Why Is Jackfruit The New ‘It’ Food—And What Can You Do With It?

It seems like we’re constantly obsessing over a new ‘superfood’—and right now the one everyone’s talking about is the jackfruit, a ginormous, unique fruit that makes for a mean pulled pork substitute and packs plenty of nutrients. Intrigued yet? Here are all the details you didn’t know you needed to know about jackfruit—and a few tips for taking advantage of this trendy food.

What the Heck is a Jackfruit?

Native to Southeast Asia, jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world. Seriously, this isn’t a fruit you’ll casually carry home from the supermarket. According to Purdue University, jackfruits can weigh anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds and grow up to three feet long. Beneath its bumpy green exterior are bulbs of yellow flesh, each with a large seed inside.

You’ll find jackfruit in specialty health or ethnic food stores in the U.S., and they’re all over markets in places like India and Bangladesh. You can find them fresh, canned, or dried. (Other parts of the plant have been used for clothing dye, animal feed, building material, and glue in these parts of the world, too.) Jackfruit is stealing the spotlight right now because it’s easier to grow and maintain than some other staple crops (like wheat and corn) and thrives in a more tropical climate—a plus for environmentalists concerned about climate change and food sustainability.

The meat of the fruit has a subtle, sweet taste and contains vitamin C ,as well as B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, and B6. (Good luck finding another fruit that contains as many B vitamins!) On top of that, its seeds contain protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. A serving of jackfruit (about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams) is about 95 calories, with 25 grams of carbs, two grams of protein, 21 grams of sugar, and a gram of fiber.

 

How Exactly Does One Eat A Jackfruit?

Sure, it’s a fruit, but because of its mild flavor it’s a total chameleon on the plate. Sweet, savory, main dish, or dessert, the versatile jackfruit can do it. It’s a blank canvas, ready to soak up the flavor of other foods and spices paired with it—much like tofu!

The jackfruit use you may have heard about in the U.S. is an unexpected one: vegan pulled pork. The stringy texture of the fruit’s flesh makes a good stand in for meat (just keep in mind that it’s not nutritionally equivalent to an animal protein) or even some other plant-based protein sources. A serving of jackfruit contains just about two grams of protein, while an equal serving of animal protein—like fish or poultry—packs 21 grams. So don’t count on jackfruit to be a main source of protein in your meal! On the flipside, one perk of substituting jackfruit for meat is that it doesn’t contain any cholesterol or saturated fat.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

You can enjoy plain jackfruit as a snack, blend the flesh into a smoothie, slice and bake it into chips, freeze and puree it into ‘nice cream,’ or even bake with flour made from its seeds. You can also add chunks of the fruit to your next stir fry or curry dish, just as you would add tofu or a veggie! It’s a great way to add volume to your food and really help you feel full, while gaining nutrients without a lot of extra calories.

photo: Minimalist Baker

Try the trend on for size with this BBQ jackfruit recipe from The Minimalist Baker. All you need are two cans of young green jackfruit, barbecue sauce, and a few extra seasonings like paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder. To bump up the protein, I’d pair this with a serving of your favorite beans (black beans provide six grams of protein per half cup) or sautéed tofu (about seven grams in three ounces).

Related: Bump up your daily intake with a plant-based protein supplement.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

What Happened When I Finally Took Everyone’s Advice And Started Eating Breakfast

When I decided to start eating breakfast every single morning (on top of documenting its effects on my health, energy, and general ability to conquer the day-to-day), I excitedly told a friend of mine. She was confused: “You? Trying to be healthy?”

“Yep,” I told her. “I’m doing it!” She laughed for a long time. But I was steadfast, determined to find the better, brighter, healthier me that lay dormant somewhere inside.

There were some surprises, at first. For one thing, I realized that eating breakfast meant actually being awake for breakfast. (Noon is apparently not breakfast time, I’ve been told.) I’m a student and a freelance writer, and we are nocturnal creatures: We can see in infrared and easily amass a whole body of work without ever crossing paths with the sun. I’ve tried to actually wake up early in the past, and it’s never gone very well. So, in my efforts to wake up and eat breakfast, past failures at making positive life changes hung over me.

But I remembered something: Last summer I decided to take an accelerated math class (!) at eight in the morning (!!)…because I’m a masochist. Naïvely, I believed this would make me a better person. I thought: A person who woke up at six a.m. to do math would be a person who went on to have a productive day. I would finally learn yoga and figure out how to do my own taxes. I’d be the best version of myself. But in actuality, I ended up being the same person, except that I was in a really bad mood all of the time.

