Jackfruit, locally known as ‘igifenensi’, has its natural sweetness. The fruit has also many health benefits as nutritionists say it’s enriched with vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the proper functioning of the body.
In Rwanda, jackfruit is mainly grown in Eastern Province. The fruit provides a moderate amount of calories in addition to lots of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all essential to human health.
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says jackfruit can be consumed on its own or be incorporated in various dishes, depending on one’s preferences.
He says that one of its biggest benefits when consumed is supporting immunity boost.
“Children have a low immune system and so they need a diet that helps in boosting their immunity,” he says.
He notes that the fruit contains a wealth of antioxidants that the body needs. Antioxidants help in fighting off the early signs of ageing and has a strong defence against common infections and diseases such as runny nose, cold, and flu.
Apart from that, Musengimana says due to its excellent source of the natural antioxidant which is vitamin C, jackfruit, when consumed, helps in fighting free radicals that damage the cells.
When free radicals are eliminated from the body, it ensures that the body functions as it should, and is not subjected to the effects of premature and accelerated damage.
He explains that vitamin C is water-soluble and is not produced in the body, thus making it absolutely necessary for one to consume a diet rich in vitamin C. And foods, such as the jackfruit, ensure that.
For people who are weight conscious, Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist/dietician at Oshen-King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, says they should try out jackfruit as it helps improve energy levels.
He says that when consumed, it is an ideal energy booster. Additionally, the fruit has a substantial amount of carbohydrates which can give one a quick energy boost without necessarily depending on other foods that have large amounts of fats.
Besides, jackfruit contains sucrose and fructose that can be digested easily by the body.
Musengimana says that people with diabetes can enjoy eating this fruit without having to worry about hyperglycaemia.
He says the sugar in this fruit releases glucose in a slow pulsatile manner; hence, reducing the glycaemic index of the fruit.
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Consumed regularly, Tabaro says the cardiovascular system also gets a boost.
He says the fruit contains potassium which is among the top key nutrients that promote overall cardiovascular health.
He adds that apart from just serving a variety of functions in the body, potassium deficiency can upset natural heart contractility and blood vessel flexibility; but with the fruit, it ensures all this doesn’t happen.
“The body needs potassium in order to maintain normal blood pressure, and because jackfruit has it, it helps maintain proper muscle function and coordination which includes the heart and muscular organ that pumps blood,” he says.
In addition, the presence of potassium in jackfruit helps regulate sodium and balances electrolytes. All these roles are significant in maintaining good heart health, says Tabaro.
Asthma is a respiratory problem affecting a great number of people ranging in age from children to adults.
Asthma has no known cure, but its symptoms can be managed. For those people with asthma, Musengimana says jackfruit, when consumed, helps reduce the effects of the condition.
Here, he explains that jackfruit can be boiled and the water from its steam used on patients with asthma to help alleviate the effects, through the release of heat labile bioflavonoid.
The jackfruit contains calcium, which according to Musengimana helps in promoting bone health.
He says that people should eat jackfruit to keep their bones strong and healthy. It has high amounts of calcium which increase bone density, making it less likely to suffer a fracture or experience osteoporotic complications.
“Due to its abundance in potassium, it helps minimise the loss of calcium through the kidney. With potassium and calcium together, people can prevent diseases such as rickets, osteoporosis, and other bone diseases,” he says.