Tropical fruit behind gluten-free flour is a sustainable ‘superfood’

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 17, 2020, 2:11pm CDT
Tropical fruit behind gluten-free flour is a sustainable ‘superfood’

A type of fruit that is commonly consumed and used to make gluten-free flour in tropical parts of the world is, in fact, a superfood, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. Called Breadfruit, this crop originates from the Pacific islands and is a staple food in South Pacific countries, according to the researchers, who note that the fruit is suitable for high levels of eco-friendly and sustainable production.

Breadfruit is a large, somewhat odd-looking green fruit that grows on trees belonging to the jackfruit and mulberry family. Though it’s not terribly well-known in some countries, it is a staple crop in tropical regions where it grows, providing locals with a type of fruit that can be eaten raw or dried and powdered into a gluten-free flour for cooking and baking.

The UBC study involved four breadfruits sourced from a tree in Hawaii; they were shipped to the university where they were examined as part of research into a breadfruit-based diet. Breadfruit joins foods like yams and cassava as having a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause the big blood sugar spike that one may get from, for example, eating a sugary fruit.

Study lead Ying Liu explained:

Detailed and systematic studies of the health impacts of a breadfruit diet had not previously been conducted and we wanted to contribute to the development of breadfruit as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly and high-production crop … The objective of our current study was to determine whether a diet containing breadfruit flour poses any serious health concerns.

The results were favorable, identifying breadfruit protein as easier to digest than protein from wheat. As well, mice fed a breadfruit-based diet were found to experience ‘significantly higher growth weight and body weight’ when compared to mice fed their standard diet. Likewise, the researchers found that the breadfruit-based diet wasn’t toxic and that mice fed these foods had a greater water consumption.

The study suggests that breadfruit may be an important sustainable crop in the future, helping reduce food insecurity while ensuring populations receive adequate levels of vital nutrients and fiber.

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