Related:  I Tested 7 Different Health And Beauty Uses For Apple Cider Vinegar

This time around, I promised myself things were going to be different.

Once I got past the initial shock of being awake for breakfast, I began to think about which breakfast foods I’d eat, and how I could make them healthier choices. Saying I’m “not a health-conscious person” is putting it lightly. Friends have categorized my diet as “gas station food” or “food you would eat at a child’s birthday party.” I like dollar pizza, mac and cheese, and greasy breakfast sandwiches. The only praiseworthy health habit I have is avoiding high-fructose corn syrup.

And while I might count a handful of Cheerios as breakfast, I wanted to take this breakfast challenge more seriously.

Once I got past the initial shock of being awake for breakfast, I began to think about which breakfast foods I’d eat, and how I could make them healthier choices.

I love green smoothies, but they’re so expensive! I decided to start making them as my breakfast, and they turned out great. I tossed kale, avocado, plain yogurt, green apples, almond butter, frozen bananas, apple juice, and ice into a blender, and voila!

Related: How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

It was like a dessert and only vaguely resembled something healthy, which is perfect for me. While I mostly drank a smoothie, sometimes I’d have an egg sandwich or a bagel instead (because I’m not a saint and bagels are a human right).

Unfortunately, I must admit: I began feeling better (which means I have to keep waking up early). Eating breakfast fits squarely into the all-important self-care box. By waking up to eat, I wasn’t beginning my day by rushing out the door on an empty stomach, which has been good for my anxiety.

I was also more aware of what I was eating, because I was doing this as a health challenge. I think that’s called accountability? (I’ve heard of that before but thought it was something for other people.)

Eating breakfast fits squarely into the all-important self-care box. By waking up to eat, I wasn’t beginning my day by rushing out the door on an empty stomach, which has been good for my anxiety.

My blood sugar and energy levels benefited from this experiment, as well. I’ve felt more stable with less spikes and low points throughout the day. The smoothies did make me gain a little weight (maybe all that avocado?), which I’m honestly happy about, since I walk five or six miles a day and tend to lose weight quickly.

Related: Shop superfood powders for all your smoothie-making needs. 

Also, since I started eating breakfast, a couple of people complimented my skin. Disclaimer: I use a bottle of highlighter a day, so it’s hard to know what’s what, but being the horribly vain person I am, I will do almost anything to look better, and so I plan to continue the smoothies.

While I’m not suddenly a morning person, this has been an overall positive experience for me. I have found some healthy breakfast choices that I genuinely enjoy, and it felt good to do something nice for myself. I can’t promise anyone I will always wake up early to eat breakfast, but I will try to when I can. Besides, veggie smoothies are just as good for you at two in the morning, right?

6 Foods That Might Be Messing With Your Hormones

We all know our hormones are important for our health—but how much further does your knowledge on the subject extend?

Thought so.

Hormones are chemicals that act like messengers, traveling through our blood to control various body functions, like our blood pressure and heart rate, bathroom habits, hair growth, libido, and sleep, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

There are many types of hormones, including sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), thyroid hormones, cortisol, insulin, glucagon, and many more, explains Allison Betof Warner, M.D., Ph.D., medical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. All of these hormones have different jobs—insulin helps transport sugar to our cells for energy, for example—but they work in tandem to keep our bodies functioning. So when one hormone is off, it affects the whole system, creating what we know as a ‘hormonal imbalance,’ says Warner.

When these chemicals get thrown out of whack, they can cause absolute chaos in our bodies. Often, hormonal dysfunction leads to fatigue, weight gain or loss, headaches, mood fluctuations, acne, insomnia, or digestive problems. Doc-approved plans of action for balancing out different hormonal issues will vary—but chances are they’ll all look at your food habits. Why? Because it turns out the food you eat can impact your hormones more than you think.

Check out the six foods experts say could potentially contribute to hormonal woes:

1. Coffee

Most of us drink coffee precisely because of how it affects our bodies. That jolt of energy is often so needed in the morning, and then again by mid-afternoon.

The caffeine in coffee causes the body to boost its production of a hormone called cortisol, explains holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque. A stress hormone, cortisol helps all of our cells communicate. Normally, our cortisol levels are highest in the morning to wake us up, and lowest before bed so we can wind down and fall asleep, according to research published in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism. (The natural fluctuating pattern of cortisol is a part of our ‘circadian rhythm.’) Maintaining normal cortisol levels and a circadian rhythm helps our immune system function properly—and when our cortisol goes haywire, we may end up with sleep problems, poor blood sugar regulation, a slower metabolism, weight fluctuations, decreased immunity, and potentially even feelings of anxiety or depression, explains LeVeque.

