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Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 surprising health benefits of Ackee

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Though native to Guinea in West Africa, Jamaicans have adopted the ackee fruit as our own.

Since its journey to the island in the early 1700s, ackee’s versatility enchanted a nation, and led to its undisputed status as the National Fruit.

Until our love affair with the fruit was widespread, the ackee was virtually unknown to science; so much so that its botanical name, Blighia Sapida, was given in honour of Captain William Bligh who introduced the plant to Britain.

In recent years, the National Geographic Society has named our national dish – ackee and saltfish – as one of the world’s top most dangerous foods, which has led many to fear ackee’s wonderful delights.

But ilovejamaicans.com wants to ask: how much do you really know? Be careful, for many of the rumours surrounding ackee are not always true!

In this edition of Bet You Didn’t Know, Loop Lifestyle presents ten surprising health benefits ackee can provide you:

  1. Contrary to myths that ackee is a high-fat food laden with cholesterol, research from the Department of Biochemistry at the University of the West Indies Mona, has discovered a 58 per cent healthy fat composition of linoleic, palmitic and stearic acids, among other lipids. FACT: ackee has NO saturated fat or cholesterol.

  2. Ackee has large reserves of dietary fibre. In some instances, the fruit can provide up to 11 and 7 per cent of the fibre women and men respectively need daily. Fibre encourages your stomach, intestines and colon to work efficiently and that greatly reduces your risk of becoming constipated.

  3. Ackee contains adequate doses of Vitamin C, which is required on a daily basis. Vitamin C helps repair cartilage, keeps your skin supple but firm and is crucial nutrient for one’s holistic oral health.

  4. Ackee supplies small amounts of Vitamin B-9 in the form of naturally occurring folates, which can help prevent birth defects and is a recommended supplement for mothers-to-be.

  5. Ackee also provides trace amounts of calcium and iron. Calcium is an important mineral that improves bone and dental health, and helps to keep the pH-levels in blood in a constant balance. Iron as another important mineral, assists in the formation of the body’s red blood cells, which in turn improves oxygen and nutrient transportation around the body. Other beneficial minerals present in ackee include magnesium, potassium, zinc and sodium.

  6. The leaves of the ackee tree have long been used as medicinal herbs.  For many modern-day Jamaicans it may be very hard to believe that the leaves are a natural remedy and alternative medicine for some ailments.  In the 1800s during the times of slavery, ackee leaves were popularly boiled as an herbal remedy for flu, colds as well as mucous congestion. Baking the leaves in hot ashes and using the paste as a poultice, is believed to work wonders on sprains, joint pains and swellings.  As a mouthwash, combine the tea with salt and used for pyorrhoea and other gum ailments. 

  7. A recent study by the University of Maryland Medical Centre showed that ackee has massive quantities of Vitamin B-3, which occurs naturally as the compound niacin. Niacin is beneficial to the productivity of the gastro-intestinal and nervous systems, and gives a healthy glow to one’s skin, hair and nails.

  8. Ackee is also rich in Vitamins B-1 and B-2, which occur naturally as thiamine and riboflavin respectively. Thiamine is an important nutrient for the efficiency of the cardiovascular and nervous systems, while riboflavin aids in metabolism and red blood cell production in the bone marrow.

  9. Ackee has been proven to be a natural, preventative measure against oedema, or water retention.
  10. Watching those pounds? Well, the dietary firbre found in ackee can be an easy way to help you lose or maintain your weight, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and Type-2 diabetes.

EXTRA FACT: Please remember that ackee, when forced open is highly poisonous as it contains deadly levels of the toxin hypoglycin. DO NOT force open an ackee pod, but rather allow the pods to naturally open on their own.

Failure to do so may result in the onset of the aptly-named Jamaican vomiting sickness: causing severe vomiting that can lead to convulsions, coma and death (we really wouldn’t want that), so be safe guys!!

So, now that the facts have been laid down and the rumours have been dispersed, what are you waiting for!?

Hungry for more amazing health benefits found in the foods you eat? Then look no further, see related stories below:

Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 surprising health benefits of Ackee

Bet you didn’t know: 10 surprising benefits of coconut water

Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 surprising health benefits of Soursop

Bet You Didn’t Know: 10 surprising health benefits of Jackfruit


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