A lot of Southeast Asian fruits – like lognan, durian, and jackfruit — have become wildly popular around the world. Yet, most people still haven’t heard of gac fruit. This is surprising considering that gac fruit has the highest amount of lycopene of all fruits – 200x more than carrots and 50x more than tomatoes. On top of that, gac fruit is loaded with many other nutrients and has lots of impressive health benefits.
What is Gac Fruit?
Gac is a vine which grows in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam and Thailand. The vine produces fruits which are spiky and have a gorgeous bright orange/red color.
If you visit either of those countries in October to February when gac is harvested, you can usually find them being sold in local markets. Lots of local dishes are made with gac, like “red sticky rice”.
- Momordica cochinchinensis (Latin)
- Baby jackfruit
- Spiny bitter gourd
- Sweet gourd
- Cochinchin gourd
- Chinese bitter cucumber
- Mu Bie (Chinese)
- MocMiet Tu (Vietnamese)
- Bat-Khai-Du or Phak-Khao (Thai)
- Khaawz (Laos)
- Buyok-buyok or Sugod-sugod (Tagalog)
- Torobuk, teruah or pupia (Indonesia)
How to Eat Gac Fruit
Gac fruit has a tough skin, yellowish inner flesh, and oily red arils. The arils are the only part of the gac fruit which is actually eaten. The seed inside the arils are too hard to eat but are used to make medicines.
To eat gac fruit:
- Choose a ripe gac fruit. It should be bright red-orange and slightly soft, not mushy.
- Cut the fruit in half around the middle.
- Scoop out the red inner flesh and arils.
- Suck on the arils and spit out the seed.
What Does Gac Taste Like?
Gac fruit isn’t sweet. It has a really nice texture though (kind of like avocado) and a slightly nutty flavor.
Gac Fruit Nutrition
The arils of gac fruit are incredibly nutritious. They are packed with huge amounts of carotenoids, especially lycopene and beta-carotene. It has more of these carotenoids than any known fruit in the world.
To give you an idea of how much of these nutrients are packed into Gac, it actually has 200x more carotenoids than tomatoes and 54 times more than carrots.
In addition to Lycopen and beta-carotene, gac fruit is also incredibly rich in:
- Other carotenoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta‐cryptoxanthin
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Trypsin inhibitors
- Healthy fats, including linoleic acid and Omega-3 fatty acids
Health Benefits of Gac Fruit
Gac has been used medicinally for over 1,000 years. In China, it is known as Mu Bie Zi and was used for a variety of ailments. Here are the main benefits of gac fruit that have been scientifically studied.
Carotenoids are incredibly important for eye health; they reduce damage from blue light and also prevent macular degeneration. Because gac fruit contains more carotenoids than any other fruit in the world, they are particularly good for eye health.
Gac fruit also contains the carotenoid called lutein, which not only prevents eye damage but can reverse damage too. It can be used to help fight or treat age-related vision loss.
This is actually one of the benefits of gac fruit which has been extensively studied. Researchers found that gac fruit – including the fruit and seeds – contain high amounts of natural chemicals like triterpenoids and saponins and the baculoviral protein 35kD. These have strong anti-cancer effects.
Gac fruit also contains trypsin inhibitors. These block certain proteins which are active in cancers, especially colon, prostate, breast and skin cancers.
The potent antioxidants in gac fruit have a wide range of benefits, including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Boosting immunity
- Preventing aging
- Heart health
The oil from gac fruit has natural antimicrobial properties. For this reason, it is sometimes used topically to treat minor wounds or acne.
5. Fighting Neurodegenerative Diseases
One interesting benefit of gac fruit is that it might help prevent or treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. This is because proteins found in gac seeds mitigate damage done by a detrimental protein called 17kDa.
6. Lung Health
The trypsin inhibitors in gac fruit also regulate certain inflammatory cells or neutrophils which cause elastase release and tissue damage. Thus, gac fruit could treat conditions where this process is involved, such as emphysema.
7. Bone Health
Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. Because gac fruit contains so much beta carotene, it’s considered a great source of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is important for bone health because it regulates both osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the cells responsible for building and breaking down bone tissue.
8. Pain Relief
One other benefit of gac fruit is acting as a natural pain reliever. While it isn’t going to have a huge anti-pain effect, the various natural chemicals – such as phytosterols, carotenoids, and antioxidants – in the fruit do reduce pain. This may be due to gac fruit’s anti-inflammation benefits..
How to Use Gac Fruit
Unless you live in Southeast Asia or want to grow gac yourself, you probably won’t be able to get the fresh fruit. It simply goes bad too quickly to survive transportation. Instead, you’ll want to take gac fruit oil or powder.
Both gac fruit and powder are bland in taste, so you can easily add them to food (porridge, smoothies, etc.).
To get the best benefits of gac fruit, don’t heat the oil or powder. Instead, add them to the food right before eating. Or you can just take a spoonful of gac oil as a supplement.
Best Brands of Gac Fruit
If you want the health benefits of gac fruit, your best bet is to take it as an oil or powder. These brands make quality gac supplements and are available to buy online.
This supplement is made of 100% freeze-dried gac. The freeze drying process does a good job of preserving nutrients. There are 45 servings per container and each serving has 160% of your daily lycopene. Get it here.
2. Vinaga Gac Oil
Vinaga is a Vietnamese brand. It is one of the few brands making quality gac oil for export. This formulation also contains DHA for brain health. Get it here.
3. Ox Health Gac Oil
Like the brand above, these gac fruit capsules also contain DHA to boost brain health. There are 60 capsules in a bottle. However, the Vinaga brand has a higher amount of lycopene per serving so it is listed above this brand. Get it here.
qua gac by Qoheletal, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
“Momordica cochinchinensis” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Cerlin Ng,
“Sapa – gấc” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by audrey_sel,
“Gac fruit” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by b. inxee♪♫,
Qua Gac fruit by Ron Diggity, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.