Ackee (Blighia sapida) is a member of soapberry family. It’s the close relative of longan and lychee. Ackee is native to Guyana and West Africa, but now it’s cultivated largely in Jamaica, where it is considered as a national fruit. When unripe, ackee fruit looks like a watery rose apple fruit, the seams are still closed. Ackee tree is a beautiful tree, so it is widely used as ornamental plants in the Carribean countries. Only in Jamaica it’s used as staple foods. Ackee trees only produce fruits 2 times a year. The tree is native to West Africa, and probably was brought to Caribbean on slave ships.
The outside flesh is mixed of yellow and red. When ripe, the color will turn into bright red, and the seams split open exposing the seeds and cream-colored pulp. The ackee fruit is considered safe to eat when it’s ripe and the seams open itself naturally; but the unripe fruit is very poisonous. The fruit weighs 100-200 grams. Ackee fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. Ackee can be cooked like any vegetables. It is often cooked into “Ackee and Saltfish”, a Jamaican dish consisted of Ackee and salted cod. When cooked with the salted cod, ackee fruit will taste like scrambled eggs.
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Ackee is a good source of fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. Contrary to popular beliefs long time ago, the fats contained in ackee fruit are healthy fats. There is no cholesterol nor saturated fatty acids in ackee fruit.
Here is the nutritional value of 100 grams of ackee pulp:
|Component||Amount/ 100 g||% Daily Value|
|Energy||151 Cal||7,55 %|
|Carbohydrates||0,8 g||0,62 %|
|Protein||2,9 – 8,9 g||5,8 – 17,8 %|
|Fat||15,2 g||25,33 %|
|Total dietary fiber||2,7 g||10,8 %|
|Zinc||1 mg||9,09 %|
|Sodium||240 mg||16 %|
|Potassium||270 mg||5,74 %|
|Calcium||35 – 83 mg||3,5 – 8,3 %|
|Iron||5 mg||27,77 %|
|Phosphorus||98 mg||9,8 %|
|Niacin (vit B3)||1,1 – 3,9 mg||6,8 – 19,5 %|
|Thiamin (vit B1)||0,03 mg||2,50 %|
|Riboflavin (vit B2)||0,07 mg||5,38 %|
Also, ackee fruit contais Folic Acid 40 ug Ascorbic Acid (vit C)30 mg 50%. Meanwhile, Daily Value is based on 2000 Calories diet. Your may need more or less calories according to your age, gender, health status, and your daily activities.
Super Uses of Ackee Fruit
Jamaican people believe that ackee fruit is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. The ripe fruits are very nutritious and are used for traditional medicine and staple foods; while the unripe ones, the overripe ones, along with all the outer flesh and the seeds are poisonous. As mentioned above, ackee fruit is packed with nutrients, vitamins and mineral that can help many health problems.
Ackee is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and organic components that make it a useful dietary tool for a number of health conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of ackee.
1. Controls Hypertension
People who have hypertension should increase the intake of potassium. Ackee fruit contains 270 mg of potassium (5,74% of daily value), so it is good to add ackee fruit in their diet. High potassium level in the blood will dilate blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood through the body. When the heart doesn’t need extra pressure to pump blood, the arterial blood pressure will be lower. Chronic hypertension is known to make damage to blood vessel. It is one of the risk factor of atherosclerosis too, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
2. Source of Vegetal Protein
Protein is needed for body cells regeneration and muscles to work, especially during workouts. A diet high in proteins can help weight loss program because proteins are more difficult to be digested, thus the body needs to take energy from fat tissues to digest proteins. This process makes us feel full for longer time. For vegetarians, this is a good news, since they can add their protein intake from a delicious fruit.
3. Promotes Healthy Digestive System
Ackee fruit contents plenty of fibers. These fibers help adding the mass of the stool, helping us go to toilet regularly, so it prevents constipation. The fibers also induce peristaltic motion in the intestines, make the foods move along and prevent bloating, cramping, constipation and other inflammations in the colon.
