Breadfruit: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

Breadfruit: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

Breadfruit, scientifically known as Artocarpus altilis, is a flowering tree that belongs to the Moraceae family alongside jackfruit and mulberry trees. Native to South America, the highly nutritious crop has many purported health benefits. The fruit and seeds are commonly eaten as food, while the roots and leaves are used to make medicine.

Breadfruit has a rough, green-hued exterior and a white, fibrous interior. It’s rich in complex carbohydrates and low in fat and cholesterol, making it a nutrient-dense fruit. Its various vitamins and minerals offer many health benefits, including joint and eye health support and anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.

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Some research suggests consuming breadfruit can support joint health and relieve muscle pain. Breadfruit is rich in prenylated phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, that help fight inflammation associated with rheumatic pain.

Rheumatic pain is characterized by chronic joint inflammation and is usually the result of a gradual breakdown of the tissue between joints. While dietary patterns alone cannot cure muscle and joint pain, nutrition can play a crucial role in alleviating symptoms. Eating foods like breadfruit, rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, can help offset inflammation caused by oxidative stress.

Protein is a necessary macronutrient that the body needs to repair and grow cells. While protein-dense foods like meat tend to provide the most dietary protein per serving, research has found that breadfruit is a valuable source of amino acids—the building blocks of protein.

The human body can produce most amino acids aside from nine essential ones, meaning you need to get them through food. Breadfruit provides all nine essential amino acids and is especially rich in phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

The amino acid phenylalanine acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters that play a role in mood regulation and cognitive function, and leucine, isoleucine, and valine support muscle repair. Including breadfruit in a well-balanced diet may benefit people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or fall short of their essential amino acid needs.

Breadfruit is a rich source of carotenoids and lutein, both of which support eye health. The fruit specifically contains beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A, an essential nutrient for eye function and health.

For example, vitamin A is necessary for the production of pigments in the retina and moisture throughout the eye. A deficiency could result in night blindness, among other eye vision complications.

Including breadfruit in a well-balanced diet may help prevent eye disease and maintain vision over time. However, research with human subjects is limited. A medical doctor specializing in eye health, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist, can offer personalized medical guidance regarding lifestyle factors that affect eye health.

In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, breadfruit may help fight against bacterial infections. Its antimicrobial activity stems from its many bioactive compounds. The tropical fruit contains ethyl acetate and methanolic extracts, which have been linked to antibacterial activities.

Research shows consuming breadfruit may help protect the body against pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus mutans, and Enterococcus faecalis.

There is still a need for more research on breadfruit’s ability to protect against bacterial infections. However, adding breadfruit to a well-balanced diet may support the body’s natural defense mechanisms against foodborne illness, skin infections, and other bacterial ailments.

Breadfruit is naturally gluten-free, meaning breadfruit flour may be an ideal option for people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities.

Researchers examined breadfruit flour’s digestibility compared to wheat flour and found that breadfruit flour was more easily digested. However, this was not a human study. The researchers subjected the breadfruit flour to multiple stages of enzyme digestion to mimic the human digestive tract, including the mouth, stomach, and intestinal stages of digestion.

Cooked breadfruit is also an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients. One cup of cooked breadfruit contains 8 grams (g) of fiber. Adding it to a balanced diet can help you meet your fiber needs and optimize gut health. The gut microflora plays a key role in regulating appetite, supporting metabolic processes, and protecting against chronic inflammation.

Most of breadfruit’s calories come from its carbohydrate content, but it is considered a low-glycemic index fruit. This means it’s not likely to cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels but instead provides a steady stream of energy.

The fruit is low in fat and protein, but it provides all nine essential amino acids, which help create protein in the body. It also contains various vitamins and minerals, providing a significant portion of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for some.

One cup of raw breadfruit (220 g) provides:

  • Calories: 227
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 4.4 milligrams (mg)
  • Carbohydrates: 59.6 g
  • Fiber: 10.8 g
  • Protein: 2.4 g
  • Vitamin C: 63.8 mg, or 71% of the DV
  • Potassium: 1,080 mg, or 32% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 55 mg, or 13% of the DV

Breadfruit is generally safe for the average healthy adult but may present risks for people on certain medications. Breadfruit may display 5-alpha reductase inhibitory activity, similar to medications that treat enlarged prostate and male pattern baldness. People taking a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor medication should exercise caution when eating breadfruit in any form.

People with a history of kidney conditions should also avoid consuming large amounts of breadfruit. The fruit is rich in potassium and magnesium, which are filtered through the kidneys. Excessive intake may cause a build-up of these nutrients in people with deficient kidney function. People with kidney issues should talk to their healthcare provider before adding breadfruit to their diet.

While an allergic reaction to breadfruit is rare, it’s still possible. Breadfruit is part of the mulberry family, so people allergic to mulberries or figs should exercise caution before incorporating the fruit into their diet.

While breadfruit continues to garner attention for its nutrient profile and culinary versatility, it’s not routinely accessible in many parts of the country. If breadfruit is a new addition to your diet, consider these tips for maximizing your experience:

  • Make sure your breadfruit is ripe—it should be firm with a fragrant aroma
  • Prepare breadfruit by peeling the outside and removing the core before cutting the fruit
  • Boil, steam, fry, roast, or grill breadfruit and incorporate it into sweet and savory dishes
  • Consider exploring traditional dishes from the South Pacific, where breadfruit first originated
  • Try blending breadfruit with coconut milk and other nutrient-dense ingredients for a nourishing and refreshing smoothie
  • Freeze or can any unused remnants of breadfruit as it’s highly perishable

Breadfruit, a nutrient-dense fruit from the South Pacific, has many purported health benefits. The tropical fruit has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and may benefit joint health and eye function.

Breadfruit is an excellent source of fiber source and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. It’s generally considered safe to eat, but some people may want to avoid or limit breadfruit, such as people with kidney disease. You can enjoy breadfruit in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

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