Jackfruit or Langka is very popular here in the Philippines for it’s culinary uses but did you ever wonder why its called jack of all fruit? Aside from these interesting facts that this is the national fruit of Bangladesh and the largest tree-borne fruit reaching weight up to 100 lbs. it has also different uses and some health benefits.
The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), also known as jack tree, jakfruit, or sometimes simply jack or jak, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family. It is native to parts of South and Southeast Asia and is believed to have originated in the southwestern rain forests of the Western Ghats in the Indian subcontinent.
Like most tropical fruits, Westerners considered this fruit as somewhat weird and exotic. It is enormous and prickly on the outside and it looks like the controversial durian. To avoid confusion, the image below will show the difference between a jackfruit and a durian aside of course from their difference in taste and smell.
Jackfruit have a distinctive sweet and fruity aroma. The flesh is starchy and fibrous and is a source of dietary fiber. The flavor is comparable to a combination of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana. It is very famous on it’s Philippine dish called “ginataang langka”. Its ripe bulbs is a must on a “halo-halo” dessert and also used for different flavourings in ice cream, candies jam and other sweet products. Back home we love to boil the seeds and eat it as snack or cooked it together with its sliced unripe flesh on coconut milk.
USES OF JACKFRUIT IN
Jackfruit is also good in controlling pests. The golden apple snail is one of the major rice pests in Asia, including the Philippines . If they are not controlled, they can devastate the rice crops causing huge losses to farmers. In Malaysia , some farmers are using jackfruit instead of pesticides to control the snails. They put rotten jackfruits in their rice fields.
This is how they do it; Fresh rotten jackfruits with strong smell are collected. These are carefully place in a suitable spot with running water and populated with golden snails as bait and should not be submerged under water. The bait is left overnight and in the morning, snails that gather on and around the jackfruit are collected and destroyed. The rotten jackfruit may be replaced if and when necessary.
Its wood changes with age from orange or yellow to brown or dark-red. It is termite-proof, fairly resistant to fungal and bacterial decay, and resembles mahogany. It is superior to teak for furniture, construction, turnery, masts, oars, implements, brush backs and musical instruments. In Cebu , guitars made from the wood of jackfruit are very popular. Though sharp tools are needed to achieve a smooth surface, it polishes beautifully. Roots of old trees are greatly prized for carving and picture framing.
From the sawdust of its wood or chips of the heartwood, boiled with alum, there is derived a rich yellow dye commonly used for dyeing silk and the cotton robes of Buddhist priests. In Indonesia , splinters of the wood are put into the bamboo tubes collecting coconut toddy in order to impart a yellow tone to the sugar.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF JACKFRUIT
Nutritionists claim the fruit is nearly as calorie-dense as the custard apple. Hundred grams of the edible flesh, including the seeds, contains almost 100 calories, most of it as sugar and starch. The flesh is rich in beta-carotene and potassium, while the seeds are rich in thiamine and riboflavin-B vitamins.
In the past couple of decades the fruit has been growing in popularity, especially among vegans, as its texture, versatility, and vitamin content make it the perfect meat alternative.
COLON CANCER PREVENTION
Jackfruit has a wide array of medicinal properties owing to the powerful compounds it contains – isoflavones, phytonutrients, lignans and saponins. It’s these nutrients that neutralize the effects of harmful free radicals, which have repeatedly been linked to development of cancer and many other chronic diseases. Jackfruit is also packed with fiber and has a unique sticky form, both of which properties work together as a great colon cleanser. Plus, it promotes toxin elimination from your digestive tract, which only further reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that prevent cancer cell formation. They are also beneficial for treatment of stomach ulcers. Interestingly, phytonutrients are only found in plants. According to research, there are thousands of phytonutrients, all of which provide a wide spectrum of health benefits. However, more research is needed to confirm why the 3 phytonutrients found in jackfruit help to prevent and fight cancer.
Saponins are another group of potent anti-cancer agents. According to a recent study, published in the Journal of Nutrition 1995, saponins have colon cancer preventative effects. A different study found that these phytonutrients induce mitotic arrest in leukemia cells. The study also found in some cases it caused remission. Saponins bind to cancer cells thus preventing their further growth.
LIGNANS & ISOFLAVONES
Both lignans & isoflavones are phytoestrogens, meaning they bind to the receptors estrogens do. As found by a recent study, published by the National Cancer Institute Journal in 2006, these nutrients reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. The study included 500 randomly selected women. The group taking the highest levels of isoflavones and lignans from jackfruit and other fruits was found to have reduced cancer rates compared to the control group.
PROTECTION OF CELLULAR DNA
As mentioned above, jackfruit is abundant in antioxidants, meaning it protects cellular DNA against free radical damage. It also prevents induced mutations.
STRENGTHENS IMMUNE SYSTEM
Aside from vitamin C, this super healthy tropical fruit is also packed with simple sugars, which boost your immune system function. A lab study on mice analyzing the immune-boosting properties of the sugars found in jackfruit pulp found that jackfruit has polysaccharides that improve phagocytic cell function.
Jackfruit flesh image source: Alibaba