All About Jackfruit: Nutrition, Benefits, Weight Loss Effect, Recipes, and More

Medically Reviewed
plate of jackfruit
Jackfruit easily takes on the flavors of sauces and seasonings used during cooking.iStock
Have you been making an effort to add more plants to your diet? If so, you’re not alone. People have been embracing plant-based eating in droves — especially during the pandemic. In a OnePoll survey of 28,000 people, 47 percent reported eating a more plant-based diet since the pandemic began, according to an article from Natural Products Global.

And while lentils, beans, and tofu are well-known meat substitutes, there’s a fruit to add to the mix: jackfruit.

“Since plant-based diets are on everyone’s lips these days, it’s no surprise that jackfruit would become [popular],” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the New York City–based author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table.

“Like tofu, jackfruit takes on the flavor of other foods and spices paired with it,” Taub-Dix says. “So feel free to add it to your favorite dishes to pump up the volume and help you feel full without adding lots of calories. Plus, you get the benefit of its nutrient value.”

Read on to learn all about this mysterious fruit, and why you should consider adding it to your diet.

What Is Jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit (with the scientific name of Artocarpus heterophyllus) that comes from Africa, Asia, and South America, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

If you’re picturing an orange or a lemon, think bigger — a single jackfruit can weigh 40 pounds or more! It looks like an oversize mango with green skin and spikes.
Jackfruit has been consumed since ancient times, according to a past review.

There are two varieties of jackfruit — firm, which is crunchier and considered to be of a higher quality, and soft, which has small, spongey flakes and a sweeter flavor, according to an article published in January 2019 in the International Journal of Food Science.

Jackfruit is often used as a substitute for pulled meat, notes Taub-Dix: “Its stringy texture is said to resemble pulled pork, and it's often used as such by vegans and vegetarians.”

Jackfruit Nutrition Facts

One cup of sliced jackfruit offers 157 calories, 1 gram (g)?fat, 38 g?carbohydrates, 2.8 g?protein, and 2.5 g fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Most fruits don’t offer much protein. Three grams per serving is relatively high compared with other fruits, but it’s not as good as meat. For example, one plain chicken breast offers 33.6 g protein, according to the USDA.

“It may not be as satisfying as animal protein,” Taub-Dix says. Some other plant-based proteins beat out jackfruit in the protein department, too. Lentils, for instance, offer 17.9 g of protein per 1 cup serving, according to the USDA.

Try pairing jackfruit with plant protein sources such as chickpeas, beans, or almonds, Taub-Dix recommends. These foods offer a boost of fiber, too

Bonus: Whole jackfruit is a source of other key nutrients. “Jackfruit’s flesh is a good source of vitamin C and its seeds are a source of protein, potassium, calcium, and iron,” Taub-Dix says. “And unlike other fruits, jackfruit contains B vitamins, including vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, which is especially important for a healthy nervous system.”

Common Questions & Answers

Does jackfruit taste like meat?
Jackfruit doesn’t taste like meat necessarily — the flavor of an unripe jackfruit is neutral. But the stringy texture is similar to meat, and that's why it’s used as a meat substitute. Ripe jackfruit, on the other hand, tastes sweet.
What does jackfruit smell like?
Many people do not enjoy the smell of jackfruit. It has a musky smell when unripe and can smell like a mix of onion, pineapple, and banana when ripe.
Is jackfruit healthy?
Jackfruit offers several key nutrients, including fiber, protein, vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium. Those nutrients can help you manage your weight and blood sugar, promote healthy skin, and keep your heart healthy.
What can I make with jackfruit?
Unripe jackfruit plays nicely in savory dishes like curry, tacos, and in place of pulled pork in a barbecue slider. Sweet ripened jackfruit makes a tasty addition to smoothies.
Are there any health risks of jackfruit?
Avoid jackfruit if you are allergic to latex or birch pollen. Also be careful if you have kidney issues, because jackfruit contains potassium, and too much of this mineral can strain the kidneys.

Potential Health Benefits of Jackfruit

“Because of its rich nutrient content, jackfruit offers a variety of health benefits,” says Kristin Gillespie, RDN, a nutrition support dietitian for Option Care Health and an adviser for Exercise With Style in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Jackfruit can do the following.

Lower Inflammation in the Body

Gillespie says jackfruit can lower inflammation. One cup of sliced jackfruit contains 22.6 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, according to the USDA.

Men should consume 90 mg of vitamin C and women should take in 75 mg per day, according to the NIH,?so just one serving of jackfruit gets you more than 20 percent of the way there.

