Breadfruit emerges as protein-rich ‘superfood,’ healthy alternative to flour

VANCOUVER — There are plenty of popular “superfoods” which health-conscious dieters love to snack on. From berries to avocado, there are lots of choices rich in nutrients. A new study is adding another fruit to that list. Researchers in Canada say breadfruit can not only provide health benefits, but may also help areas dealing with food shortages.

Of course, there’s some irony in the belief that eating too much bread is harmful for longterm health. But this is nothing like your sandwich staple. Breadfruit comes from a flowering tree in the mulberry and jackfruit family. These large fruits grow in the South Pacific and other tropical areas. It can be baked, boiled, friend, dried, roasted, and even ground into an alternative to flour.

The University of British Columbia finds this staple food of locals in the region can serve as a healthy replacement for grain-flour. It’s also providing eaters with protein and several of their daily recommended nutrients.

“Breadfruit is a traditional staple crop from the Pacific islands with the potential to improve worldwide food security and mitigate diabetes,” UBC researcher Susan Murch says in a university release. “While people have survived on it for thousands of years there was a lack of basic scientific knowledge of the health impacts of a breadfruit-based diet in both humans and animals.”

Benefits of the breadfruit diet

The study examines how flour made of dehydrated breadfruit impacts the diet and enzyme digestion of mice. Researchers reveal breadfruit protein is actually easier to digest than wheat. Mice have a significantly higher growth rate and body weight compared to those on a wheat diet. Study co-author Ying Liu adds breadfruit-fed mice also consume significantly more water than wheat-fed mice.

“Overall, these studies support the use of breadfruit as part of a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet,” Liu explains. “Flour produced from breadfruit is a gluten-free, low glycemic index, nutrient-dense and complete protein option for modern foods.”

A healthy alternative to flour worldwide?

The study finds an average person in the United States eats 6.67 ounces of grain each day. The Canadian team says if someone eats the same amount of breadfruit instead, they meet nearly 60 percent of their daily fiber needs. That breadfruit dieter would also be consuming a third of their recommended protein as well as vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

Considering how abundant breadfruit crops are in tropical regions, researchers believe more nations embracing the fruit can help ease food insecurity. The study finds the potential “superfood” has a glycemic index on par with not only wheat, but cassava, yams, and potatoes too.

The study appears in PLOS ONE.

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