Ever Heard Of Breadfruit? Researchers Say It Might Be The Next Big Superfood
The wide world of superfoods is set to grow again, with the release of a new report from researchers at the University of British Columbia.
The new-to-us fruit has been used for centuries in its native countries, which include tropical areas and the South Pacific, specifically. Known as breadfruit, the researchers say there's good reason to expect it to become a popular superfood in the coming years.
What is breadfruit?
Breadfruit is a large, starchy fruit that grows on trees. When ripe, the fruits are anywhere from 4 to 8 inches around and have a green exterior. It has a texture similar to potato and can be steamed, boiled, or baked, though traditional cooking methods use fire.
According to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of breadfruit contains 4 grams of protein and just over 5 grams of fiber. It's also a good source of nutrients like magnesium and potassium and provides carotenoids like lutein while having a moderate glycemic index.
Breadfruit's superfood potential.
While it must be grown in truly tropical environments to succeed (attempts to grow it in the southernmost part of Florida failed), the researchers say that breadfruit presents an as yet untapped option for a superfood.
"While people have survived on it for thousands of years," said Susan Murch, a chemistry professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, "there was a lack of basic scientific knowledge of the health impacts of a breadfruit-based diet in both humans and animals."
Using a breadfruit flour (a good gluten-free flour alternative) and dehydrated breadfruit, the researchers conducted a series of studies intended to ensure that a diet including breadfruit flour would not pose any health concerns. The initial research was done on mice, but the fruit has been a part of global diets for generations. They found that the protein from breadfruit is actually easier to digest than wheat protein in a model.
How breadfruit might benefit diets.
"Our data showed that a breadfruit diet does not impose any toxic impact," says doctoral student Ying Liu, who led the study. "Fundamental understanding of the health impact of breadfruit digestion and diets is necessary and imperative to the establishment of breadfruit as a staple or as a functional food in the future."
The researchers believe that breadfruit could be a promising option for increasing food sustainability across the globe. It also presents a healthier alternative to grain consumption, one that provides higher fiber levels and significantly more nutrients.
"Overall, these studies support the use of breadfruit as part of a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet," says Liu. "Flour produced from breadfruit is a gluten-free, low glycemic index, nutrient-dense, and complete protein option for modern foods."
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