As veganism and plant-based diets are on the rise, the food industry has been challenged to continue to come up with new and exciting vegan friendly, meat alternatives. Whether you are strictly vegan, find yourself opting for vegan food, or know someone who is… if you are looking at meat-free vegan foods you will have seen that Jackfruit is a common ingredient.
Most people are indulging in jackfruit as a replacement for pulled pork or chicken dippers, but how much do we really know much about this mystery fruit? Does it have many health benefits, if any? Can we call it the new ‘superfood’?
Whilst it’s not nearly as nutrient dense as meat or fish (which is what it’s often replaced for), let me uncover some of the benefits of this tasty vegan friendly food.
Here are 5 facts about the jackfruit.
IT’S A FRUIT
You may not be surprised to hear that Jackfruit is, indeed, a fruit. It originates from Asia. It looks like a huge spiky melon (one jackfruit can weigh 40kgs!). The texture changes throughout the ripening process but it’s the young jackfruit is mostly used in meat-alternative recipes as it lacks flavour on its own but readily absorbs other flavours, making it popular for its versatility. As jackfruit ripens it becomes sweeter which is when it is best be used in smoothies or dessert recipes.
Gut health and getting enough dietary fibre go hand in hand so we’re always looking for ways to increase our intake. The UK population on average only achieve about 18g of the 30g daily recommendation for fibre.
IT’S A SOURCE OF POTASSIUM
Potassium works alongside sodium to help maintain water balance in the body. It also plays a role in modulating blood pressure and conducting nerve impulses.
CONTAINS SMALL AMOUNTS OF IRON
Obtaining enough iron on a plant based or vegan diet can be a challenge, so eating jackfruit can increase your iron intake. However, you still need to make sure you’re getting some from other sources as well.
As the iron in Jackfruit is the non-haem iron (aka iron found in plants) I recommend combining it with a source of vitamin C (e.g. lemon juice) to help increase its absorption.
IT HAS A SMALL AMOUNT OF CALCIUM
Again, calcium can be difficult to obtain when you’re dairy free, therefore any plant-based sources are great. Calcium is essential for bone health and detecting deficiency can be difficult because it may not show up on a blood test. This is because when blood calcium is low, calcium is pulled from the bone to maintain blood levels.
Overall, jackfruit is a good vegan alternative to meat and fish with regards to its flavour and texture. It does contain some nutritional benefits, but I don’t recommend you start consuming it as your latest ‘superfood’. It’s really important with any diet, especially a vegan diet to ensure you’re consuming a wide variety of foods to maximise your micronutrient profiles.