Every other week it seems something new is being touted as the next “superfood.” So it’s hard to take the claims seriously. But when it comes to baobab, there’s plenty of truth behind the hype. Making it a true “superfood” worthy of your attention.
The fruit, leaves, and seeds of this massive tree have more vitamin C than oranges. More calcium than milk. More antioxidants than strawberries.
Plus, baobab fruit is packed with minerals like magnesium—which is essential for everything from heart to bone health.
If you’ve never heard of baobab (pronounced bay-oh-bab), that’s because it’s virtually impossible to find the fruit in the U.S. But the good news is that you can now get the benefits of this healthful fruit without having to travel all the way to Africa.
Read on and I’ll tell you how.
How one massive tree provides such an abundance of sustenance
In Africa, baobab is known as the “tree of life.” Fitting, since some of these massive trees are thought to be up to 6,000 years old.
Baobab grows throughout the woodlands, grasslands, and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. It can reach heights of 75 feet, and its roots can spread even further.
African communities rely on the whole tree for their daily existence. The cork-like bark is used to make cloth and rope. The trunk stores water during times of drought. The leaves are used in traditional medicines. And the coconut-sized fruit is both tasty and nutritious.
Let’s take a closer look at the impressive amount of nutrients in this “tree of life.”
Calcium. Research shows that baobab leaves are very rich in calcium—between 1,500 to 2,250 mg in every 100 grams.1 Only amaranth, okra, onion leaves, and sorrel provide better plant-based sources of calcium. And the same amount of whole milk only has 113 mg of this essential mineral.2
Vitamin C. Baobab fruit pulp has between 150 to 500 mg of this disease-fighting vitamin per 100 grams.1 How does that stack up to other food sources of C? Well, oranges only have 53 mg, kiwis have 93 mg, and yellow bell peppers have 184 mg.2
Magnesium. Baobab pulp has an average of 195 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.1 In contrast, magnesium-rich foods like dark leafy greens have 79 mg. Mackerel has 97 mg. Only squash and pumpkin seeds have more magnesium than baobab.2
Antioxidants. Baobab’s antioxidant levels are (almost) off the charts. One gram of baobab fruit pulp has an integral antioxidant capacity (IAC) reading of 11, and the leaves have an IAC of 9. Check out how that compares to the IACs of popular high-antioxidant fruits: strawberries (1), kiwi (0.3), apple (0.2), and orange (0.1).3
Polyphenols. Baobab is loaded with these disease-fighting compounds. In fact, one study showed that baobab extract mixed into water helped people digest dietary starch better—and reduced their blood glucose levels. Which suggests that baobab may be effective at helping fight diabetes.4 Other studies have revealed that the fruit has potent anti-inflammatory effects.
And the above list is just the beginning…research also shows baobab is a good source of manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. It also has A and B vitamins and lutein—which is essential for eye health.
So how can you benefit from this tree of life?
As I mentioned earlier, you’re not likely to find the actual baobab fruit in your produce section. Unfortunately it just doesn’t travel well. So most Americans can’t sit down to a menu of dishes made from baobab leaves or fruit.
However, baobab is now more readily available as a powdered ingredient. And can be found as a dietary supplement. A combination of dried baobab powder with other supplement ingredients can provide a potent addition to your daily regimen.
I recommend 500-1,000 mg per day.
Since the optimal quantities of baobab don’t really fit into a pill or capsule, the best form is a water-soluble powder. Mix the powder with water, tea, or juice, and you’ll get a health boost you’ll never achieve with sports drinks, so-called “hydration” drinks, or energy drinks.
1“Baobab food products: a review on their composition and nutritional value.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Mar;49(3):254-74.
2USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27 http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list.
3“The use of photochemiluminescence for the measurement of the integral antioxidant capacity of baobab products.” Food Chemistry
Volume 102, Issue 4, 2007, Pages 1352–1356.
4”The polyphenol-rich baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata L.) reduces starch digestion and glycemic response in humans.” Nutr Res. 2013 Nov;33(11):888-96.