Jamaican ackee fruit

Also known as chee or aye, ackee is a fruit from the soapberry family and a close relative to lychee, rambutan, and longan. Learn more about the Jamaican ackee benefits.

It originates from West Africa in countries like Ghana and Benin, but it’s now widely cultivated in areas around the Caribbean, including Jamaica, where it’s considered a national fruit.

Ackee is believed to have been brought to Jamaica during the transatlantic slave trade in 1788, where it ended up becoming a staple.

As the fruit ripens, it turns from green to red and sometimes orange. Mature ackee contains large black seeds partially covered in soft creamy white flesh that, when extracted, look similar to scrambled eggs. This is the edible part. Simply separate the fleshy part from the seeds and the lining, and you have your main ingredient.

Learn more: What Is Ackee?

Ackee is versatile and can be eaten dry, fresh, roasted, or made into soup and sauces.

When cooked, it has a soft, buttery texture. It can be pureed and made into ice cream and cake custard. And being that it’s Jamaica’s national fruit, you’ll easily find it in different types of Caribbean cuisines, including the national Jamaican dish ackee and saltfish.

shelled and seeded ackee in a glass bowl with white background

Jamaican ackee benefits

Ackee is flavorful and rich in nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, that the body needs to stay healthy.

This article will take you through the health benefits of ackee and the necessary precautions to take to ensure you’re reaping the benefits and staying safe.

1. Increases your fiber intake

Fiber is an essential nutrient needed for a healthy digestive system. Research shows that increased fiber intake may boost digestive health and promote the treatment of digestive conditions like constipation, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disease, intestinal ulcers, and diverticulitis.

High fiber intake may also lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Additionally, fiber may help regulate blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, and promote weight loss.

A cup-sized serving of ackee offers two grams of fiber. Therefore, it can help promote your intake and increase your chance to experience these benefits.

2. Controls high blood pressure

People with high blood pressure may benefit from high potassium levels in ackee fruit. Potassium helps dilate the blood vessels, causing the heart to pump blood throughout the body with much ease. When the heart doesn’t need extra pressure to pump the blood, arterial blood pressure will fall, causing your overall blood pressure to drop.

3. Boosts the immune system

Ackee fruit is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C and zinc, which helps the body fight colds and viruses. Furthermore, ackee has traditionally been used to treat flu, colds and reduce their complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

This fruit’s high vitamin A levels also play a role in supporting the body’s natural defenses. For instance, vitamin A is involved in the white blood cells production and function.

White blood cells are immune cells that help trap and eliminate disease-causing pathogens from the bloodstream.

ackee and green banana in market

4. Prevent against macular degeneration

Ackee is rich in vitamin A, an essential nutrient for eye health. It promotes vision and protects against eye conditions like macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness.

5. Promotes bone health

Its high mineral content, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, can help build and maintain strong bones. They may also help increase bone mineral density, which prevents weak and brittle bones and helps prevent the onset of osteoporosis.

In one study, people who supplemented with vitamin A and other nutrients like vitamin C, E, copper, and zinc reduced their risk of developing advanced macular degeneration by 25 percent.

Vitamin A may also lower the risk of certain cancers such as bladder, cervical, lung, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

6. Regulates blood 

One of ackee’s most surprising health benefits is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels. Ackee helps the body better process insulin, leading to stabilized blood sugar levels. This is especially beneficial for those who suffer from diabetes or prediabetes. In addition, ackee can help to prevent spikes in blood sugar after meals, making it a valuable tool for blood sugar management.

7. Boosts vitamin D levels

Most people know that ackee is a great source of nutrients, but what they may not know is that it can actually help boost the levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for many reasons, including maintaining bone health and preventing certain types of cancer. And while you can get vitamin D from sunlight, ackee is a great option for those who don’t get enough sun exposure.

8. Promotes liver health

Liver health is essential, and one way to help protect it is by consuming foods that have antioxidant properties. Ackee is a fruit that has been shown to be rich in antioxidants, which can help improve the health of your liver. Not only does ackee have anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps fight against damage caused by free radicals. If you are looking for a healthy snack option that will also help preserve your liver health, consider incorporating ackee into your diet!

9. It’s a good source of magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body. It’s an essential nutrient that plays a key role in over 300 chemical reactions in your body every day. It supports nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and can help maintain healthy muscles and bones. In addition, magnesium is believed to be beneficial in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and stress.

Unfortunately, it’s often lacking in our diets. This is because magnesium is found in dark leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains – all of which many people don’t eat enough of. Ackee is a great way to get your magnesium fixed.

Magnesium deficiency can lead to many different health problems, including increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythms, irregular heartbeats, and seizures. So ensure you’re getting enough of this nutrient by incorporating magnesium-rich foods in your diet like ackee. 

10. Lowers blood pressure

Ackee is a fruit that has been used in traditional African medicine for centuries to treat high blood pressure. The ackee fruit contains a compound called quercetin, which has been shown to lower blood pressure by enhancing the formation of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax and dilate blood vessels, causing blood pressure to fall.