Vitamin C–rich foods can help reduce inflammation in the body, which may in turn lower your risk of chronic disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Promote Healthy Skin?

“Jackfruit’s rich vitamin C and?antioxidant?content make jackfruit beneficial in terms of improving?skin health?and?preventing skin problems such as aging,” Gillespie says. According to a past review, vitamin C plays a role in the production of collagen, which makes the skin look plump and smooth.

Previous research also found a higher vitamin C intake was associated with a lower likelihood of having wrinkled skin.

Jackfruit also contains phytonutrients (lignans, isoflavones, and saponins), which can have an anti-aging effect, according to another past study.

Keep the Heart Healthy?

Jackfruit also contains potassium and fiber, two nutrients that have been shown to promote a healthy heart. According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps lessen the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure.

And consuming a diet rich in fiber can lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure and inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Jackfruit and Weight Loss

“Incorporating jackfruit certainly does have the potential to help with weight loss,” Gillespie says.

Jackfruit contains 2.5 g of fiber per serving. That’s not an incredibly high amount compared with some other produce — green peas, for instance, have 8.8 g of fiber per cup, per the USDA.

But it will help you reach the recommended fiber intake, which the Mayo Clinic lists as 21 to 25 g per day for women and 30 to 38 g per day for men.

The majority of Americans do not eat enough fiber, according to an article published in the January?–February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Fiber is an important nutrient for meeting your weight loss goals because it adds bulk to your diet, according to MedlinePlus.

“It can help keep you feeling fuller for longer periods of time,?thus cutting back on unnecessary snacking and grazing,” Gillespie says.

Plus, eating jackfruit as a substitute for meat will save you calories. “It contains fewer calories than most meats,” Gillespie says. “When used as a meat substitute, it can naturally reduce caloric intake.”

A 150 g serving of jackfruit has 157 calories (before any sauces are added), compared with 375 calories in 150 g of pulled pork, according to the USDA.

Skipping meat in favor of a plant-based diet has been shown to lead to weight loss. A systematic review published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy in?September 2020 found that a plant-based diet helped overweight individuals lose weight, which may have been because they ate more foods with fiber and plant proteins and fewer foods containing saturated fats and animal proteins.

“That said, jackfruit does contain a higher amount of calories per serving than other fruits and is composed mainly of carbohydrates,?so it?is important to monitor serving sizes so as not to overdo it,” Gillespie says.

How to Select and Store Jackfruit

“You can purchase jackfruit raw, canned, or packaged preseasoned,?and it can be eaten raw or cooked,” says Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, of Saginaw, Michigan, the creator of the blog Graciously Nourished.

Brands will often do the heavy lifting for you, so all you need to do is pick up a package or a can of precooked jackfruit near other meat substitutes in the grocery store.

Look for the words “young” or “packed in brine” on the label if you’re using it as a meat substitute, recommends the Cleveland Clinic.

That indicates the jackfruit is unripe, which is what you want if you’re going for a neutral flavor to be used in savory dishes.

How to Cook Jackfruit, and 5 Recipes for Beginners

Jackfruit can be prepared savory or sweet. Most recipes call for packaged or canned jackfruit, which can be sautéed in a skillet along with spices and other ingredients. You can also easily blend ripe jackfruit into a smoothie. Here are five recipes to inspire you.

  1. Keep warm with Easy Vegan Jackfruit Curry.
  2. Ditch the pork and make BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches With Avocado Slaw.
  3. Discover the sweet side of jackfruit with a Jackfruit Mango Smoothie.
  4. Put a meatless spin on Taco Tuesday with Easy Vegan Jackfruit Tacos.
  5. Mix together jackfruit, greens, quinoa, and a tasty sauce to make these Easy Jackfruit “Chicken” Quinoa Bowls.

Jackfruit Side Effects

“Jackfruit is generally considered safe for consumption in moderate amounts,” Gillespie says. But there are some people who should approach with caution. According to the?Cleveland Clinic, you should avoid jackfruit if:

  • You are allergic to latex or birch pollen, as you may also be allergic to jackfruit.
  • You have kidney issues, such as chronic kidney disease or acute kidney failure, since the potassium in jackfruit could lead to the buildup of potassium in the blood, a condition known as hyperkalemia.

Summary

If you’re one of the many people who has started embracing meat-free meals, jackfruit should be on your radar. Its neutral flavor makes it a perfect partner for many sauces and spices, and its texture imitates pulled pieces of meat. Jackfruit delivers a handful of key nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium. That said, you’ll want to keep in mind that it’s not a protein powerhouse like other meat substitutes and is mainly composed of carbohydrates.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

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