The African baobab fruit is rapidly growing in popularity around the world. Baobab fruit has earned the nickname of "queen of superfruits" because of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals it provides. On the other hand, researchers suggest more studies need to be done on the digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients from the baobab fruit.
As the baobab fruit grows in popularity, does the "queen of superfruits" really live up to its hype? Find out all about the African fruit here.
What Is Baobab?
Baobab is a large, brown, oval fruit native to Africa. The baobab trees are very large and can grow for hundreds or even thousands of years. This is the main reason why the baobab tree is also referred to as the "tree of life".
Almost every part of the tree can be used nutritionally or medicinally in some way, including the roots, bark, leaves, seeds, flowers, and the baobab fruit. In fact, it is estimated there are 300 ways local communities use the different parts of the baobab tree!
Baobab powder is made from drying baobab fruit and grinding it to a powder form. This allows baobab fruit to have a longer shelf life, so people around the world can use it.
Nutrition, Benefits & Unknowns of Baobab Powder
A 100 gram serving of baobab powder provides the following nutrients:
• 250 calories
• 3.7 gram (g) protein
• 80 g carbohydrate
• 44.5 g fiber
• 342 milligram (mg) calcium
• 8.4 mg iron
• 158 mg magnesium
• 2189 mg potassium
• 173 mg vitamin C
This nutritional profile translates to the five unique health benefits of baobab powder.
1. Good Source of Antioxidants
Baobab provides more vitamin C than most other fruits per 100-gram serving. Vitamin C is needed for collagen synthesis and acts as an antioxidant to protect body cells. Besides vitamin C, baobab provides other polyphenolic compounds that also act as antioxidants in the body that fight free radicals.
2. Heart Health Benefit
A 2019 study found baobab fruit pulp helped protect against oxidative damage in rats when fed a high-fat diet. The high-fat diet caused rats to develop blood high cholesterol and triglycerides. When rats were given the baobab supplement while on the high-fat diet, blood cholesterol levels returned to normal.
While more research is needed in humans, researchers suggest the baobab fruit may be helpful in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels.
3. Full of Fiber
Baobab is a rich source of fiber with a whopping 44.5 grams of fiber per 100-gram serving. This amount is more than the daily recommended fiber intake for both men and women.
Another benefit from the fiber from baobab fruit is on gut health. Baobab Foods suggests research shows the fiber from baobab is a source of prebiotics that can help promote the growth of helpful probiotics, or good bacteria, in the gut.
4. Surprising Source of Many Minerals
All fruits provide a source of fiber and antioxidants. However, fruits are not typically a good source of some minerals. However, baobab is a good source of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium play a role in bone health, so baobab may be advertised or labeled as bone-building supplements.
Baobab is also a good source of the mineral potassium. Adequate dietary potassium is needed to maintain healthy blood pressure, which is another reason baobab may be considered to have heart health benefits.
5. Tradition of Medicinal Uses
The baobab fruit pulp has a long history of being used in African traditional medicine. It has been used to treat dysentery, used as a probiotic, for pain relief, treat diarrhea, and stimulate milk production in breastfeeding women.
There is some research to suggest baobab has protective effects for liver cells and may have anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties. However, more research is needed in these areas.
Some Unknowns with Baobab
While the unique health benefits of baobab sound quite promising, a 2009 review on baobab suggests more research is needed on the digestibility and bioavailability of baobab nutrients. More research is also needed on the effects of storage and processing and their effects on baobab nutrients.
A 2018 study also concluded more research is needed on baobab in terms of the nutritional profile. Researchers concluded there were varying levels of nutrients in baobab depending on which African country it was harvested in. Studies on samples from different countries could shed further light on the potential of baobab as a functional food.
How to Use Baobab
Baobab is most commonly used as a powder that is made from grinding the dried fruit. Baobab powder can be found online, in health food stores or in some international grocery stores. The powder can be mixed with water or milk to create a drink with grapefruit, pear, or vanilla undertones. It can also be used as a base to make various sweets, ice cream or sauces.
Adding baobab powder can also act as a thickener for drinks, smoothies, or jams. Baobab Foods recommends using up to 2 to 3 teaspoons a day of baobab powder. Besides mixing in drinks, it can be added to yogurt or oatmeal. Baobab powder can even act as a substitute for cream of tartar, as it has citric and tartaric acids to give a similar profile.
Besides in powder form, baobab can also be found as a fruit chew supplement.
Is the baobab fruit really the queen of superfruits? While this is a subjective title, baobab does merit some unique nutritional benefits. It is a rich source of vitamin C and fiber and provides a source of minerals that are unique for a fruit.
Some animal research has also shown baobab fruit may have heart health benefits by helping to lower blood cholesterol, although more research is needed in humans. Baobab has been used traditionally as a treatment for various ailments, but more research is also needed for these claims.
Baobab powder can be found online, in health food stores, or in some international markets. It can be added to drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt and adds a slightly sweet and acidic flavor.
Asogwa IS, Ibrahim AN, Agbaka JI. African baobab: Its role in enhancing nutrition, health, and the environment. Trees, Forests and People. Published 2020 Oct 8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tfp.2020.100043.