In addition to quercetin, ackee contains other compounds that have anti-hypertensive effects, including anthocyanins and ellagitannins.
Ackee is also rich in potassium, a mineral that has been shown to regulate blood pressure, among other benefits.

If you are looking for a natural way to lower your blood pressure without any harsh side effects, ackee may be the answer for you!

11. Promotes weight loss

Ackee is a powerhouse when it comes to promoting weight loss. The fruit is high in fiber and contains a range of nutrients that help regulate digestion, including potassium, magnesium and folate. These nutrients also work together to help stabilize blood sugar levels and help curb cravings—all this work to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy one.

10 Ways to Add Ackee to Your Diet

Ackee can be used in many different ways in cooking and in other forms of food preparation. Here are 10 of the most exciting ways to add ackee to your diet, ranging from traditional recipes to modern ideas for how to use it.

Eat it fresh

Ackee is great eaten raw as a snack or as part of a healthy breakfast. It is high in antioxidants and has a sweet taste that is delicious and refreshing.

Use it as bread filling

One way to add ackee to your diet is by using it as a bread filling.To make this dish, start by cooking some onions and garlic. Then, add in the ackee and some seasonings like thyme, salt, and pepper. Fry everything up until the ackee is cooked through. Once it is, use it to fill some hard dough bread or any other type of bread you like.

Grill, roast, or boil some slices for an appetizer or snack!

If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to add ackee to your diet, why not try grilling, roasting or boiling some slices for an appetizer or snack? Ackee is a versatile fruit that can be used in many different dishes, so get creative and experiment with different flavors and ingredients. You’ll be sure to find a new favorite way to enjoy this delicious fruit.

Use it as stuffing for pepper soup

This African fruit is commonly used as a stuffing for pepper soup. Its unique flavor pairs well with the spices in the soup, and it provides a filling and satisfying meal. To add ackee to your pepper soup, simply stuff the peppers with the fruit before cooking.

Deep fry it like chicken wings

The key to making great ackee wings is all in the preparation. First, you’ll need to find fresh ackee. If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, try an online retailer that specializes in Caribbean ingredients. Remove the seeds, cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces, and coat with a flour mixture.

Next, heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot and cook the ackee until it’s golden brown. Deep frying ackee gives it a crispy exterior that is perfect for dipping in your favorite sauce. You can also try coating it in bread crumbs before frying for an extra crunchy bite.

Ackee jam

One way to preserve ackee fruit is to make ackee jam. Ackee jam is a delicious and nutritious spread that can be used on toast, as a filling for pastries, or as a dip. 

Vegan ackee recipes:

What makes ackee poisonous?

While ripe ackee is completely safe to consume, unripe ackee can be dangerous due to its hypoglycin A and B. Unripe ackee is very easy to avoid, but nonetheless, the fruit has a bad reputation among those who have not grown up around this fruit.

Hypoglycin is an amino acid derivative that has toxic effects when ingested. It’s a potent hypoglycemic compound that causes vomiting and fatal cases of poisoning leading to coma or death.

Hypoglycin A is also the main cause of Jamaica’s vomiting sickness, a metabolic syndrome associated with severe vomiting, hypoglycemia, and altered mental status. In extreme cases, seizures, coma, and death may occur.

Unripe ackee contains 20 times more hypoglycin than ripe ones. And the good thing is that when the mature ackee ripens and splits, it gets more exposed to the sun, which rapidly lowers the hypoglycin even further.

The seeds are high in hypoglycin B and should also be avoided.

To ensure your ackee is ripe for consumption, an ackee that’s ready to be picked will have a red exterior and be split open, exposing its big black seeds. Never force the fruit open. Canned ackee is generally safe, once it is from a reputable brand. My favorite brands are Linstead Market or Grace, which I can find on Amazon, in many Caribbean, African, and general international stores, and even many locations of Walmart, Kroger, and Publix.

Despite its inherent dangers, ackee has incredible health benefits. It is rich in fiber, protein, vitamin A, and minerals like potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium, which are needed in the body for various functions.

Final thoughts on ackee benefits:

Ackee is a nutritious fruit native to West Africa but grown mainly in Jamaica.

It’s high in protein, fiber, vitamin A, and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Eating ackee has been shown to promote digestive health, stabilize blood sugar, enhance weight loss, improve heart health, enhance bone health, strengthen the immune system, and protect against macular degeneration.

Ripe and naturally opened ackee fruit is safe to eat. However, unripe ackee is highly poisonous and may result in various complications, including coma and death. A ripe ackee fruit always has red skin, and it will split open, exposing its black seeds. The seeds should also be avoided.

So selecting matured ackee is important, and if you choose to consume canned ackee, be sure to look for FDA-certified brands.

Overall, ackee is nutritious, tasty, and a great addition to various dishes.

And as always, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave any feedback or share your own experience with us in the comments section below.

Other exotic fruits:

Black Sapote

Tuna Fruit

African Bird Pepper

Stinking Toe

Sugarcane Plant

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