Breadfruit is a seasonal food that is considered a staple in the Caribbean food groups. Breadfruit provides energy, is gas-forming in some persons, and makes a tasty punch.
Breadfruit is an all-time Jamaican favourite when served with steamed vegetables and meat with gravy or ackee and salt fish.
Young or mature, breadfruit is usually boiled or steamed and eaten with other staple foods such as yam, dumpling and pumpkin or put in soup. Whereas, the more mature or fully mature or 'turn' breadfruit is roasted or baked and served most times as a breakfast item. When it's the peak of the breadfruit season, lovers of this staple tend to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and everytime they stroll through the kitchen they pinch off a piece of the leftovers on the counter; so then breadfruit is eaten as a snack.
Breadfruit is a nutritious food, and when boiled provides 80 kilocalories, and the roasted version provides 160 kilocalories per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces. Why is there a difference? When roasted or baked, the calories and nutrients are more because water is removed (evaporation), therefore, making the nutrients in roasted or baked breadfruit more concentrated as compared to when boiled.
Breadfruit that is boiled absorbs some of the water it is cooked in and the nutrients are removed into the water in the pot. This process adds some nutritive value to the 'pot water' or the water that the breadfruit was cooked in. I sometimes wonder if that is one of the reasons our grandparents lived so long, because they drank the nutrient-filled 'pot water' or 'potty'.
According to the Food Composition Tables for the Caribbean 2000, 3.5 ounces, which is equivalent to a regular slice or one peg of boiled breadfruit, provides:
80 kilocalories of energy
one gram of protein
3.5 grams of fibre
239 milligrams of potassium
14.3 milligrams of magnesium
23 milligrams of phosphorus
Three and a half (3.5) ounces or a peg of roasted breadfruit provides:
160 kilocalories of energy
2 grams protein
3.5 grams fibre
492 milligrams of potassium
23.6 milligrams of magnesium
35.5 milligrams of phosphorus
Breadfruit, apart from eaten boiled or roasted, can be dried and made into a powder or 'flour' and used to make dumpling, pancake, fritters, porridge, muffins, pudding and bun.
Breadfruit is gluten free and, therefore, when used as a flour will need a binding agent or an ingredient to hold the mixture together during the cooking process. Gluten is the protein found in wheat that holds ingredients together and prevents crumbling. Over-ripe breadfruit may be used to make pudding and an amazing milk-based drink.
The health benefits of breadfruit are based on the fact that this popular Jamaican food item is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre and is an excellent source of potassium. The benefits include:
Reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Slows the absorption of glucose from the blood into the cells, therefore controlling blood sugars, especially in persons with diabetes.
Binds to harmful substances in the intestines and reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
The potassium and fibre control blood pressure.
Breadfruit is not recommended for persons on a low potassium diet, unless it is leached. This would include persons with conditions such as chronic or end-stage kidney disease. Leaching or soaking breadfruit in large amounts of water, throwing off this water about 4-5 times overnight, then boiling and eating is recommended to reduce the potassium content in breadfruit. Even after leaching, the amount of breadfruit eaten should be guided by a registered dietitian.
Breadfruit, like other staples, should be eaten in moderation, as eating too much may result in weight gain; as sugar is converted to fat and stored in the body.
Eat breadfruit, store in freezer when in abundance, plant a tree and start reaping in 2-4 years. This will make us healthier, protect our environment and build our Jamaican economy.
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: firstname.lastname@example.org