Baobab—A Super Food from the Tree of Life

Wednesday Mar 12 | BY |
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Baobab

The baobab fruit has three times the vitamin C of an orange, 50 percent more calcium than spinach, and a good supply of antioxidants—six times the amount of blueberries.

Have you heard of the baobab fruit? Sometimes called the “king of super fruits,” it’s native to Africa, but has been catching on in the U.S. because of it’s many health benefits. These include a potential to ease digestive ailments, stabilize blood sugar levels, and boost the immune system.

What is Baobab?

From the genus Adansonia, the baobab tree is native to Madagascar, Africa, and Australia, where it is often referred to as the “tree of life.” Natives have long relied on it for shelter, food, clothing, and water. The tree is capable of storing a large quantity of water that can be tapped in dry periods, while the bark is fire resistant and perfect for making clothes and rope.

The leaves are used for food and traditional medicine. Picked young, they are good sources of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, beta carotenes, calcium, catechins, glutamic acid, and more. They are eaten raw like spinach, or may also dried and pulverized into a powder that is then used as a thickener in stews and soups.

The fruit is said to have three times the vitamin C of an orange, 50 percent more calcium than spinach, and a good supply of antioxidants—six times the amount of blueberries. Gourd-like, it has a hard, nut-like shell and a white, powdery pulp. Some say it tastes like a combination of a pineapple and a melon.

Where baobab really shines, however, is in its potential to encourage our good health!

What Science is Discovering About Baobab

Natives have long known about the many ways baobab fruit can benefit humans, but Western science is starting to catch up. Here’s a glimpse at the research:

  • Great source of antioxidants: A 2007 study accessed the antioxidants in baobab fruit and leaves, and compared it to antioxidants in oranges, kiwis, apples, and strawberries. They found the fruit fiber and pulp had more antioxidants than all other options. The fruit fiber, in particular, had an Integral Antioxidant Capacity 66 times higher than that of an orange pulp. A later 2013 study found that baobab leaves were 10 times more potent than vitamin C at eliminating free radicals, and also had a significant anti-inflammatory effect.
  • May help prevent and/or treat diabetes: Baobab fruit is high in polyphenols, plant compounds that often add an astringency or “bite” to foods and typically act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. These defend plants against insect attacks, and also provide color, but they are of particularly interest because of their role in balancing blood sugar. A 2013 study, for example, found that baobab fruit extract at both low (18.5 grams) and high (37 grams) doses significant reduced glycemic response. When baked into white bread, it also reduced starch breakdown and sugar release—limiting the “sugar spike” often seen when consuming white bread. This research provided evidence suggesting baobab could be added to food and drinks to help reduce blood sugar spikes.
  • Potential in digestion: High in fiber—75 percent soluble and 25 percent insoluble—baobab is also a good source of pectin, which is important for aiding digestion as well as balancing blood sugar levels. Pectin is actually an indigestible fiber called a “prebiotic”—a special form of dietary fiber that nourishes the growth of probiotics in the gut. You have probably heard how probiotics support “good bacteria” in the digestive system, easing the digestive process and boosting the immune system. Prebiotics are needed to nourish probiotics, and have shown in studies to actually increase the number of probiotics in the gut. In fact, in 2002, researchers from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service and the University of Reading in the U.K. found that pectin acts as a prebiotic, preventing pathogens from binding to the intestine and increasing the growth of probiotic bacteria in the large intestine.
  • Diarrhea treatment: Frequently used by native populations to treat diarrhea, baobab has also shown in studies to be effective here. A 1997 study, for example, found that a local solution based on the fruit of the baobab was just as effective in shortening the duration of the affliction and helping participants to regain weight as a World Health Organization standardized diarrhea solution.
  • Reduce fever: Because of it’s anti-inflammatory properties, baobab has been tested for its ability to reduce a fever. A 1993 animal study found it provided long lasting effects and even helped reduce pain.

For More Information

For more information on baobab and the many ways you may be able to incorporate it into your daily diet, check out our friends over at Bumbleroot Foods.

Have you tried baobab? Tell us how you use it.

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Sources
“The Tree of life (and its super fruit),” The Independent, July 17, 2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/the-tree-of-life-and-its-super-fruit-869737.html.

Elena Besco, et al., “The use of photochemiluminescence for the measurement of the integral antioxidant capacity of baobab products,” Food Chemistry, 2007; 102(4):1352-1356, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814606005954.

Yihunie Ayele, et al., “A Methanol Extract of Adansonia digitata L. Leaves Inhibits Pro-Inflammatory iNOS Possibly via the Inhibition of NF-?B Activation,” Biomol Ther (Seoul), March 2013; 21(2):146-152, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762316/.

Shelly A. Coe, et al., “The polyphenol-rich baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata L.) reduces starch digestion and glycemic response in humans,” Nutrition Research, November 2013; 33(11):888-896, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531713001887.

Tal-Dia A, et al., “A baobab solution for the prevention and treatment of acute dehydration in infantile diarrhea,” Dakar Med. 1997; 42(1):68-73, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9827122.

Ramadan, et al., “Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic effects of the fruit pulp of adansonia digitata,” Fitoterapia, 1994; LXV(5): 415-422, http://www.baobabfruitco.com/pdf/Anti-Inflammatory-OralToxicity-BaobabPulp.pdf.

JH Cummings and GT Macfarlane, “Gastrointestinal effects of prebiotics,” British Journal of Nutrition, May 2002, 87(S2):S145-S151, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=906236.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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  1. Nicole says:

    Baobab, a fruit with interesting name! I will be looking out for this fruit while grocery shopping. By the way, do you have a picture of this fruit? It sounds like a very good fruit to eat to aid digestion.

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