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Unripe Jackfruit: Culinary Potential & Health Benefits

Author - Sonia Velarsan, RD

Unripe jackfruit

When most people think of jackfruit, they think of the sweet, ripe fruit that is commonly used in desserts and smoothies. However, unripe jackfruit is also edible and has numerous health benefits. Unripe jackfruit is a popular ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines and is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world as a meat substitute.

Unripe Jackfruit: A Taste Adventure: The thick, creamy flesh surrounding the seed of jackfruit is consumed when the fruit is two to four days away from ripening. At this stage, it has a pale white color, a mild flavor, and lacks the intense aroma of a ripe mango. Unripe jackfruit's subtle taste makes it an ideal complement to savory dishes. In fact, it can even be used as a substitute for tofu or chickpeas in vegetarian curries. However, the uncanny resemblance to barbecued meat has gained unripe jackfruit popularity among vegetarians and vegans.

According to Bhojanakutuhalam, the unripe jackfruit has a combination of astringent and sweet flavors, and it can be difficult to digest due to its heaviness. Consuming it can lead to an increase in medhas (body fat) and sleshma (mucus), as well as being strengthened. It increases thirst, burning sensation, and aggravation of the vata and pitta doshas. (1) However, with the addition of spices and cooking methods (karana) these properties can be tempered. For example, using coconut in the dish can help balance vata and pitta.

Unripe jackfruit offers a nutritional profile that sets it apart from other popular fruits. It is known to have a higher nutrient density than apples and avocados. Rich in vitamin C, it also stands out as one of the few fruits that boast high levels of B vitamins. Additionally, unripe jackfruit contains potassium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, and folate. (2)

Powerful Antioxidants: Unripe jackfruit's yellow pigments, known as carotenoids, hold a significant amount of vitamin A. These antioxidants play a crucial role in preventing cellular damage and promoting overall physiological well-being. The presence of carotenoids in jackfruit offers potential protection against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. (3). Aiding Weight Management: With its high fiber and water content, unripe jackfruit provides a greater sense of satiety (4) compared to the same volume of rice or rotis. Unripe jackfruit can be an ally in weight management journeys by consuming less but feeling fuller for longer.

Unripe jackfruit slice

A Low Glycemic Option: Clinical trials conducted at Sydney University's Glycemic Index Research Service (SUGiRS) (5) have shown that unripe jackfruit has a significantly lower glycemic load compared to grains like rice and wheat. This means that incorporating raw jackfruit into meals can help regulate blood sugar levels. It can be a suitable alternative for those looking to minimize the impact on blood sugar levels (6). Unripe Jackfruit: A Protein Source: Unlike most vegetables, raw jackfruit contains a notable amount of protein, with approximately 3 grams per cup. While it may not rival eggs or lean meat in terms of protein content, it still offers a valuable protein source for those following a plant-based diet. (7)

Bringing Unripe Jackfruit to Your Plate: Now that we've explored the benefits and unique qualities of unripe jackfruit, let's discuss how to incorporate it into your meals:

  • Simple Thoran / Palya: This traditional South Indian dish is a delightful way to enjoy the natural flavors of jackfruit.

  • Kathal Ki Sabzi: This North Indian recipe involves cooking raw jackfruit in an onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic gravy.

  • Coconut Milk Gravy: The creamy coconut milk enhances the flavors of the jackfruit and creates a delightful dish that can be served with steamed rice or bread.

  • Chakka Vevichathu: Another Kerala specialty, chakka vevichathu is made by mashing cooked jackfruit with coconut. It is often enjoyed with steamed rice or puttu, a traditional South Indian breakfast item.

  • Vegan Alternative for Chicken: If you're looking for a vegan alternative to chicken, try replacing it with raw jackfruit in your favorite chicken curry or roast recipe. The fibrous texture of jackfruit closely resembles shredded chicken, making it a popular choice for vegan and vegetarian dishes.

  • Pithau Bhaja: This is an Odia delicacy where jackfruit steaks are boiled in turmeric and salt water.

  • Edichaka: Steam the jackfruit, remove the edible part, and smash it using a traditional arakallu (a stone grinder).

  • Echor Dalna: This is a Bengal delicacy, which is prepared richly with all Indian spices, ghee and so it is just like a mutton curry.

These are just a few examples of how you can cook with raw jackfruit, but the possibilities are endless.

So, why not embark on an exciting culinary adventure and discover the wonders of unripe jackfruit? Unleash your creativity in the kitchen and savor the delights this tropical gem has to offer! Discover the synergy of Ancient Wisdom and Contemporary Nutrition: Enroll in our 15-hour online course on Ayurveda Dietetics! Join now for a personalized dietary journey today! Register here. Visit our website for detailed information.

References:

  1. Bhojanakutuhalam, Page no. 132

  2. Ranasinghe RASN, Maduwanthi SDT, Marapana RAUJ. Nutritional and Health Benefits of Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.): A Review. Int J Food Sci. 2019 Jan 6;2019:4327183. doi 10.1155/2019/4327183. PMID: 30723733; PMCID: PMC6339770.

  3. Goswami C, Chacrabati R. Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllous). InNutritional composition of fruit cultivars 2016 Jan 1 (pp. 317-335). Academic Press.

  4. Parihar PS, Brahma S, Shirole A. Benefits of Jackfruit and its Natural Properties to Treat Diabetes or Colon Cancer and Weight Loss Related Issues. Benefits. 2021 Mar;8(03).

  5. https://glycemicindex.com/gi-search/

  6. Rao AG, Naik KS, Unnikrishnan AG, Joseph J. Efficacy of green jackfruit flour as a medical nutrition therapy replacing rice or wheat in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition & Diabetes. 2021 Jun 14;11(1):18.

  7. Anila HL, Suma D. Development of textured vegetable protein (TVP) based on raw jackfruit. Food Science Research Journal. 2018;9(2):289-93.

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