Health Benefits of Baobab Fruit Powder (A Superfood Packed with Vitamin C)
In Africa, the baobab fruit has been used medicinally for centuries to treat everything from fevers, malaria and gastrointestinal problems to vitamin C deficiency. In countries like the US and UK, however, this somewhat tangy fruit with a citrusy flavor has remained largely unknown – until recently. As more scientific research on the remarkable nutritional value and health benefits of the baobab fruit emerges, people across the world are beginning to show interest in products made from this up-and-coming superfood (pure baobab fruit powder made from the dried fruit and baobab seeds are just a few examples of baobab products that can now be found in health food stores in the UK and the US).
Most of the potential health benefits of baobab fruit powder and its fresh counterpart have been largely attributed to the unusually high levels of vitamin C this exotic superfood contains. A 100-gram serving of baobab fruit pulp has been reported to contain up to 500 milligrams of vitamin C – that's nearly 10 times the amount of vitamin C found in an equivalent serving of fresh oranges. In fact, the baobab fruit is considered one of the very best food sources of vitamin C in the world, with only a handful of foods – including kakadu plums, camu camu, acerola, and rosehips – beating this super fruit in terms of vitamin C content.
In this article, we take a look at the potential health-protecting properties of the baobab fruit (many of which are derived from the fruit's high vitamin C content). At the end of this article, you'll also find some tips on where to buy baobab powder in the UK or US.
1. Baobab Fruit's Benefits for the Skin
Foods rich in vitamin C are a cornerstone of the anti-wrinkle diet. Vitamin C, whether derived from foods or dietary supplements, helps your body form collagen and elastin, two structural proteins that give your skin support and elasticity. In addition to being a natural source of vitamin C, the baobab fruit has been shown to possess strong antioxidant properties, which may further boost the benefits of this super fruit for the skin. As you may already know, antioxidants neutralize free radicals, unstable atoms and molecules that can cause damage to your body at the cellular level, increasing the risk of degenerative diseases and other signs of aging, including wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. Here's an overview of the antioxidant capacity of the pulps of some common fruits, expressed as Integral Antioxidant Capacity (IAC), to give you an idea of the incredible antioxidant potential of the baobab fruit:
- Baobab: 11.11
- Kiwifruit: 0.34
- Orange: 0.10
- Strawberry: 0.91
- Apple: 0.16
2. Vitamin C and Glycemic Control to Support Your Weight Loss Efforts
Adding vitamin C rich foods such as baobab fruit powder (or fresh baobab fruits if you can get them) to your diet might also enhance your body's fat burning capabilities during a workout – especially if your current diet does not contain enough vitamin C. A team of scientists from Arizona State University discovered that people with low blood concentrations of vitamin C burned 25 percent less fat during a 60-minute walk on a treadmill, compared with those who had adequate levels of vitamin C in their blood. The potential weight loss effects of vitamin C may be linked to the fact that it is needed for the production of carnitine, a compound that encourages your body to turn fat into fuel, rather than to store it as body fat.
What's more, the baobab fruit may also help overweight or obese people reduce weight due to its effects on starch digestion and glycemic response. A study published in the November 2013 edition of the journal Nutrition Research found that baking baobab extract into white bread at 1.88% concentration significantly reduced rapidly digestible starch from the tested white bread samples. The baobab fruit extract was also found to significantly reduce the glycemic response in the study participants, both when consumed at a low-dose (18.5 g) and at a high-dose (37 g) in 250 milliliters of water along with white bread. Meals that trigger a low glycemic response (also called low Glycemic Index, or GI, meals) promote weight loss by reducing appetite and cravings, and by keeping the fat-storing hormone insulin under control.
3. Baobab – A Preventive Treatment for Heart Disease and Varicose Veins?
Foods that supply your body with plenty of vitamin C may also help keep your heart and overall cardiovascular system healthy. A study from University of California found that study participants who took a vitamin C supplement (providing 500 milligrams of vitamin C) daily for two months experienced a 24 percent drop in their plasma C-reactive protein levels. New research suggests that C-reactive protein levels, or CRP levels for short, are an excellent measure of a person's heart disease risk, potentially even better than cholesterol levels.
