Jackfruit is now clinically proven to reduce blood sugar levels and help reverse diabetes. According to a study published by the American Diabetes Association, it brings down glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), fasting blood glucose (FBG), and postprandial glucose (PPG).
The conclusion of the study is based on a randomized, double-blind design where 20 of the 40 participants with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) were given 30 grams of green flour made from jackfruit for three months. The rest used regular wheat or rice flour to make rotis or idlis.
At the end of the study, that was approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it was found that people who mixed flour in their idli batter or wheat dough showed improvement in their plasma glucose levels.
Vinu Nair, a 51-year-old diabetic patient has been adding green flour to his diet since September 2018. Not only has his sugar levels been in control but it has also helped in reducing carbs and cholesterol levels. He runs for about 60-70 kms every month and exercises 2 to 3 times a week.
“I started consuming the flour along with my medication but soon realised that two tablets and flour were lowering my readings. Three months into the diet, both my HbA1c and tablet consumption reduced. It has been four months now since I stopped the medication and I am only sticking to flour,” Chennai-based Vinu tells The Better India.
James Joseph, the founder of Jackfruit 365, a company that sells the fruit in a freeze-dried form, is the brain behind this new study. His 8-year-old company sells frozen jackfruit, which has a better shelf life and goes back to its original form if soaked in lukewarm water.
The 49-year-old recently received a National Startup India award, for ‘Food’ in the category ‘Food Processing’ for his new product – a green jackfruit flour.
An Accidental Discovery
Kochi-based James was always aware that the fibre-rich fruit is a potent carbohydrate substitute for people with diabetes as the glycemic load (glucose level) in unripe jackfruit is almost half that of rice or wheat.
An accidental discovery in 2014 triggered the idea of green flour.
“In a casual interaction with a diabetic priest, he mentioned how he had substituted traditional rice with unripened jackfruit, and after a few days, his insulin intake lowered. The fibre helps food digest faster and reduces blood sugar levels. This gave birth to the idea of making jackfruit an integral part of people’s diet,” James tells The Better India.
This was during the same time when James’ published his book, ‘God Own Office’. Impressed by the book, former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam invited him for a meeting in Delhi. He grabbed the opportunity and excitedly shared his discovery.
James recalls the short yet fruitful interaction with Dr Kalam, “He remained silent for three minutes and then told me to find a way to include jackfruit in people’s meal without changing their eating habits. He promised me to help market it after I came up with a solution. Unfortunately, he had passed away. But his words stayed with me, and after nearly five years of experiments and testing, green flour was ready.”
Phulka to Idli: It Goes With All
James, being a staunch promoter of jackfruit, was keen to introduce this to diabetic patients beyond his home state. But he faced the daunting task of including the fruit in varied cuisines and staple diets of India without affecting the taste, shape or colour.
He wanted people in the north of India to be able to mix it with phulka dough, and a south Indian to be able to add it to idli batter.
James rejected several ideas, including a powdered form.
“When the powder is added to a dough, it won’t give conventional phulkas. Finally, I hit on the ‘flour’ option – which was another herculean task. I had to find a binding factor. If it was high, then the dosa stuck to the pan, and if it were low, then the roti would break. It took us weeks to arrive at a perfect balance,” he explains.
“The flour is solely made from jackfruit,” he says. He has tied up with farmers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu to procure the best breeds of jackfruit.
Though he had tried to keep the taste and texture close to regular flour, it does slightly change the idli’s colour. But the fact that he managed to cater to two very different diets is praiseworthy.
The flour costs Rs 10 per day as against expensive insulin. It is available on e-commerce platforms like Big Basket and Amazon across India and in 5000 shops in Kerala.
He recommends 30 grams of green flour for daily consumption, especially during the pandemic considering that 75 per cent of diabetic patients in India face a higher COVID-19 mortality risk.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)