Hence why coffee—no matter what time of day we’re drinking it—can leave us feeling jittery or nervous and make it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. To avoid jacking up your cortisol levels, LeVeque recommends limiting coffee intake to one cup in the morning, and having a gentler cup of tea in the afternoon instead of another round of joe.

Related: 5 Natural Sources Of Caffeine—Other Than Coffee

2. Sugar

The undeniable truth: Our bodies need some sugar. Our cells store the sugar (a.k.a. ‘glucose’) we consume as glycogen, which we can use for energy later. When we eat sugar, the hormone insulin helps transport that sugar out of our blood and into our cells.

When we eat too much sugar and our body churns out tons of insulin, our cells eventually become resistant to it (a condition called ‘insulin resistance’) and extra glucose is left in our blood stream. This extra glucose is stored as fat, leading to weight gain and putting us at risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. So it’s no surprise that research published in JAMA found that women who drank one sweetened beverage or more a day had up to an 83 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the course of a decade.

People with a family history of insulin resistance or diabetes are more likely to deal with the negative side effects associated with going overboard on sugar, says Warner. However, none of us are immune to the hormone-altering effects of consistent late-night candy bars, or a diet high in Skittles, so Warner recommends only consuming sugar in moderation. (The CDC suggests we limit added sugar to 10 percent—or less—of our daily calories. That’s about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons for someone following a 2,000-calorie diet.)

Related: The 5 Fruits With The Most (And Least!) Sugar

3. Carbohydrates

When we think ‘sugar,’ we think about stuff we just talked about, like Halloween candy and pints of ice cream. Here’s the thing, though: Since our bodies break carbs down into glucose, they can potentially have the same effect on our hormones as the straight-up sweet stuff, explains Elena A. Christofides, M.D., F.A.C.E. The main culprit here: refined, processed carbs. (Think white bread, muffins, and pasta.)

In addition to possibly screwing with our insulin, carbs can also affect other hormones. When we eat carbs, our bodies release the feel-good hormone serotonin—hence why that Sunday morning bagel tastes so dang good. But this carb-serotonin connection also explains why we crave carbs when we’re stressed out (and likely have high cortisol levels), says Christofides. And that’s a recipe for a major mood and energy rollercoaster.

Instead of going cold turkey on carbs (because what kind of life is that…), think about carbs in terms of their glycemic index, Christofides says. Glycemic index is a measure of how much a food will spike your blood sugar; the lower the number—and resulting blood sugar spike—the better for your hormones, she explains.

Basing your carb intake in complex carbs is your best bet at keeping those hormones stable. Foods like apples, lentils, and beans are all carb sources with low glycemic loads—and that also provide fiber and vitamins our bodies need.

4. Meat

We’d be lying if we didn’t admit our love for a good burger—but about the consistent debate over whether meat (namely non-organic or hormone-treated meat) is an enemy to our hormonal health definitely makes us think twice.

A quick recap on the drama: In 1999, the European Union’s Scientific Committee for Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health proposed that the seven hormones commonly found in treated meat products (testosterone propionate, trenbolone acetate, estradiol, zeranol, progesterone, melengestrol acetate, and bovine somatotropin) could potentially threaten our health in a number of ways. It had been partially banning imports of hormone-treated meats since 1981, according to the Congressional Research Office.

Some research suggests these hormones have adverse effects on the health of animals, but large-scale studies have not concretely identified a negative impact of these hormones on humans, according to a risk assessment paper published in Toxicology Research. “We don’t have any way to confirm or deny that hormones-treated meats affect us yet” says Christofides—which is why experts don’t always agree on how (or if) to incorporate meat into your diet.

Meanwhile, the FDA has maintained that because these hormones are found in such small amounts in meat, they don’t pose any threats to human health. (The FDA has approved of the administration of hormones to livestock to help them grow faster since the 1950s.)

While LeVeque recommends decreasing meat consumption overall, Christofides suggests choosing organic meat, eggs, and dairy products whenever possible. As researchers continue to look into the long-term effects of hormone-treated animal products, it’s better to be safe than sorry, she says.

Keep in mind, though, if you are a vegetarian (or are considering going meatless), that plant proteins and animal proteins aren’t exactly equal. Animal proteins are considered ‘complete proteins’ and contain the essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own, but plant proteins are not complete proteins and do not contain adequate amounts of all of these amino acids.(Amino acids are molecules that make up protein that our body needs for a number of functions.) Plus, meat also provides B vitamins and iron, two important nutrients that are harder to find in plant sources.

