New to Gac fruit? You aren’t alone. Gac fruit is emerging as a new superfood for health and vitality (1). What is so special about this unusual looking fruit originating from Vietnam? And what is a superfood anyway?
What Is Gac Fruit?
Initially grown and popularized in Vietnam, Gac fruit farming has now expanded to areas such as Australia and California. The fruit is the size of a small melon, grows on vines, and is also known as Baby Jackfruit, Spiny Bitter Gourd, and Cochinchin Gourd (2).
What Is A Superfood?
The term superfood is tossed around by marketing experts, but in reality, there are no official criteria for a “superfood.” The most common definition is something that offers a significant boost to your health, beyond what would be expected. These foods pack a punch in the nutrition category.
Superfoods are promoted as being full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are components of plant foods that have positive health effects beyond basic nutrition and help reduce the risk of disease.
How Gac Fruit Qualifies As A Superfood
The soft flesh of the fruit is full of healthy fats, similar to an avocado. While it is perfectly healthy and safe to eat the meat of the Gac fruit, most of the nutritional value lies in the red pulp around the seeds.
The Gac fruit pulp is rich in lycopene, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants (antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that repair your body at the cellular level. Diets rich in antioxidants lower your risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease, and depression (3)making Gac fruit beneficial for these conditions.
It Contains More Lycopene Than Tomatoes
Gac fruit contains a lot of lycopene. Lycopene is a phytochemical found naturally in fruits and vegetables. It offers miraculous health benefits. It reduces the risk of stroke, sunburn, and cancer (4).
Lycopene is found in naturally red foods. Each time someone bites into a red fruit or vegetable such as watermelon or tomatoes, they boost their lycopene intake. In the U.S., Americans get most of their lycopene from tomato or tomato products.
Surprisingly we absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes than from fresh ones. In order to get the most lycopene out of tomatoes possible, it is best to eat tomatoes cooked. Fresh is not best when it comes to tomatoes and lycopene.
Gac fruit may have up to 70 times more lycopene than tomatoes.
Beta-carotene Is Good For Your Body
Gac fruit is also rich in beta-carotene, another phytochemical.
Beta-carotene supports eye health, memory, and brain-power. And, although it is not a substitute for sunscreen, beta-carotene and other antioxidants help protect our skin from the sun’s damaging effects (5).
You can also find beta-carotene in carrots, butternut squash, and pumpkin. These foods do not have to be cooked for us to reap the benefit of beta carotene.
Other Nutrients In Gac Fruit
In addition to lycopene and beta-carotene, Gac fruit is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol.These nutrients are both anti-inflammatory, helping to keep your body safe from the stresses of daily living.
How To Eat Gac Fruit
To eat Gac fruit, you need a few tools and a little bit of patience.
First, cut the fruit in half with a sharp knife to reveal the flesh surrounding the jewel-like seeds. The seeds are covered by a red pulp, which is the source of the fruit’s health claims. That bright red color of the pulp comes from a big boost of lycopene.
The pulp has to be scraped from the seeds. You’ll want to wear gloves when removing this pulp as it will stain your hands. This vibrantly colored pulp can be added to soups and smoothies, juiced, or added to rice.
A traditional Vietnamese dish – Xoi Gac – is a red rice dish that is richly colored with the Gac fruit pulp and flavored with sweet coconut. In Vietnam, red is considered the color of good fortune and is often served at ceremonies or New Year’s (6).
Video: How to eat Gac fruit.
Where To Buy Gac Fruit
Gac fruit has a very short growing season – December to January. The fruit can be ordered online (even on Etsy!). It is also often found in well-stocked Asian supermarkets. The fruit must be ripe when picked. For this reason, it is not grown commercially.
Because of its exotic nature, the price is steep! A less expensive option is buying the seeds for planting. With rising popularity and availability, it is likely the cost will eventually come down.
It is also possible to find products made from the Gac fruit year-round. Available products include juice, Gac seed oil, powdered Gac fruit, and Gac fruit paste. The paste can be frozen or jarred. Supplements are also available.
The nutritional benefits of these products and supplements are under study. This is because the stability of the phytochemicals in these products is uncertain. Thus, health claims are questionable from packaged Gac fruit products.
The Superpower Of Gac Fruit
- With 70 times more lycopene than tomatoes, Gac fruit is a powerhouse of antioxidants.
- This means anti-cancer benefits abound.
- The beta carotene content is also nothing to discount and is beneficial for eye health.
- The omega-3 fatty acid in the fruit helps fight inflammation.
If your interest (and budget!) include the Gac fruit – enjoy! If it isn’t available to you or the price is out of reach, you can also enjoy similar health benefits from tomatoes and carrots. It just may not be as much fun!
Research On The Health Benefits Of Gac Fruit
THIS ARTICLE IS COPYRIGHTED BY AMY BURKHART, MD, RD.
Dr. Amy Burkhart is a doctor (M.D.), Registered Dietitian, R.D., and fellowship-trained in integrative medicine. She specializes in treating chronic digestive disorders from an integrative/functional medicine perspective. She is a specialist In celiac disease and gluten/wheat-related disorders.