What is baobab and how is it usually consumed?
Baobab is the name of a fruit from the Adansonia genus of trees and it is found inside hard pods that hang upside-down from the trees. Baobab is usually consumed as a powder made from the harvested fruit that is dried and ground. It has a pleasant, citrusy flavour.
What is the nutritional profile of baobab?
Baobab powder is renowned for its high vitamin C content, with one tablespoon (10g of baobab) providing just over half of the RDA of vitamin C for adults.
It also contributes minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as certain B vitamins, fibre and protein.
How well researched are the benefits and risks of baobab?
There has been very little research into the health benefits of baobab in humans, but a 2013 study looked at whether baobab could reduce glycaemic response (blood sugar levels), when baked into white bread or when stirred into water. This study found that not only is baobab high in polyphenols – micronutrients that have a high antioxidant status – but that it did reduce starch digestion and glycaemic response in humans.
However, a later study in 2016 by Nutrition Research found that baobab-enriched bread did not affect glycaemic response or hunger, but that baobab fruit extract had the potential to be added to white bread to reduce the amount of insulin needed to manage blood glucose response. More research is obviously needed in this area, but baobab does appear to have some positive attributes that may help those with diabetes or insulin sensitivity.
In Africa, baobab has been used in herbal remedies for years to help treat fever and high temperatures, by consuming a mash containing dried baobab bark. There has been some evidence that the fruit, pulp and seeds of the baobab does in fact have anti-fever properties and can lower elevated body temperature without affecting normal body temperature.
There have also been a few papers looking at baobab for its anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties but more research is needed into this fruit as there really isn’t enough at this stage to make any definitive health claims.
Are there any side effects of baobab?
There don’t appear to be any significant side effects to baobab but, as more research is needed, it is best to check with your GP if you are taking any medication, pregnant or are breastfeeding before consuming baobab powder.
As baobab is a good source of vitamin C, consuming too much may cause stomach pains, diarrhoea or flatulence if you exceed tolerance levels of 1,000mg a day – but you would need to be consuming over 300g of baobab fruit powder a day in order to reach these levels.
Baobab powder recipes
If you do want to try baobab powder, an easy way to incorporate it into your diet is by adding one tablespoon to your favourite smoothie or energy bites, or using it in baking. Here are a few recipes where you might include it:
This article was updated on 22nd March 2018 by registered nutritionist Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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