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4. Strengthens Bones
Ackee fruit contains plenty of Calcium, Phosphorus and Zinc which are needed to avoid bone demineralization and bone loss. Daily intake of these essential minerals can prevent osteoporosis.
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5. Boosts Immune System
Ackee fruit contains vitamin C and zinc, which play important role in our immune system. Vitamin C and zinc help our body to fight off colds and viruses. This is why South American and African people use ackee fruit to treat cold, flu, and fever. Consuming ackee fruit during cold and flu will reduce the risk of further complications such as
pneumonia and bronchitis. To treat fever in a child, the child is bathed with a water decoction of pounded ackee leaves.
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6. Treatment of Anemia
Ackee fruit is high in iron and also contain folic acid, 2 substances needed to produce healthy red blood cells. The vitamin C contained in this fruit is a big bonus, because vitamin C helps absorbtion of iron in intestines. It means, when we consume ackee fruit, we consume iron, folic acid and vitamin C at the same time. It sounds like a healthy combo.
7. Promotes Healthy Heart
Ackee fruit has good effect for hypertension, but not only that, ackee fruit also contains unsaturated fatty acid. Unsaturated fatty acid is needed by our body cells to function well. Unsaturated fatty acid also lower cholesterol level, thus protect us from atherosclerosis. As we already knw, atherosclerosis can lead to various problems such as heart attacks, coronary heart disease and stroke.
8. Prevents Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps can be caused by electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, especially after workouts or in hot days. Sodium and potassium contained in ackee fruit play important roles in electrolyte balance. Moreover, sodium is needed for muscle contraction, while potassium is needed for muscle relaxation. Consuming ackee fruit can help in restoring electrolyte balance, but we should rink plenty of water too to prevent dehydration.
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9. Controls Blood Sugar Level
Ackee fruit is rich in complex carbohydrates, which are needed to produce energy and help to normalize our blood sugar level. Ackee fruit is also high in fiber. Fiber helps reducing sugar absorbtion in our intestines, thus maintaining normal blood sugar level.
10. Treatment of Skin Infections
African people use ackee leaves to treat ulcers, abcesses and yaws. The leaves are pounded and mixed with salt, then the mixture is put on the affected area. To get rid of cutaneous larva migrans, a shower or bath is taken with decoction of ackee leaves and bark.
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11. Treatment of Edema
Pounded leaves and bark are put on the skin of edematous area. This traditional medicine works best for intercostal edema.
In Brazil, a small dose of aqueous extract of ackee seeds is administered to get rid of intestinal parasites. It has to be administered everyday for at least 3 days.
To treat head lice, the outer flesh of the fruit is burned and the ash is used to wash the hair.
13. Treatment of Venomous Bites
In Africa, pounded bark is used as an antidote to snake, stings and scorpion bites, while the pounded leaves are put on the bitten area to prevent abscess.
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How to Consume
The fresh pulp from fully ripe fruits can be consumed fresh or cooked. The fresh pulp has nutty-flavor, and the cooked one has texture of scrambled eggs.
The best way to cook the pulp is by parboil it in salted water or milk, then fry it lightly in butter, just like scrambled eggs. After parboiling, the pulp also can be added to curry, meat stew, and other dishes. Even with the canned pulp, preboiling is a must, since we don’t know any process that has happened to the pulps.
Caution of Ackee Fruit
Unripe ackee fruits are very poisonous. Since 1970, USA banned all import of most ackee products. Now the USA just recently started to allow the import of canned ripe ackee with limited numbers. Never force an unripe ackee open by sharp objects, since the fruit will split open naturally when it’s ripe and ready to eat. Also pay attention to the color of the outer flesh skin; the fully ripe ones have bright red color. Never eat the outer flesh since it’s very poisonous. The poisoning symptoms can vary from vomiting, convultion of the body, and death. It is probably still difficult to find fresh ackee fruits outside of the Carribean countries and West Africa. So, the most we can get is the canned pulp.
If we travel to Jamaica, we should try to consume the fresh fruits. Beware of the seeds, unripe and overripe fruits, since they are very poisonous. If we can find the right fruit, consuming ackee fruits gives plenty of health benefits of ackee fruit to our body.
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