By CHIOMA OBINNA & BUSOLA LIKOLO
When was the last time you enjoy a plate of breadfruit, fried or cooked? Well, if you cannot remember, then you simply do not know what you have been missing.
Despite the many health benefits of breadfruit, investigations revealed that the food is gradually phasing out of tables of many Nigerians even among the Igbos where the highly nutritious food was once a common meal for the family.
Breadfruit is called “Afon” by Yorubas, ukwa by Igbos, “ediang” by Efiks and Ibibios, “Ize” by Benins and “bafafuta” by Hausas. The small brown seeds have groundnut flavour when roasted and it is eaten whole or made into paste for sauce, At times it is made into refreshing drinks as well as making breadfruit cakes, snacks and cookies.
Scientifically known as Artocarpus Camans, breadfruit is highly sought after due to its medicinal properties. The fruit has unique flavour and texture used in subsistence as other tropical staples such as rice, sweet potatoes, banana, and coconut amongst others.
Studies have shown that as other tropical fruits, breadfruit comes with lots of calories. The fruit has moderate levels of essential vitamins, and minerals. Like other tropical delicacies, it is rich in many vital B-complex groups of vitamins. The fruit is rich especially in thiamin, pyridoxine, and niacin. Fresh fruit is excellent source of potassium, an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Its pulp is good in copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
It is a source of fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6, which are vital for the proper development of the mind and body. These enhance power and promote growth of hair. These fatty acids also regulate metabolic functions, promote reproduction, enhance skin colour and accelerate bone health.
According to experts, breadfruit intake reduces harmful cholesterol or LDL in the body and increases HDL cholesterol that is beneficial for health. It is also said that regular consumption of breadfruit helps lower the risk of developing colon cancer, reduce blood pressure, asthmatic symptoms and serious health implications.
Breadfruit seeds contain adequate levels of protein; 100 g seeds provide 7.4 g or 13 per cent of daily-recommended values.
Breadfruit and diabetes: Breadfruit porridge is one of the diabetic healthy foods that is prepared and eaten to help control blood sugar level. Untreated diabetes can cause serious health problems like dangerously high blood glucose level, blindness, arteriosclerosis, hypertension and chronic complications such as heart, liver, kidney, nerve damage and can finally result to death.
Experts say breadfruit porridge is also an ideal food for maintaining healthy eyes, skin and for boosting the body’s resistance to infections and disease. The fruit as well as the leaves and latex of its tree work as a natural medicine for curing diseases like Diarrhea, Asthma, and Sciatica.
The fiber present in breadfruit reduces absorption of glucose from the consumption of the food people eat. The fiber also flushes out toxins from the intestine and helps in proper functioning of the bowels and intestines.
However, a study by Ajayi Israel Oluwasanmi and colleagues from the Department of Science Laboratory Technology, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Nigeria on “Nutritive significance of husked and dehusked seeds of African Breadfruit and characterisation of its extracted oil” says dehusking of the African breadfruit seed increases the crude protein, oil, crude fibre and calorific value but decreases the moisture, ash and total carbohydrate.
The scientists recommend that the obese should dehusk the seeds before eating in order not to aggravate the problem of obesity. The high content of calcium, magnesium, iron and low content of lead, copper, zinc and potassium in husked seed of African breadfruit indicates that it is better for children to eat husked seeds rather than dehusked seeds. The oil extracted is a close substitute for palm kernel oil because it is edible and it can also be used industrially for soap making.