Scientists and enthusiastic vegetarians are always on the look out for new meat substitutes. From scientific laboratory meat to delicious black bean burgers, veggie meat alternatives have become commonplace. However, fresh ideas are few and far between. But the good news is, a veggie meat substitute has recently been discovered in the form of jackfruit.
Jackfruit is the next big meat substitute that’s enticing vegetarians around the globe. It has been a common ingredient in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries. The fruit is now gaining recognition in the West. It is an amazing fruit with a meatiness similar to pulled pork or chicken. Vegetarians can now enjoy a “pulled jackfruit” sandwich!
Jackfruit is also being hailed as one possible solution to world hunger problems. This massive fruit can weigh upwards of 100 pounds! In some cases, it can grow to the size of a large dog, which is just astonishing. It also boasts a variety of vitamins, minerals and free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Its health benefits range from maintaining healthy blood sugar to decreasing the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration and inflammation.
All hail the health and wellness benefits of jackfruit! Let’s take a closer look at why this fruit is so remarkable.
Jackfruit is high in protein
Not only does jackfruit have a meaty, thick texture, it also delivers the protein essential to health. One cup of jackfruit (165 grams) offers up 2.4 grams of protein. That is five percent of your Daily Value (DV) of protein.
When searching for meat substitutes, it is important to look at nutritional comparisons. The Harvard School of Public Health warns, “Vegetarians need to be aware of this. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.” Eating enough protein is vital for maintaining a healthy, happy you.
This powerful fruit is also low in calories
One cup of sliced jackfruit will deliver a mere 155 calories, which are mainly derived from carbohydrates and protein, not fat. Although strict calorie counting is counterproductive, keeping calories balanced is good for your health. Jackfruit contains only four calories from fat per cup. In comparison, the same amount of meat serves up approximately 57 calories from fat. Decreasing your calories from unhealthy fats, like those found in the meat of conventionally raised animals, can decrease your risk of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Jackfruit is antioxidant rich and assists in preventing cancer
Consuming nutrient-rich food gives your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep everything balanced and healthy. Jackfruit contains a powerful antioxidant army that can combat oxidative stress. Studies have found oxidative stress is directly associated with the development of cancer. Antioxidants are therefore the allies you need in the fight against cancer.
Research published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (2010) investigated the antioxidant properties of jackfruit. The research, conducted at the Department of Biotechnology, Shivaji University, India by postdoctoral fellow Jagtap Umesh and colleagues, involved jackfruit pulp, which was analyzed for total phenolic and flavonoid content. The researchers concluded, “The results indicated that the jackfruit pulp is one natural source of antioxidant compounds.” Jackfruit is indeed an all-natural source of antioxidants that will decrease your body’s oxidative stress.
It is the fruit of long life
Jackfruit boasts nine different carotenoids, which are the plant pigments that give your fruits and vegetables so much wonderful color. The beta-carotene found in jackfruit converts to vitamin A in the body. This vitamin is essential for fighting off many chronic diseases.
A study published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety (2012) found jackfruit to be exceptionally rich in carotenoids. It states, “Jackfruit-containing carotenoids can be important for the prevention of several chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cataract, age-related macular degeneration.” You can enjoy a delicious meat substitute while significantly decreasing your risk for some of the biggest threats to your longevity.
Jackfruit is excellent during cold and flu season
Cold and flu season is quickly approaching. As a precautionary measure, or even an alternative to getting a flu shot, add jackfruit to your diet. Jackfruit is high in vitamin C, and this magical vitamin, which moonlights as a potent antioxidant, will help you keep colds and infections at bay this autumn and winter. Jackfruit contains a little over 11 grams of vitamin C per cup, which is 18 percent of your DV.
Jackfruit is helpful in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
Jackfruit can help decrease your risk for several chronic degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. You may be asking yourself, what else can this powerful superfruit do? Well, it just so happens that jackfruit can help regulate your blood sugar. It contains 16 percent of your DV for manganese, a mineral that supports blood sugar balance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 100 million Americans are either diabetic or prediabetic. Eating jackfruit is one way to keep your blood sugar in check as you enjoy a delicious meat-free dish!
Jackfruit may be the answer to world hunger
This fruit is hailed as a miracle crop that could save the lives of millions of people who would otherwise die of malnutrition. Not only is it the largest tree fruit in the world, but it’s loaded with the nutrients necessary for growth and sustenance.
“In Bangladesh, where jackfruit is the national fruit, it is often considered the second-most important crop after mangos,” Nyree Zerega, a Chicago Botanic Garden plant biologist, whose specialty is jackfruit, told Business Insider in an interview. “And if you have space to grow something, you almost always have a jackfruit tree — due to both its valuable fruits and timber.”
Jackfruit is a delightful meat substitute. It has a similar consistency to meat and contains essential vitamins and minerals needed for health and wellness. Currently jackfruit is found in areas of the world where it has been cultivated for centuries, however, it may be time to consider it as a global food staple.
Eating locally grown food is becoming more important as the rate of pesticide and bacterial contamination in food imported into the United States increases. “A lot of underutilized crops like jackfruit have a ton of potential to produce food more locally and more sustainable, so there’s not as much reliance on imports from other countries. This local market development is important to focus on,” Zerega told Business Insider.
Knowing where your food comes from, and the nutritional value it holds, is vital for a long, disease-free life. In India and other regions of the world, jackfruit is widely used for sustenance and as a source of income. Maybe it’s time to rethink the food we grow, purchase and consume.
Are you ready to make jackfruit part of your diet?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flare for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.