Superfoods are plant-based foods that are particularly rich in key nutrients and have numerous health benefits. The most famous are: goji berries, chia or hemp seeds, ginseng, broccoli, turmeric and green tea. Now to enlarge the family seems to have arrived an interesting new entry: the fruit of the bread tree.

This was revealed in a study by the Okanagan Campus of the University of British Columbia, which, in addition to finding the enormous benefits of this food for people, also recognized its high sustainability, given that cultivation and production have minimal environmental impact.

Bread Tree: What it is

Also known by the name of Ulu, the breadfruit tree is a tropical plant of the Moraceae family, widespread mainly in Southeast Asia, India, Oceania and Hawaii.

Its fruit is round, similar to a melon and has a diameter of at least ten centimeters. The rind is rough and light green in color, whereas the inner pulp is almost completely white and has a floury texture. What gives the name to this unusual species are the floury texture and also the taste of the pulp, much more similar to that of freshly baked bread or potatoes than to that of a juicy fruit.

Food staple of Caribbean populations

For centuries, the bread tree has represented the most consistent part of the diet of the inhabitants of the areas where it grows in abundance but, despite its enormous diffusion in those places, no study had ever investigated its properties. “Until now there has been a big gap on this and a lack of scientific insights into the health impacts of a diet focused primarily on the breadfruit tree in both humans and animals,” explains Susan Murch, a researcher at UBC Okanagan.

British Columbia research

To fill this gap, the team initiated a project that examined the impact of eating the breadfruit tree, starting with the consequences on digestion.

“The fruit can be eaten raw when ripe, or cooked, oven-roasted, fried or dried and ground into a flour and repurposed into many types of dishes,” explains Ying Liu, who conducted his research with colleagues from the Natural Health and Food Products Research Group at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Breadfruit Institute- National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii.

The researchers examined the reactions of a group of mice that were given doses of this dehydrated fruit for three weeks. Then, they compared them with those of another group that, instead, was fed traditional wheat or other grains.

A highly digestible food

The data collected during the study established that breadfruit protein appears to be easier to digest than that of plain wheat. Mice fed this type of diet were also found to have a significantly higher growth rate and body weight than mice fed foods of standard values.

The research team also noted that in animals fed the bread diet, daily water consumption was significantly higher than in those fed the wheat diet. And how at the end of the study period, body composition was similar between the two groups examined.

“Our data therefore showed that a breadfruit diet is not at all detrimental to health, in fact, just the opposite. We can say with certainty that these are very functional staple foods.”

Many benefits that make the breadfruit tree a superfood

This discovery immediately placed the new fruit alongside other superfoods and simultaneously made it a valuable resource for fighting world hunger, also by virtue of its high sustainability and excellent nutritional and energy intake.

It is, in fact, a food rich in gluten-free carbohydrates and low in fat, with good amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber, vitamins B1 and B3 and above all potassium. It seems, in fact, that it alone contains the equivalent of potassium found in ten bananas.

Thanks to its low glycemic index, comparable to that of many common staple foods such as wheat, cassava and potatoes, consuming it regularly fights diabetes. In addition, it offers a great supply in terms of protein.

According to researchers, if a person ate about 189 grams of breadfruit, he or she could meet up to almost 57% of the daily fiber requirement, 34% of the protein requirement and, at the same time, ingest vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Its proteins also possess more amino acids than those of soybeans, while some varieties of this plant are rich in antioxidants and carotenoids.

Introducing the use of this plant in one’s diet, therefore, can only bring benefits. Among other things, it should not be forgotten it represents a creative and original food alternative.