Baobab: A super fruit?

Named “monkey bread,” this exotic fruit has nutrient-dense properties for good health.

An elephant near a baobab tree.
Photo: Pexels/Ivan Samkov.

Baobab is a fruit grown in Africa. Pronounced as “bau-bab,” this fruit grows on trees that can be over 1,000 years old. A baobab tree may also be called a monkey bread tree, Ethiopian sour gourd, cream of tartar tree and even upside-down tree. A slow-growing tree, baobab is an important resource with many purposes including shelter, medicinal and food in southern Africa.

The baobab fruit grows to about one foot in length with a woody exterior and a pulp-like interior with seeds. When ripened, the woody exterior becomes brittle, and the pulpy interior becomes chalky-like. The tangy, sweet fruit pulp is said to taste like a combination of grapefruit, pear and vanilla and is naturally dehydrated by the sun. It appears as a dry, mealy powder. The pulp is very adaptable and has been used to make refreshing drinks, ice cream and baked goods.

Baobab is considered a nutrient-dense fruit, and the pulp is particularly rich in vitamin C, and contains B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and fiber. The pulp and leaves exhibit antioxidant properties, with the leaves containing protein with all of the essential amino acids and most of the non-essential amino acids. The seeds are said to contain anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists emphasize that additional research is needed to understand the digestibility and bioavailability of baobab nutrients, as well as the effects of storage and processing of nutrients. Baobab can be found in the United States in various formats such as powder, oil, harvested pulp and supplements marketed as a superfood.

Like any exotic “super fruit,” baobab is simply another nutrient-rich food choice you can include in your diet. Always be cautious of "magical" claims of health benefits from one food or supplement. Including a variety of foods into your daily diet will benefit your health, versus looking for that one food to do it all. Michigan State University Extension advocates the importance of eating a balanced diet including regular physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle which includes fruits and vegetables. For more information, visit MSU Extension's Nutrition website.

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