What Is Breadfruit?
One of the most important plants (known as “canoe plants”) brought to Hawai’i by the ancient voyaging Polynesians is the breadfruit tree. This beautiful tree played a major role in colonizing the Pacific and was a key staple food. For hundreds of years before western contact with Hawai’i this fruit tree, called ulu, was a large part of the cultural and spiritual life of ancient Hawaiians. Ancient Hawaiian breadfruit groves were so large that some were capable of sustaining around 75,000 people! These trees were also an important source of wood, craft materials and medicines. Today few of these trees remain in Hawai’i compared to ancient times.
Powerful Benefits of Breadfruit
1. Rich in Amino Acids to Help Your Body Store Nutrients
Do you know what the building blocks of your body are? They’re proteins known as amino acids, and they create the structure of your body’s cells, work to transport nutrients and support the functioning of all major bodily systems.
According to a study from the University of British Columbia, breadfruit contains “a full spectrum of the essential amino acids and are especially rich in phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine and valine.”
2. Prevents and Reverses Oxidative Stress
Another nutrient group important to disease prevention are antioxidants. Found in a huge variety of food sources, antioxidants prevent and reverse oxidative stress, the damage that free radicals cause to body functions. Free radicals can be introduced into the body through sun overexposure, chemicals found in your environment and various other sources, but when you eat a diet full of high-antioxidant foods, you can slow the age-related breakdown of your cells as well as reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke (among other diseases).
All edible parts of the fruit of the breadfruit tree contain an impressive antioxidant load and offer the potential for many positive bio active processes due to their high presence of phenols.
An important antioxidant found in breadfruit is vitamin C, found in such a high quantity that it more than covers the daily recommended value. It Cures heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as an extended life span compared to those who do not have a high dietary intake of vitamin C.
3. Keeps Your Heart Strong
Due in part to its antioxidant content, in addition to other factors, breadfruit is also great for your heart. It’s been found to contain phytochemicals that protect the heart against atherosclerosis, a heart disease characterized by slowly building pockets of white blood cells in artery walls causing them to thicken. Eventually, atherosclerosis can lead to myocardial ischemia, a blockage of blood supply to the heart that can lead to heart attack. In 2006, breadfruit was termed as a good prospect to use in medicinal protection against this very common disease.
Another way it’s beneficial to your heart is by its ability to combat highcholesterol. In one rat model, a methanol extract from breadfruit alleviated all serum (blood) levels and symptoms associated with high cholesterol. This shows its potential as a cholesterol-lowering food.
Breadfruit is also incredibly high in fiber, offering nearly half the daily recommended intake in just one serving. A high-fiber diet is associated strongly with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, hypertension and other heart disease risk factors, along with metabolic syndrome.
Because breadfruit is high in potassium (with more than 30 percent of the daily value in one serving), it also offers protection from low potassium, a leading cause of congestive heart failure. Deficiencies in potassium and magnesium (which is also found in relatively high quantities in breadfruit) complicate and exacerbate heart problems, so anyone at risk for heart disease should take great care to supplement these essential nutrients into their diets.
4. Help Fight Against Certain Cancers
Because breadfruit has some incredible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it’s been researched as a potential cancer-fighting food. In a mice model, a Taiwan study found it to have significant potential in the fight against skin cancer. An extract from this fruit, applied directly to the skin, decreased the number, size and malignancy of skin tumors.This evidence is preliminary but has the potential to be groundbreaking.
Another cancer that may be fought by the powerful nutrients in breadfruit is pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer operates differently than many other types of cancer because it’s not as susceptible to “nutrient starvation” as other cancers often are. This means that the cancer drugs that are commonly prescribed to starve cancer cells of nutrients are even less effective than usual against cancer of the pancreas.
Therefore, when studying possible treatments for pancreatic cancer, scientists must focus on things that can kill these cancer cells and prevent them from pulling nutrients from nearby vessels and cells. In 2014, a pilot study investigating the impact of an extract from the leaves of the breadfruit tree found that the chemical compound had 100 percent “preferential cytoxicity” against human pancreatic cancer cells known as PANC-1 under nutrient-deprived conditions. This means that the extract successfully killed 100 percent of the pancreatic cancer cells when subjected to a nutrient-deprived environment (which normally would have little to no effect on these cells).
Another study in Asia published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine studied the effect of an extract from the breadfruit plant on liver cancer cells. The findings were also fascinating, as researchers discovered that the extract did not cause traditional apoptosis (programmed cell death) that’s often seen in anticancer nutrients and pharmaceuticals. Instead, when exposed to the breadfruit extract, the liver cancer cells underwent autophagic death. This alternative method of cell death occurs naturally in the body as it processes proteins and breaks down damaged cells and is a more effective method of stopping cancer in certain cases.