The Nutritional Benefits of "Ackee"
This fruit is often enjoyed for its unique flavor and impressive nutrient profile; it has also garnered a good amount of controversy and is associated with a number of adverse health effects. In fact, in some cases, this fruit can actually be considered a poisonous fruit due to the presence of several dangerous toxins found in its non-ripened state. Let’s take a closer look at this unique fruit and how it can impact your health. Ackee tree is a plant native to West Africa that belongs to the soapberry family. It is closely related to the lychee and longan. This evergreen tree grows to around 30 feet tall and produces large leaves, fragrant green flowers and a pear-shaped fruit known as the ackee, achee or ayee fruit.
As the fruit slowly begins to ripen, it goes from green to red to orange and produces three large seeds covered by a soft, creamy white flesh that is similar in appearance to scrambled eggs. As the national Jamaican fruit, it can be commonly spotted in many different types of Caribbean cuisine, including ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica. Not only is the fruit super flavorful, but it also packs a nutritional punch. It supplies a good amount of protein, fiber and vitamin A in each serving. However, it’s also been associated with several negative effects on health and can even be toxic in some cases. That makes it all the more important to practice proper preparation and select only safe varieties of the fruit.
An unripe ackee contains hypoglycin A and B, two toxins that can be incredibly detrimental to health. However, canned and frozen varieties, which are the forms most commonly found in the United States, are carefully monitored by the FDA to ensure that they contain safe levels of these potentially harmful compounds. If you do live in a region where fresh ackee is available, be sure to wait until the fruit is fully ripened before consuming and report any negative symptoms to your doctor immediately. The most commonly reported side effects of toxicity include vomiting, weakness and low blood sugar.
Additionally, keep in mind that this fruit is relatively high in calories and sodium. While it can definitely be a safe and healthy ingredient used as part of a balanced, well-rounded diet, be sure to keep your intake in moderation to prevent adverse side effects. To reduce the sodium content, you can also rinse off canned varieties with water before consuming to remove excess salt. Finally, note that, although rare, some people may be allergic to ackee. If you experience any food allergy symptoms like hives, itching, swelling or difficulty breathing after eating ackee, discontinue use and consult with a trusted health care practitioner.