Baobab, the fruit from Africa’s “Tree of Life,” is a powerful food to help you optimize your health and prevent disease. Baobab has been used for thousands of years in traditional African medicine systems, eaten to treat illnesses like diarrhea and smallpox. This superfruit is rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which support the immune system and aid indigestion. In recent years, this superfood has gained popularity as individuals and companies add it to smoothies, açaí bowls, and snack bars.
What is Baobab and where does it come from?
The baobab fruit comes from a tree native to tropical regions in Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, and Mozambique. This tree is known to live for more than 1,500 years, which is why it’s commonly referred to as Africa’s Tree of Life. Native Africans often identify the baobab tree as the monkey-bread tree and have used its fruit and leaves in medicine for centuries. These trees can be found in hot, dry areas and usually produce fruit once or twice a year.
Five Health Benefits of Baobab
Kristen Carli, RD, registered dietitian and founder of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness explained the health benefits of baobab and why it’s considered a nutritional powerhouse, in an exclusive interview with The Beet.
Here are five big benefits of this superfruit that’ll make you want to incorporate it into your diet right away:
1. Baobab is Rich in Antioxidants
Baobab is packed with antioxidants like procyanidins and flavonoids, according to a 2018 study published in Molecules. Antioxidants help decrease free radicals in our body, thus lowering inflammation. Free radicals result in oxidative stress and increase our risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. A study conducted by Brunswick Laboratories found that baobab has greater antioxidants than more than blueberries, pomegranate, goji berries, and acai, making it one of the most nutritious fruits to eat.
2. Baobab Strengthens the Immune System and Prevents Sickness
“Baobab boasts high vitamin C content,” says Carli. 40 grams of baobab pulp has 84 to over 100 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C – often said to be higher than an orange or lemon. “In addition, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system work properly to protect the body from disease,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) says. It can also relieve cold and flu-like symptoms to help you heal and recover from sickness as vitamin C supports the functioning of white blood cells.
3. Baobab Optimizes Gut Health
There are three things essential for good gut health, according to a 2020 study published in Current Obesity Reports. There’s prebiotics, which helps grow healthy bacteria, probiotics that are the healthy bacteria themselves, and postbiotics – which are the metabolites of the healthy bacteria, the authors of the study note. “The fiber in baobab may act as a prebiotic, providing sustenance to the probiotic bacteria in our gut, which helps maintain a healthy microbiome,” says Carli. One tablespoon of baobab contains 4.5 grams of fiber, 75% of which is prebiotic. Getting prebiotic fiber is not only essential to keep your gut healthy, but also strengthens your immune system and brightens your skin.
4. Baobab May Balance Blood Sugar Levels
Baobab is a sweet fruit that packs a punch of flavor when added to any dish. A 2019 study presented at the 13th European Nutrition Conference found that this fruit can improve certain aspects of cognitive performance and increase circulating blood glucose levels. These results can be explained by Baobab’s high fiber content, as fiber may help slow the absorption of sugar, reducing their conversion into glucose. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with insulin resistance as it helps stabilize blood sugars instead of them going too high or too low.
5. Baobab May Prevent Premature Skin Aging
This superfruit is filled with healthy vitamins and minerals – such as vitamins B, C, and omega-3s, which make it a skin-friendly food. “Baobab contains many antioxidants such as flavonoids and tannins,” says Carli. Many of these antioxidants are found in topical anti-aging skin formulas. The vitamin C in the fruit is also great to protect skin cells, prevent premature skin aging, and help maintain the skin’s elasticity.
How To Use Baobab and Where to Buy It
Baobab is generally sold as a powder to be added to smoothies, salad dressings, açaí bowls, and more. It is also available in oil form, where you can directly apply it to the skin to improve elasticity and prevent wrinkles. The fruit can be used as a low-glycemic sugar substitute for baked goods or desserts. It is a great way to get in your recommended amounts of fiber in addition to other vitamins and minerals. You can also pair it with an iron-rich food, such as cacao or nuts to increase iron absorption.
“Baobab is mostly sold in powder form and is often found in baked goods,” says Carli. You can find baobab powder at your local health food store or online. One brand that stood out to us is Baobab Foods, the world’s leading processor and supplier of organic baobab, as they have baobab powder, superfruit snacks, and baobab oil.