Stroll through your local supermarket and you’re apt to spot more than a few trendy meat alternatives. Besides mainstays like tofu and tempeh, there are faux-meat burgers that boast fat marbling and “bleeding” from beet extract.
But there’s another substitute that’s been on the vegetarian scene for years and is now a mainstay on many Meatless Monday dinner tables.
The botanical name is artocarpusheterophyllus, but it’s commonly known as jackfruit. Unlike other meat substitutes, jackfruit doesn’t have much to offer in the protein department. Still, it’s not without gastronomic and nutritional perks.
Let’s take a look at this unique tropical fruit…
What the Heck is Jackfruit?
Unless you frequent Asian specialty markets, chances are you’ve never laid eyes on the world’s largest tree-borne fruit. Jackfruits can grow to the size of a football or even larger. And jackfruit weighing 100 pounds or more have been recorded!1
Jackfruit is from the Moracaea plant family, which also includes fig, mulberry and breadfruit. But with its spikey green and yellow outer skin it looks nothing like its plant relatives. Jackfruit grows in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Brazil and Africa.2
What’s so “Meaty” about Jackfruit?
The fascinating thing is that although jackfruit is technically a fruit, its stringy consistency is akin to chicken or pork. It has a fairly neutral taste when unripe, so it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce or seasoning you pair it with.
Some folks even report that they’ve fooled their meat-loving friends with jackfruit slathered in tangy sauce. Plus, jackfruit aficionados love it in tacos, stir fries and enchiladas.
If fresh jackfruit isn’t available there are plenty of other easier options, including canned and frozen.3
The real reason to consider adding jackfruit to your dietary regimen isn’t flavor, it’s nutrients.
Brimming with Nutrition
Although a serving of jackfruit has only three grams of protein (versus ten grams in the same amount of tofu) it does have an impressive nutrition profile.
The jackfruit provides 155 calories per one-cup serving. The bulk of the calories come from the carbohydrates. However, this exotic fruit truly shines when it comes to vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese.
Jackfruit’s Health Benefits Proven in Studies
One study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition revealed that jackfruit pulp is a natural source of antioxidants that shield cells from free radical damage.4This means that jackfruit can slow down skin aging and reduce the risk of several diseases, including cancer.
This “jack-of-all-trades” jackfruit offers blood sugar control benefits due, in part, to its low glycemic index. And because jackfruit provides some protein, it can help prevent blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal.5
In another study published in the Journal Ethnopharmacology, researchers found adults who consumed jackfruit extract had significantly improved blood sugar levels.6
Researchers concluded that when it comes to balancing blood sugar, jackfruit provides a winning combination of fiber, protein and antioxidants.
Is Jackfruit the Meatless Messiah?
While I am not a staunch vegan or vegetarian, I do like to dabble in meat alternatives. Jackfruit is quite versatile and high in nutrients and antioxidants that offer a variety of health benefits.
But it’s important to keep in mind that if you’re looking for protein, you’ll have to find it somewhere else. Reportedly some fans add tofu or legumes to their jackfruit dish. For jackfruit recipes, visit https://www.thefreshmarket.com/jackfruit
- 1 Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Jun;65(2):99-104. doi: 10.1007/s11130-010-0155-7