The less meat there is in your life, the more important it is to regularly include complete proteins like eggs and dairy. Make sure you’re eating a variety of plant-based protein sources, too, or consider a protein supplement.

The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. If you’re a carnivore but concerned about hormones, go for organic, grass-fed meats. And if you have any existing hormonal issues, talk to your doc or a dietitian about how to tailor your diet for your healthiest self.

Related: 7 Protein Sources for Vegetarians

5. Soy

Chances are, you’ve heard quite a bit of back-and-forth about soy. Much of the debate is over phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that act similarly to the hormone estrogen, according to research published in Front Neuroendocrinology. These phytoestrogens are often used to replace some of the estrogen women lose during menopause, and are found in some other foods. Soy and foods made from it (like tofu and tempeh), though, are the most common food source of phytoestrogens, says LeVeque.

According to LeVeque, phytoestrogens can potentially prevent actual estrogen from binding to its receptors, and increase how much estrogen is then floating around in your blood. (One small study published in Cancer Biomarkers, Epidemiology and Prevention, for example, found that about 30 percent women who ingested 38 grams of a soy protein supplement regularly had increased levels of estradiol—a.k.a. estrogen—in their blood after three months.) This may, in turn, influence testosterone and thyroid hormone levels, LeVeque says. (Remember, when one hormone is whacked out, it can affect the levels of others.)

Overall, research on whether these phytoestrogens are detrimental to or beneficial for our health is mixed. Studies have found myriad results. According to a review published in German Medical Science, they’ve shown both positive and negative correlations between phytoestrogen consumption and certain cancers in women, demonstrated that phytoestrogens support women’s health post-menopause, and also suggested that phytoestrogens can negatively impact fertility. A conclusive, across-the-board verdict, though, just doesn’t exist.

What the research does suggest is that your age, sex, and health status determine how phytoestrogens may or may not affect your body. For most people, noshing on soy occasionally is no big deal, says Christofides. However, since estrogen-blocking therapy is often used in the treatment of women with sex-related cancers, consuming phytoestrogens under these circumstances is a different ballgame. “It could literally affect how effective treatment is,” she says.

She also suggests kids, whose hormones are changing and sensitive, should avoid taking in extra phytoestrogens. (While some animal studies suggest phytoestrogen intake can influence sexual development, conclusive human research is lacking, according to a review published in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics.)

Related: Check out a variety of plant-based protein supplements.

6. Alcohol

You’ve heard it before: Alcohol opens up a Pandora’s box of chaos in your body—and that includes messing with your hormone function.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol not only affects our body’s production of blood sugar-controlling insulin, but can also impact our sexual hormones, potentially knocking down testosterone in men and derailing women’s menstrual cycle.

In addition to its impact on our metabolic and reproductive function, alcohol can also throw off our stress hormones. At first, alcohol makes us release a rush of the feel-good hormone serotonin, says Christofides. But then, when we’ve used up our serotonin, we’re left feeling pretty down.

Friendly reminder: The USDA defines ‘moderate drinking’ as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. When it comes to alcohol and your hormones (and health), less is more.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

This High-Protein Shake Will Drive Peanut Butter Lovers Wild

Peanut butter goes well with pretty much anything. We’ll take it generously spread onto apple slices, with pretzel sticks, straight from the jar, or in our post-workout protein shake. (Two tablespoons pack almost eight grams of protein, after all!)

Make your next protein shake as powerful as it is tasty with this simple recipe. It also uses ground flaxseed for a boost of healthy fats, fiber, and a smidge more protein. Oh, and did we mention this shake is plant-based? Check it out:

Related: Check out Garden of Life SPORT’s vanilla plant protein. 

8 Simple Recipes That Will Have You Screaming For ‘Nice Cream’

We may not be kids anymore, but we still practically scream for the ice cream truck in the summer. (And if it came around in the winter, we’d probably do it then, too.)

Here’s the thing, though: If you’re watching your weight, trying to cut hard-to-pronounce ingredients out of your life, or are lactose intolerant (an adulthood struggle many of us know all too well), regular ol’ ice cream may not have much of a spot in your daily grub. And that’s a little heartbreaking.

With a quality food processor and a few creative ingredients, you can still get your ice cream fix without messing with your stomach or healthy-eating goals. You probably know these healthified ice cream concoctions as ‘nice cream,’ and we rounded up the best recipes the internet has to offer—along with a few straight from our in-house nutritionists—to turn around your dessert game.

