Most of us hear the word “jujube” and instantly think back to the movie theater snacks we enjoyed as kids. But did you know there’s an actual fruit that inspired the candy? It turns out, jujube fruit is packed with a ton of nutritional perks — and still satisfy your sweet tooth.
The fruit is usually found in dried form with a chewy texture and with a similar flavor to apples, according to Harvest to Table. They grow on trees native to China, India, Africa, the Mediterranean, and even here in the US. They are about the size of an olive or a small date.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, also known as “the Sleep Doctor,” recommends jujube for his patients who struggle with getting a good night’s rest. “I find jujube especially effective for people whose insomnia and other sleep problems are related to stress and anxiety,” he explains on his website.
He cites research from 2003 that found jujubes contain phytochemicals which a trigger sleep-inducing neurotransmitter called GABA, plus amp up serotonin (the “feel good” chemical in our brains). This not only helps us drift off to dreamland quicker, but improves the overall quality of slumber.
A more recent study from 2017 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine backs these mind-calming claims. Along with easing anxiety, researchers add that jujubes contain neuroprotective activities — meaning they guard our brain cells from toxins while improving function. This can give our noggins a boost when it comes to improved memory and our ability to learn new things.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for these potent berries. Dr. Breus also highlights a study that showed jujubes aided in lowering blood sugar, most likely thanks to its high level of vitamin A, which he explains improves insulin sensitivity. On top of that, a 2009 study found jujube extract was able to block fat cells from piling up in the body, which is obviously great news for anyone hoping to shed a few pounds — which is another added benefit for combating diabetes and other blood sugar issues.
Want more reasons to add this fruit to your life? No problem! Studies from Pharmacognosy Reviews (2015) and Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine (2016) found that the ample amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of jujubes can ward off cancer cells and significantly inhibit their ability to grow.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.