This fruit is almost completely unknown in the US, but Gac is a Superfruit amongst fruits, giving us amazing levels of essential vitamins and antioxidants. It is a native of Vietnam, and grows throughout Southeast Asia and in China. In Thailand, it is called Fak Khaao and is still unusual to find in the markets. It is also sold in China, and is known as the Chinese bitter cucumber, cundeamor, and bhat karela.
Asking around to sellers that know me in my local market didn’t get me very far, and no one knew where I could get it. When the Gac fruit does make an appearance at the market, I can spot them from quite a distance as they are very bright orange-reddish in color and stand out amongst fruits. Gac fruit apparently ripens only once a year in the months of December and January when other nutrient-providing fruits and vegetables are no longer in season. They seem to be found more in special markets catering to organic and health-oriented foods.
Producing Gac juice for sale in the local market is the latest project for my enterprising family, and hopefully within a month or so, we will have our own production of the juice up and running. We are also planning future cultivation of the fruit on some farm land south of Chiang Mai.
The fruit itself has a very hard exterior with small spikes, similar to a Durian fruit (fortunately, not as painful to handle), and are about 1/5th the size and weight of a Durian or smaller. The fruit weighs in at 1 to 3kg each and a mature plant can produce about 60 fruits. The Gac plant is actually a vine, and most cultivators have the vine growing on a lattice, and the plant looks similar to a grape vine.
Gac fruit by itself is not very tasty — very little sweetness at all. In rural Vietnamese and Chinese cultures, the fruit has been regarded as a traditional medicine. I have purchased Gac blended with lemon juice in Chiang Mai, and the lemon helps a little bit in making Gac juice easier to drink, but a better taste would come from blending it with a sweet juice, like a Passion fruit juice. A little Banana added to that blend would make it even better.
The Gac is loaded with beta-carotene, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. It is known for maintaining and even improving vision. I have read testimonials from steady users that say they don’t use their reading glasses as much as before taking Gac and their eyesight is improving.
These antioxidants improve the body’s immune system by boosting production of white blood cells (which is the part of the blood that fights disease). There are many benefits to heavy doses of beta-carotene, and it seems to have three actions, (1) it is an immune system booster, (2) it can act as antioxidant, and (3) it can convert in the body to vitamin A, a proven anti-cancer agent. Usually intake of beta-carotene is associated with eating carrots, but the Gac contains roughly ten times the beta-carotene of carrots. Heavy doses of beta-carotene are associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as fewer teeth cavities, and guards against several types of cancers. [Source: http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=535]
Gac also has 76 times the Lycopene as tomatoes. Lycopene has the health benefits of reducing cardiovascular disease, fights diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels, reduces the risk of cancer, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, reduces the risk of cataracts, and reduces the signs of aging. [Source: http://lycopenebenefits.org/]
Gac has 60 times the vitamin C as oranges. Vitamin C is essential for immunity. It is also essential for collagen which is the main structural protein that is found in connective tissue. The benefits of heavy doses of Vitamin C are enormous to our health, and new benefits of Vitamin C are being discovered continuously. [Source: http://www.benefitsofvitaminc.net/]
Gac is also a strong source of zeaxanthin, which is beneficial in preventing age related vision loss, including the reduction of risk of cataracts, glaucoma and other eye diseases [Source: http://www.visivite.com/zeaxanthin-information.html].
Gac is also useful in giving a healthy look to skin. It provides for rosier cheeks and a color lightening in the skin by protecting it from oxidative stress. Many regular Gac users are on various health forums saying the fruit improves their skin appearance. I have read some user reports of adding Gac powder or oil to shampoo and they have improvement in healthy hair growth.
Gac is also good for heart health, protecting against antherrsclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Gac helps with improvement of the blood circulation and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease..
For men concerned with prostate problems, the Gac fruit lowers the level of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) that is the main contributor to an enlarged prostate.
There is a lot of research going on about the properties of Gac, and some of the findings are a bit startling. The benefits of this Wunderkind fruit make it something that just about all of us can use, and it needs to be introduced to more people outside of Southeast Asia.
Locally, in Chiang Mai, I have found Gac blended drinks available in some of the local street markets and farmers markets from sellers offering a variety of health drinks. Most of these are made from a pure Gac powder that is gained from grinding the seeds of the fruit. The powder is then mixed with fruit juices and usually some water mainly for the taste and drink-ability (and by adding other fruit juices, additional health benefits are added to the drink as well). A little of this pure Gac powder from the Gac seeds goes a long way. The amount used for a full liter of Gac blended juice (giving maximum strength from the Gac) is 20ml of the pure powder, or the equivalent of about 4 teaspoons.
This concentrated Gac powder can also be used in soups and sauces, but only a tiny amount is ever needed. We found a good source for the pure Gac powder in Vietnam, and they ship product worldwide. You can go to their website and get product and ordering information: http://www.gacvietnam.com.vn/ This company is an excellent source of information about Gac, and I can personally recommend them and their product.
For anyone looking for info on Gac fruit, including the cultivation of the fruit, I can recommend a facebook page that seems to have it all: https://www.facebook.com/gacfakkgawkorat
“Network Marketing” of Gac juice
In the West, often “new” products are initially sold through network marketing schemes. Network marketing is also referred to as multi-level marketing (MLM), referral marketing, direct selling, pyramid selling, and other less flattering terms. I am not going to voice my opinion on these types of operations on this website, but potential sellers and customers should do diligent research about this style of marketing before making any kind of investment of time or money into it. I would be remiss in this report of Gac fruit if I did not mention anything about g3, which is dominating the marketing of anything Gac related in the West, and being widely sold through network marketing channels. If you buy the product, you will also be encouraged to become a “distributor” (their name for a peddler) of g3 Gac Juice.
Nu Skin, a network marketing company that has offered several skin products is getting a lot of attention marketing g3 Gac Juice. Their primary product is liter bottles of a blended Gac juice, that sells for over USD $42 per liter (Nu Skin g3 pricing). Using pure Gac powder from one of the Southeast Asian producers, which requires a maximum of 20 ml (about 4 teaspoons) for a liter of Gac juice for maximum strength, the cost of the raw Gac (the key ingredient) before blending other ingredients should not be more than about a dollar (USD) per liter.
In my opinion, potential g3 customers should look at the alternatives available in getting Gac juice before making the investment required by NuSkin for their juice. Looking at the ingredients of g3 (Ingredient list for g3), in my opinion there is nothing extraordinary in g3 (except perhaps the high amount of sodium and sugar) that could possibly warrant such a premium price. They mix the Gac with pineapple juice and some common Chinese herbs. Caveat emptor.
For the nutritional details of Gac, I can recommend this report from Dr. Thuy-Le Vuong of the University of California: “Gấc: A Fruit From Heaven”