Many people have never heard of gâc fruit. However, it is widely known in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam. The gâc fruit grows on vines and generally reaches the size of a cantaloupe, and it is used as both a food and a medicine from Northeast Australia across to Vietnam. For example, in Vietnam, gâc is used in making xôi gâc for daily consumption or special ceremonies like matrimony. Only recently has the usage of gâc begun to rise in the West as a health food.
So what’s so special about this fruit, known also as baby jackfruit and sweet gourd? It’s bright red color should provide a clue, since it is jam packed full of beta carotene, lycopene and other strong antioxidants that not only helps to support the immune system, but also helps to retard the effects of aging. It has been used in Vietnam in particular to overcome the effects of an endemic deficiency in vitamin A, and is rich in provitamin A carotenoids. It is also widely used in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of complaints.
Most of the health benefits of gâc are provided by its antioxidant properties. Thus, if you have a high cholesterol level, gâc can help you to avoid atherosclerosis by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is the precursor to it depositing on your artery walls. The body needs cholesterol, but levels should be kept to within certain limits, or the resultant atherosclerosis can narrow your arteries, leading to cardiac problems and strokes, particularly in the very narrow arteries of the brain.
Gâc also supports the immune system and helps to maintain prostate health largely through its alpha tocopherol, or vitamin E content. Vitamin E is easily destroyed by free radicals, which is where the beta carotene is of benefit. This is the body’s first line of defense against free radicals, and each molecule can neutralize up to 20 free radical molecules before it is destroyed. This helps to save other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Lycopene is particularly beneficial to the prostate, and current research indicates that it can help to prevent prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease, plus some other diseases such as macular degeneration that affects your sight. Perhaps this is one reason why the gâc fruit membranes are used in Vietnam to promote healthy vision, and they also help to cure dry eyes. Lycopene remains in your body fat longer than normal beta carotene, and recent studies have found that men with high amounts of lycopene in their body fat are up to 50% less likely to suffer heart attacks as those with low amounts.
Gâc fruit is jam-packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, and has no known side effects. It is used in Asia for weddings and other special occasions, and is grown on lattices in many gardens, although it has a short season. However, gâc fruit is not known as the “Fruit from Heaven” for no reason, and if you were allowed the choice of only one fruit in your life, then this should be the one to choose.