Health

The Tropical Superfruit Way More People Should Be Eating

Published On 08/19/2016 Published On 08/19/2016

People love getting hyped on "superfoods." No one bats an eyelash at shelling out nearly 10 bucks for maple water, and some go so far as crowning themselves with health laurels for eating donuts made out of ube.

So what's the next nutritional powerhouse worthy of your attention? Meet breadfruit, the world hunger-curbing hidden gem from the tropics. Here's what you need to know.

Is it a carb? Is it a fruit?

Breadfruit, part of the jackfruit family, is a species of flowering tree that originated in the South Pacific, grown today in some 90 countries. The name comes from the texture of the fruit after it's cooked, which is similar to freshly baked bread. Weird. But also cool. A large breadfruit can provide the carbohydrate portion of a meal for a family of five, though you probably won't be seeing it as part of a fast-food advertising campaign anytime soon.

It's a surprisingly great protein source

If you got super freaked out by the news that bacon causes cancer, breadfruit is a significant source of plant-based, high-quality protein. It carries a full range of essential amino acids, in a higher proportion than soy -- which is a big deal considering all the hype soy protein gets. The fruit can be ground into flour which, in a study that compared its properties to boring old wheat flour, reigned supreme in protein, fat, and ash contents. You're going to LOVE that ash content, for real. Seriously, though, that ash content is just a pleasant (kidding, really horrible), science-y way of saying breadfruit has a bunch of minerals in it. As an added bonus, it's gluten-free!

You'll load up on nutrients

Speaking of minerals and ash contents, if you're out of Flintstones gummies and in need of a healthy dose of vitamins, breadfruit's got you covered. You'll get antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber -- the health benefits are huge.

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Breadfruit is incredibly versatile

What's cool about this food is that you can eat it at basically any stage of its growth. When it's small and unripe, the texture is similar to artichoke hearts, and when it's mature it can serve as a substitute for starches such as rice or potatoes. While it's mostly marketed as fresh fruit, the superfood can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. Try it in spinach dip, desserts, and, as is popular in the tropical regions, in chip form.

It could play a big role in reducing hunger

Just one breadfruit tree can produce 450lbs of fruit per season, one of the largest yields of any food-growing plant. More than 80% of the world's hungry live in tropical and subtropical regions, where breadfruit is plentiful. You do the math -- it has incredible potential to provide food to a vast amount of the malnourished population, and promoting the consumption of it will aid the Breadfruit Institute in its mission to popularize the food, feed the hungry, and enhance the livelihoods of tropical farmers.

It's a great natural insect repellent

Hey, this is just a bonus. The USDA has confirmed that breadfruit flowers contain powerful chemicals that keep flying insects out of range. It's a natural -- and more effective! -- alternative to DEET, the primary insecticide used to repel bugs, so if you can get your hands on some, do it, seeing as how mosquitoes haven't exactly been the recipients of good press recently.  

How to get your hands on it

While breadfruit is popular and wildly abundant where it is grown, you may have a hard time tracking it down in your local grocery store. You may be able to find it in specialty grocery stores, and fresh breadfruit and products made from the food are available for sale online.

If you want to secure a more consistent yield, you can order your own breadfruit tree. The plants can grow in almost any conditions and require little care.

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Sarah Anderson is a former Thrillist employee and current law student. She is anxiously awaiting the delivery of her breadfruit tree. Follow her @smileforsarah and @sarah_jfa.

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