In the conversation surrounding healthy fruits, apples, oranges, and bananas usually round out the top three. Their popularity is well-established worldwide, and each can be recognized almost instantly.
But, one fruit is busy climbing the popular fruit rankings—the jujube fruit.
Although these fruits are native to Southern Asia, they are becoming more and more popular around the world for their chewy texture, sweet taste, and many health benefits.
Jujube is loaded with free radical-fighting antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and an impressive amount of dietary fiber. The many health benefits packed into this little fruit may surprise you.
A Closer Look at Jujube
There are still some folks that will immediately think back to the colorful, confectionery candy when they hear the word “Jujube.” But, the actual jujube fruit has more to offer in terms of health benefits than the nostalgic movie theater treat.
Though it is considered a fruit, the jujube is actually grown on deciduous shrubs and is a member of the Buckthorn family. Growing roughly 15-30 feet from the ground, these drought-tolerant fruits grow best in arid regions.
The jujube fruit (Ziziphus jujuba) is sometimes referred to as a Chinese date or red date. They are native to Southern and Central Asia and are considered one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. Historically, its jujube cultivation and utilization can be traced back roughly 7,000 years.
Jujube fruit varies in size and comes in over 400 different varieties. So, these fruits are typically round or oval-shaped with a firm yet smooth outer skin, depending on the variety.
It isn’t until they reach maturity that they better resemble the dried date with a wrinkled look. These fruits have a crisp, snap-like quality underneath the skin, much like an apple. They also possess a small, inedible pit. In terms of flavor, jujubes are known to have a sweet yet slightly tangy flavor.
Jujube and Its Health Benefits
While the jujube fruit has generated a lot of buzz in recent years, does it really deserve a spot alongside other powerhouse fruits? History certainly suggests it does.
The jujube fruit has been revered in many Asian countries for centuries. The jujube fruit, its leaves, and seeds have been popular in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, especially for sleep support.
Let’s take a look at some of its claims to fame in terms of health benefits.
Jujube Fruit Is Nutrient-Dense
Jujube is a low-calorie fruit that boasts an impressive resume when it comes to nutrients, being rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
In addition to being low calorie, jujube is also reasonably high in fiber content—approximately 10 g per 100 grams. This high fiber content could help improve normal digestion. It is well-known for the digestive effects of dietary fiber. Roughly half of the carbohydrates in the jujube fruit come from fiber. This makes it a perfect snacking fruit.
This fruit is also loaded with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and zinc. Also, jujubes contain quite a high amount of potassium for such a small fruit. Potassium plays an integral role in electrolyte balance, muscle health, and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Here is a quick look at some of the standouts of jujube’s nutritional profile (100 g serving size):
- Vitamin C: 69 mg
- Calcium: 21 mg
- Magnesium: 10 mg
- Phosphorus: 23 mg
- Potassium: 250 mg
- Zinc: 0.05 mg
Rich in Antioxidants To Fight Oxidative Stress
Like many fruits, jujube fruit is full of many antioxidant compounds. These include flavonoids, polysaccharides, and more. Antioxidants are essential in helping to fight off the harmful effects of oxidative stress.
Generally, oxidation is a normal byproduct of metabolic processes. However, the oxidation process also creates unstable molecular fragments known as free radicals.
Since these waste products have an unpaired electron, they roam the body to make a bond. Unfortunately, these free radicals contribute to a host of problems during this process — oxidative stress.
Free radicals can damage cells, proteins, DNA and contribute to a host of chronic conditions.
Antioxidants Help Neutralize Free Radicals
Jujube fruit is rich in phytonutrients, specifically flavonoids, which are powerful against oxidative stress. In effect, antioxidants, like those found in jujube fruit, help neutralize the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress.
In fact, most of the health benefits that jujube fruit is associated with are due largely to its antioxidant properties. This includes its immune-supporting effects, thanks to its high vitamin C content.
Jujube Is an Immune-Boosting Fruit
The jujube fruit is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. However, the nutrient that stands out is vitamin C. As noted above in the nutritional profile, jujube fruit boasts nearly 70 mg of vitamin C in 100 g. The daily recommended amount for vitamin C is 65 to 90 mg for adults.
Jujube even beats out the orange when it comes to vitamin C content. Oranges contain around 53 mg of vitamin C in the same amount.
Vitamin C Supports Immune Function
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, best known for its support of the immune function. Vitamin C is an important ally in immune health, aiding various cellular functions within the immune system—both adaptive and innate.
- Vitamin C helps stimulate the production of immune defense cells called lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell (WBC).
- This essential vitamin also helps protect immune cells against oxidative stress and the harmful effects of free radicals and illness.
Interestingly, vitamin C also provides some antimicrobial defense. For example, vitamin C helps support phagocytosis, which is essentially the microbial killing process carried out by phagocytes (WBCs).
A Fruit for Better Sleep?
Jujube has been used for centuries in traditional and alternative medicine. One of its major uses is for the improvement of sleep quality — specifically promoting sleep and relaxation.
Some researchers believe that this is thanks to the potent natural therapeutic qualities of the jujube plant. As stated, jujube is rich in phytochemicals. Two of these phytochemicals may hold the key: Flavonoids and saponins.
A Natural Sedative To Improve Sleep Quality
These two phytochemicals affect neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA. As the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA helps calm and relax, making it essential for falling asleep.
Also, a flavonoid known as spinosin has been shown to help trigger sleepiness thanks to its effect on serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Furthermore, research has shown that a saponin found in jujube fruit (jujuboside A) possesses some sedative effects, helping to inhibit excitatory signal pathways.
The Bottom Line
Although the jujube fruit may sound new to many people, this fruit has been cultivated and used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. It is known best for its ability to improve sleep quality.
This small fruit is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and is loaded with free radical-fighting antioxidants. It boasts some impressive numbers when it comes to nutrients — most notably its high vitamin C content. This makes it a potent immune-supporting ally.
The jujube fruit might be ancient, but its popularity as a nutrient-dense snack is rising more and more every day.
- The historical and current research progress on jujube–a superfruit for the future | Horticulture Research | Nature
- A Review of Dietary Ziziphus jujuba Fruit (Jujube): Developing Health Food Supplements for Brain Protection | NIH
- FoodData Central Search Results | USDA
- Vitamin C and Immune Function | NIH
- Inhibitory effect of jujuboside A on glutamate-mediated excitatory signal pathway in hippocampus | NIH