1. Banana Almond Butter Nice Cream

‘Naners and nut butter are a match made in heaven, whether in a smoothie, a sandwich, or on their own. This two-ingredient nice cream recipe from Shana Brierley, nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe, couldn’t be any easier to make. It’s a quick save when ice cream cravings strike.

You’ll need:

Blend the two ingredients in the food processor until creamy and, voila! Brierley loves this blend because it’s free of added sugar and contains less than a gram of saturated fat (compared to about five grams in the regular stuff). Try topping yours with chopped almonds for extra crunch.

2. Mint Chocolate Chip Nice Cream

There’s simply no way to enjoy the wonderful green of chocolate chip mint ice cream without artificial colors, right? Wrong. Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe is an all-natural alternative to the refreshing ice cream flavor.

Frozen bananas, peppermint extract, coconut cream, and dark chocolate chips hop into the blender along with a pinch of salt and spirulina (for that green color) for a mint chocolate chip nice cream that takes just five minutes to make. Those green superfoods sure come in handy!

3. Mango Frozen Greek Yogurt

Feeling tropical? Brierley’s healthy fro-yo packs fruity frozen drink flavor, without the sugar hangover.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups mango chunks, frozen
  • 6 oz. plain Greek yogurt

Blend the two ingredients in the food processor until creamy. Top with unsweetened shredded coconut for healthy fats and extra flavor. And because this mix packs protein from the Greek yogurt, it’s super satisfying, Brierley says.

4. Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean NIce Cream

This healthy take on the most classic ice cream flavor in the land takes added sugar and funky ingredients out of the equation—without sacrificing the distinct sweetness of vanilla bean. The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Karen Cooney, R.D., loves this recipe for its wholesome ingredients.

You’ll need:

  • 1 can organic full fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup soft pitted dates (about 8)
  • 1 vanilla bean (soaked overnight) or ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp guar gum (optional thickener)

Puree coconut milk, dates, and vanilla in the blender until smooth. Then add the almond milk and thickener, and puree until smooth. Pour into a bread pan-sized dish and freeze for a few hours before serving. (Recipe makes about a quart.)

photo: Beaming Baker

5. Dark Chocolate NIce Cream

This one’s for you, chocolate lovers! The Beaming Baker’s dark chocolate nice cream requires just four simple ingredients—and comes together much quicker than a batch of brownies.

Blend frozen bananas, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Enjoy your nice cream immediately if you’re into melty—otherwise freeze for a few hours before serving. This delicious chocolatey base practically begs for fun add-ins or toppings, like cacao nibs or berries.

photo: Feasting on Fruit

6. Vanilla Oatmeal Nice Cream

All the comforts of grandma’s best cookies and our go-to breakfast have transformed into your new favorite summer treat. This nice cream recipe from Feasting On Fruit combines coconut milk, rolled oats, dates, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt, for a simple yet tasty spoonful. To bump up the oatmeal flavor, we’ll be adding a pinch of cinnamon—and perhaps some chocolate chips or raisins—to our bowl.

Related: 4 Protein Cookies That Taste Just Like Grandma’s Classics

7. Strawberry Banana Nice Cream

Whether you’re trying to sneak more fruit into your kids’ diet or just trying to cool off while you enjoy some yourself, Cooney’s all-fruit nice cream is the way to do it. With an all-fruit and non-dairy base, this simple recipe lets its natural flavors speak for themselves.

You’ll need:

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 cups strawberries
  • 1 tsp stevia

Put berries in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with stevia. Microwave for a minute to dissolve the stevia. Then add the berries and bananas to the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a freezer-safe bowl or baking dish and let harden for about two hours.

photo: My Crazy Good Life

8. Dairy-Free Coffee Nice Cream

Get your java fix while satisfying your sweet tooth with this nice cream recipe from My Crazy Good Life. Just brew up some strong espresso, let it cool, and blend it with frozen bananas, vanilla extract, and a drizzle of honey. We’ll be replacing our travel mug with a bowl and a spoon, please.

Related: Find all of the healthy cooking and baking ingredients your heart desires.

It’s Hot Out There—Put Your Aminos On Ice!

Getting those BCAAs in after a tough workout is a major key for muscle recovery and growth. And with amino flavors like sour candy, blueberry lemonade, and fruit punch, we have no problem glugging down the amino acids our muscles will use to rebuild.

You may not be drinking your aminos poolside this summer, but with these fun amino concoctions, you’ll feel like you’re on a resort vacation. Muscle recovery fish bowl drink, anyone? 

Related: Make your own amino slushies with one of BPI Sports’ amino supps.