Why you should add breadfruit to your diet

With the record-shattering debut of none other than Sir David Attenborough on Instagram this past week — he handily breezed past Jennifer Aniston for the fastest accumulation of 1 million followers on the app (via The Washington Post) — we are more motivated than ever to follow through on the nonagenarian naturalist's message of taking better care of our planet. According to The Independent, Attenborough urges viewers of his new Netflix documentary, A Life on Our Planet, to take action by changing their diets. "If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land," he says, encouraging fans to adopt sustainable foods.

Enter the superfood breadfruit, which was recently featured in a study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia. The starchy tropical fruit originated from islands in the Pacific and is a sustainable crop in the mulberry and jackfruit family. Packed with vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium, a little over six ounces of cooked breadfruit meets almost 57 percent of daily fiber requirements and more than 34 percent of daily protein needs. The study, which analyzed a breadfruit flour-based diet fed to mice, found that breadfruit protein was easier to digest than wheat protein. Consuming breadfruit also resulted in a higher growth rate and higher water intake.

"Overall, these studies support the use of breadfruit as part of a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet," says lead researcher Ying Liu, Ph.D. "Flour produced from breadfruit is a gluten-free, low glycemic index, nutrient-dense, and complete protein option for modern foods."

Here's what breadfruit really tastes like

While the diabetes-friendly breadfruit isn't likely to make your blood sugar spike, it can certainly get your creative juices flowing with a range of flavors. "You can eat breadfruit at any stage," says Diane Ragone, Ph.D., director of the Breadfruit Institute at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii (via NPR). "When it's small and green, it tastes like an artichoke. When it's starchy and mature, it's the equivalent of a potato. When it's soft and ripe, it's dessert."

Breadfruit is also a darling of the food security space because the low-maintenance plants tend to yield plenty of fruit while taking up very little space — which is why it has been a staple food of island cultures for thousands of years. But the fruit does have a controversial past, with many in the Caribbean shunning it for its history as a food imported by British colonizers to feed slaves (via National Geographic). However, with it potentially holding the key to food security, advocates hope to change the perception of breadfruit by focusing on its nutrient-rich, eco-friendly qualities. 

"I looked out at a hillside in Micronesia covered in breadfruit trees and realized that food forest was a long-term, sustainable system," recalls Ragone. For now, look for the superfood at your local health food store or order it by the box from Miami Fruit. Breadfruit flour also is available through Amazon.