both ends. Remove from the oven and let it cool before cutting off the skin.
Some people may prefer wrapping it with parchment paper and then foil before roasting. You can try both methods and see which one you like best.
Safety and precautions
Breadfruit allergy is very rare but can occur in some sensitive individuals like those allergic to birch tree pollen. Birch pollen is a major cause of allergic rhinitis and possibly asthma.
In one study, a road work with a banana allergy developed rhinitis and urticaria when cutting the shrubs of Benjamin fig and breadfruit.
This shows that those allergic to bananas and Benjamin fig may also be at risk of Breadfruit allergy.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There’s no research on whether the fruit is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. So it’s better avoided unless otherwise.
Breadfruit might increase the risk of bleeding, so those with bleeding disorders should avoid it. This also means it can easily interact with medications that slow blood clotting processes.
This fruit can possibly cause your blood pressure to drop too low if you are on blood pressure medication.
Breadfruit is a versatile and nutritious food that has been eaten for thousands of years.
It’s an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it great for supporting digestive health as well as immune function.
Due to its low glycemic index, it’s also beneficial for people with diabetes or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, there are countless ways to enjoy breadfruit – whether roasted, boiled, or baked. From savory dishes like stews and curries to sweet treats like cakes and pies, there’s no limit to using this delicious fruit!
So next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market, consider picking up some breadfruit. Who knows? You might just discover a new favorite ingredient!
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