Hot ingredient Spotlight: Baobab has become a hot superfood, but in its native Africa, the tree has been feeding and healing people for centuries
The baobab tree is an incredibly resilient survivor. Despite its native environment being very hot, dry savannas of Africa, a single tree may live for 500 years or more, and its size dominates the barren landscape. The trunk rises 90 feet or more and has a diameter as large as 60 feet.
Called “the tree of life,” it not only outlives environmental challenges, but also helps support humans in its vicinity. The massive trunk can provide protection, and the leaves, bark, seeds, and fruit have a long tradition of being used as food and medicine.
Baobab Fruit Health Benefits
Baobab fruit grows in pods and has a tart, sweet taste. The fruit, a white pulp, dries naturally while the pods are still hanging from the tree. Once the pods are picked and broken open, the pulp is taken out and made into a powder that can easily be packaged and transported. Although some powders are sterilized or otherwise processed, the natural, raw powder is also available.
And it’s worth seeking out. Dried baobab fruit powder is rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C; it’s high in potassium; and it contains good amounts of calcium, magnesium, and protein. It’s also rich in fiber, which makes up about half of each serving. The fiber acts as a prebiotic, helping to maintain healthy bacteria in the gut.
A British study, published in Nutrition Research, found that baobab fruit powder, mixed in water or baked into white bread, slowed the absorption of starchy food. This reduces spikes and crashes in blood sugar and energy. Researchers believe the fruit may block enzymes that break down starch and sugar, in addition to slowing absorption with its fiber content.
The powdered supplement has been shown to be rich in antioxidants, and boasts anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. The seeds contain an oil that, when used topically, is beneficial for the skin.
It’s also a potent pain reliever and has been used traditionally to treat diarrhea and reduce fever. In fact, baobab has historically been used to treat dysentery, a life-threatening form of diarrhea, and fever associated with malaria. More recently, an animal study found that a freeze-dried form of the fruit and seeds can protect the liver against damage from a toxic solvent used in fire extinguishers and dry cleaning.
Baobab fruit powder is available by itself, and as an ingredient in plant-based protein powders, nutritional or energy-enhancing powders, and fruit chews. It can also be found in nutrition bars.
Did you know?
The Tree of Life in The Lion King is a baobab tree.
Helping the Planet
Companies that make baobab products available in the United States often work to empower local communities in Africa. This includes paying sustainable wages to those who harvest the fruit and protecting the trees, for sustainability of both people and planet.
Baobab Superfood Products
- Superfoods by MRM Raw Organic Baobab Powder
- Organic Traditions Superfood Smoothie Mix Luscious Lucuma Baobab
- Organic Health Organic Superfood Baobab Juice