Varicose veins and venous insufficiency are further examples of cardiovascular problems that may sometimes be alleviated by adding vitamin C rich foods, such as baobab fruit powder, into the diet. Vitamin C is needed for the manufacturing of collagen and elastin, connective tissues that help keep veins strong and toned, plus it can help boost circulation within the body. Therefore, it is not surprising that low levels of vitamin C have been associated with varicose veins. The positive effects of vitamin C on veins are believed to be stronger when vitamin C is consumed together with vitamin E, so next time you blend yourself a smoothie featuring baobab pulp powder, be sure to add a healthy source of vitamin E (such as ground walnut, another great superfood) to the mix as well.
4. Baobab Fruit – A Natural Liver Cleanser and Detoxifier?
If your liver is not healthy, it will not efficiently do one of its most important jobs – detoxifying toxic substances, including metabolic wastes, and excreting them from your body. A high exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, alcohol and many other substances can cause damage to the liver and limit its detoxifying capabilities, but luckily there are also many foods and supplements that can get your liver back on track.
In one study, researchers tested the hepatoprotective activity against liver injury in rats (the term hepatoprotective is used in medical circles to refer to substances that are capable of preventing damage to the liver). The water-based baobab extract used in this study was found to have significant protective effects against liver damage. It has been proposed that the potential hepatoprotective properties of the baobab fruit may be linked to the presence of triterpenoids, beta-sitosterol, beta-amyrin palmitate and ursolic acid in baobab pulp.
5. Powerhouse of Minerals
If you're still not impressed by the health benefits of the baobab fruit, consider this: using fresh baobab pulp in cooking or adding concentrated baobab fruit powder to your favorite dishes can also supply your body with a slew of beneficial minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Minerals act both individually and synergistically to perform hundreds of tasks in the human body. The following Nutrition Facts table shows the approximate concentrations of the most important minerals found in 100 grams (3.5 oz) of fresh baobab pulp:
- Calcium: 295 mg (or 30% of the Daily Value)
- Copper: 1.6 mg (or 80% of the Daily Value)
- Iron: 9.3 mg (or 52% of the Daily Value
- Magnesium: 90 mg (or 23% of the Daily Value)
- Potassium: 1240 mg (or 35% of the Daily Value)
- Sodium: 27.9 (or 1% of the Daily Value)
- Zinc: 1.8 mg (or 12% of the Daily Value)
Where to Buy Baobab Fruit Powder in Organic Quality
As baobab is a relatively newly discovered superfood, you may have trouble finding baobab fruit powder in regular health food stores in the UK and US (especially if you are looking for baobab powder in organic quality). If you have no luck in finding it in the shops your region, or if you simply prefer to buy your 'superfoods' online, you might want to check out the impressive range of baobab powders on Amazon.com . Struggling to find organic baobab fruit powder in the UK? Then, check out the range of baobab powders on Amazon.co.uk .
1. E. De Caluwe, K. Halamova and P. Van Damme (2010). Adansonia digitata L. - A review of traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Afrika Fous, 23(1), 11-51.
2. S. Vertuani et al (2002). Antioxidant capacity of Adansonia digitata fruit pulp and leaves. Acta Phytotherapeutica. 5(2).
3. S. Coe et al (2013). The polyphenol-rich baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata L.) reduces starch digestion and glycemic response in humans. Nutrition Research, 33(11), 888-896.
4. E. Adewusi and A. Afolayan (2010). A review of natural products with hepatoprotective activity. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 4(13), 1318-1334.
5. A. Al-Qarawi, M. Al-Damegh and S. El-Mougy (2003). Hepatoprotective Influence of Adansonia digitata Pulp. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 10, 3.
6. M. Didibe et al (1996). Baobab-homegrown vitamin C for Africa. Agrofor. Today 8: 13-15.
7. M. Osman (2004). Chemical and Nutrient Analysis of Baobab (Adansonia digitata): Fruit and Seed Protein Solubility. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 59, 29-33.