The African breadfruit, botanically known as Treculia africana (Fam. Moraceae), is commonly eaten by the Igbo people in southeastern Nigeria. Ukwa is commonly called asa dagaa, gayo or kawoo in Hausa; afon by the Yoruba; ize in Benin; jekri and sobo in Ijaw; and ediang in Efik.
Studies have shown that the seed of ukwa contains protein, fat, ash, fibre, carbohydrate and moisture. It also contains minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, zinc, as well as vitamins C, A, B1 and B2, niacin, Lutein (µg) and B-Carotene.
Ukwa could either be roasted, boiled, made into a porridge or added to drinks, cakes, snacks and cookies. Ukwa could be cooked with potash and just eaten like that, or it could be separated from the water, for just the seeds to be mashed with some ingredients and thereafter served with the extract (water). The seeds of Treculia africana can be ground to flour, pressed for oil and used as flavouring in alcoholic drinks
Pharmacological actions and medicinal uses
Breadfruit is said to be heart-friendly because of its potassium content and other nutrients which help in reducing blood pressure and regulating the heart rate, by minimising the effects of sodium. The dietary fibres present help to reduce cholesterol by preventing its absorption in the gut. Breadfruit contains high amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are vital for brain development and function, among many other things.
The African breadfruit is rich in Vitamin C which helps in the production of collagen, a protein which provides elasticity to the skin. The omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in ukwa help to regulate sebum production in the scalp, reducing dandruff and itchiness, inhibiting scalp inflammation.
Breadfruit porridge is one of the diabetic healthy foods that is prepared and eaten to help control blood sugar level. The fibre present in breadfruit reduces absorption of glucose from the consumption of the food people eat. The fibre also flushes out toxins from the intestine and helps in proper functioning of the bowels and intestines. It also helps in preventing other disease associated with digestion, such as gastritis and ulcer. The presence of fibres helps to stop food cravings thereby aiding weight loss.
The fruit, as well as the leaves and latex of ukwa tree work as a natural medicine for curing diseases like diarrhoea, asthma, and sciatica. Breadfruit leaves are used to relieve inflammation and other related health issues, such as hepatitis, enlarged spleen, liver disease, kidney, and heart-related illnesses. This anti-inflammatory property may be attributed to the rich flavonoid content, which is a vital compound that helps to reduce the cholesterol in the blood and treats related illnesses.
Breadfruit should not be eaten in excess, as it may cause certain allergies and bleeding disorders in pregnant women when eaten excessively.
Economic uses and potentials
Dried ukwa fruits cost as much as 15,000 per paint bucket. It is a source of income for many homes in the southeast. There are prospects in the harvesting, processing, distribution and sales of ukwa. Ukwa is also beneficial in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
By Pharm. Ngozika Okoye MSc, MPH, FPCPharm
Nwokolo C. (2019). 10 Massive Health Benefits of Breadfruit (Ukwa). Available at: https://healthguide.ng/health-benefits-of-breadfruit-ukwa/ Accessed June 17, 2018.