It's been hailed as "the vitamin tree" by National Geographic, but how do you pronounce baobab tree? In West Africa it's pronounced using two syllables; bau-bab. In South Africa it is pronounced using three syllables; bay-o-bab. In the U.S. it's typically pronounced using the two syllable form.
While it's widely used as a food source and herbal remedy in Africa, the rest of the world didn't start taking notice until last decade. It wasn't until 2008 when the baobab powder and fruit (excluding its refined oil) was approved for use in food and beverages by the European Union and 2009 by the FDA.
So what is baobab powder and what makes it a superfood? It's jam packed with nutrition. It has a very high antioxidant content, or ORAC value. Loaded with B vitamins, 6x the vitamin C as an orange, 2x the calcium as milk, plenty of minerals including iron, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium, and polyphenol rich.
It goes by many fun names; "monkey-bread tree," "upside-down tree," "cream of tarter tree," and our all time favorite... "dead rat tree." Whatever you want to call this species, (Adansonia Digitata), it's an iconic tree commonly found throughout the beautiful savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. They grow between 16 to 82 feet in height and what's most fascinating is how long they live, which is up to 1,500 years!
The size of each baobab fruit is 6 to 8 inches long. How do you eat it? Organic baobab powder is the most commonly sold form. Boabab oil is also available, but that's only sold for health benefits related to hair, scalp, and moisturizing dry skin (you don't eat the oil).
The best part? You benefit from a superfood which has a 40% higher ORAC value than acai fruit. In addition, you may be benefiting the people who harvested the fruit! The non-profit PhytoTrade Africa, established in 2001, works to alleviate poverty by promoting sustainable natural product production. They have a system where people can harvest the fruit and sell it to PhytoTrade, who then uses it to produce baobab fruit powder and oil for export globally. When purchasing baobab, check with the manufacturer to see if they purchased their powder/oil from PhytoTrade.
Be careful, there are side effects of baobab powder. What the FDA approved was for the use of the powder in up to a 10% concentration for beverages and up to 15% for solid foods. Why such a low amount? Well, it contains extremely high amounts of soluble fiber: 50% of it is fiber! That means 10 grams of the fruit = 5 grams of fiber (with 3 being the soluble form). To put that in perspective, a single dose of the laxative psyllium also contains 3 grams of soluble fiber. Although this is unlikely to be a dangerous side effect, it is still something to take note of when consuming the fruit.
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't: Brunswick Laboratories Test Report on Behalf of Baobab Foods Oct 2011