African breadfruit – or Ukwa in Igbo – is an edible traditional fruit. Belonging to the Moraceae family, it is related to other exotic fruits like breadnut, jackfruit, figs and mulberries. It is consumed, for example in Nigeria, where it is eaten as a main dish. The seeds are of particular interest because of their high nutrition value.
Scientifically known as Treculia africana, breadfruit is a highly sought after fruit due to its medicinal properties. It contains moderate levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Fresh seeds contain 38.3% carbohydrate, 15.9% fat and 17.7% crude protein. It contains adequate levels of protein. 100 grams provide 7.4 grams of protein, approximately 23% of the recommended amount. Readily available in many developing African countries, it can be an alternative to rice and yam. The seeds of Treculia africana can be ground to flour, pressed for oil and used as flavouring in alcoholic drinks. It is rich in riboflavin, iron, niacin, thiamin, iron and phosphorus. It contains minerals like potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, selenium and phosphorus. It is low in saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.
Like other tropical fruits, breadfruit also contains high amounts of calories. 100 grams of breadfruit provides 102 calories. It contains small amounts of flavonoids and antioxidants in the form of xanthin and leutin. Breadfruit contains high amounts of Vitamin C. 1 medium breadfruit provides 29 mg of vitamin, amounting to 48% of the recommended daily allowance.
Some of its health benefits include:
1. Cardiovascular health: Breadfruit is an excellent source of potassium. This heart-friendly nutrient reduces blood pressure in the body and regulates the heart rate by minimizing the effects of sodium. It conducts electrical charges that drive muscular contraction in the skeletal system including the heart. Dietary fiber helps reduce cholesterol by preventing its absorption in the gut. It lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), while elevating good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. It decreases the triglyceride levels, which is one of the main causes of heart attacks.
2. Resistance against infections: Breadfruit contains good amounts of antioxidants, which help the body to develop resistance against infectious agents. It also scavenges harmful free radicals from the body that lead to aging and other age-related diseases.
3. Source of Energy: One cup of breadfruit provides 60 grams of carbohydrates, the primary source of energy in the body. It is very beneficial for athletes and gym goers.
4. Diabetes: Fiber in breadfruit inhibits the absorption of glucose from the food we eat, thus controlling diabetes. It contains compounds, which are needed by the pancreas for producing insulin in the body.
5. Aids digestion: Fiber in breadfruit flushes out the toxins from the intestine, aiding in proper functioning of the bowel and intestines. It prevents digestion-related diseases like heartburn, acidity, ulcer and gastritis, eliminating toxic compounds from the gut. Breadfruit protects the colon’s mucous membrane by warding off cancer-causing chemicals from the colon.
6. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids: Breadfruit contains relatively high amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are vital for the proper development of the mind and body.
7. Dental health: Eating toasted breadfruit flower can help relieve toothache. Applying crushed breadfruit leaves on the tongue can also cure thrush.
8. Prevents Excessive Skin Inflammation: Fresh breadfruit extracts may help to reduce unwanted inflammation. It inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes and prevents the overproduction of nitric oxides, thus preventing excessive inflammation.
9. Collagen Production: Drinking breadfruit juice helps to even out the skin tone and firm the skin by rejuvenating its appearance. The high amount of Vitamin C in breadfruit helps in the production of collagen, a protein which provides elasticity to the skin.
10. Encourages New Cell Growth: The antioxidants in ukwa provide an effective shield against sun rays and sun damage. It also encourages the growth of new cells to make the damaged skin appear smooth and young.
11. Cures Skin Infections: Ashes of the breadfruit leaves are useful for curing skin infections.
12. Treats Skin Diseases: The latex of the breadfruit tree is applied on skin surfaces affected by skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and inflammation.
13. Nourishes Hair: Ukwa contains several hair-friendly nutrients, which are required for maintaining the health of the hair. Vitamin C in breadfruit facilitates the absorption of minerals and provides nourishment to the hair.
14. Treats Dandruff, Itchiness & Hair Breakage: Breadfruit is a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which naturally condition the hair, reducing hair breakage. The fatty acids present in breadfruit regulate the sebum production in the scalp, reducing dandruff and itchiness. It also inhibits scalp inflammation and cell death, preventing hair loss.
15. Promotes Hair Growth: The moderate amounts of iron in breadfruit improve blood circulation in the scalp, stimulating the hair follicles to promote hair growth.
Ukwa is such a versatile food with a natural delicious flavour. The fruit can be roasted, baked, fried and even boiled before consumption. The flesh of the breadfruit has a nice fragrance and a sweet taste. It can be cooked plain without any ingredient, not even salt, and it will taste great especially when prepared with fresh Ukwa. It can be roasted and eaten with coconut or palm kernel. It can also be prepared as a porridge