The Benefits of Lucuma
If you have never heard of lucuma, you are unlikely to be alone. I will admit that until recently this fruit had passed me by completely but when I started to research alternative natural sweeteners, I found that the powder derived from lucuma was an excellent healthy choice and this prompted me to do a little more reading.
Admittedly, there has been very little in the way of scientific research into this fruit but it has been valued in its native Peru for thousands of years and its nutritional profile is outstanding. So let’s get down to it and take a closer look at this potential superfood.
What is Lucuma?
Lucuma is an extremely sweet fruit which grows high in the Andes regions of South America especially in Peru. The tree which bears the fruit is known as the lucuma tree or by its scientific name ‘Pouteria Lucuma’.
Europeans first came across this fruit way back in the 16th century and named it ‘egg fruit’ because its flesh closely resembles the color and texture of an egg yolk. I have never eaten the fruit and an accurate description of its taste is difficult to find.
Some people compare it to mango or apricot while others say it tastes like a cross between maple syrup and caramel. What is certain is that it is very sweet and often used as an ingredient in tasty deserts; in fact lucuma flavored ice cream is the most popular flavor in Peru.
The Peruvians have traditionally viewed lucuma as a symbol of fertility, which may be linked to its similarity to the female breast, and also as a symbol of longevity and health.
While eating the fruit may not improve your ability to reproduce, there may be some truth to its benefits on your health and longevity. Lucuma is dense in important nutrients, fibers and antioxidants all of which can have a very positive impact on your overall health and well-being.
Lucuma Nutritional Facts
Like many deep orange colored fruits and vegetables, lucuma is a rich source of beta-carotene. Beta –carotene is a great source of the vitamin A necessary to promote cellular growth and better eyesight. It can also help boost your immune system and keep illness at bay.
As a natural antioxidant, it can help protect your cells from oxidative stress which can lead to so many serious illnesses.
We all know the importance of fiber to ensure better digestion. A diet rich in fiber can help treat various common digestive conditions like constipation, gas and bloating. Lucuma is a very rich source of fiber.
Niacin (vitamin B3)
Vegetarians in particular will benefit from this natural source of niacin. Most meat eaters get adequate amounts from chicken and beef but if you are looking to cut back on your meat intake, lucuma is a great alternative. Niacin helps our bodies perform various roles including muscle development and as a digestive aid.
Lucuma also contains iron, calcium, zinc and protein.
Lucuma Powder Benefits
Known historically as the ‘Gold of the Incas’ lucuma fruit is widely eaten in Peru and is believed to have benefits for the skin, blood sugar levels and heart health.
However, because it grows at altitudes between 4,000 and 10,000 feet in height, the fruit itself is difficult to come by and it is more typical to find it sold outside of Peru in a powdered form which makes an excellent sugar substitute.
As we have already mentioned, lucuma powder is jam packed with beta-carotene which is an important and healthy natural antioxidant. By now most of us are aware of the importance of getting as many antioxidants into our system as possible to counteract the damage done by environmental free radicals.
Antioxidants like beta-carotene help stimulate the repair of damaged cells and growth of fresh cells including skin cells.
When we eat foods that contain beta-carotene, our bodies convert it into Vitamin A where it gets to work on our skin cells. Eating plenty of beta-carotene can noticeably improve the tone and appearance of your skin and reduce blemishes and wrinkles making you look younger and healthier.
The beta-carotene present in lucuma is also able to protect your skin from sun damage and sunburn.
A study published in 2010 demonstrated that lucuma powder had anti-inflammatory potential and helped promote tissue regeneration and also wound healing. The researchers concluded that it might have applications for skin care and medicine. (1)
Lucuma Glycemic Index and Blood Sugar
Lucuma has a very low glycemic index because it contains only 2 grams of fruit sugar to each 11 grams of carbs. Because of its low glycemic index, it is considered a safe alternative sweetener for diabetics and anybody else that is concerned with their blood-sugar level. If you use lucuma powder to sweeten your food and drinks, it can stabilize your blood sugar levels and also help provide energy without the worry of sugar spikes and subsequent crashes.
If you have a sweet tooth and let’s face it, few of us do not then there is a good chance that you have looked for an alternative to sugar. We all know that too much sugar is bad for you and it is certainly not conducive to a smaller waistline.
The good news is that there are some excellent natural alternative sweeteners to sugar and lucuma powder is one of them.
For one thing, lucuma powder has far fewer calories than sugar. It has a great taste resembling brown sugar and should easily satisfy your cravings.You can add it to your morning cup of coffee or your smoothies. You can also use it to sweeten your oatmeal or as a sugar replacement in any recipes that call for sugar.
Unlike some of the unhealthy sweeteners like saccharine and aspartame, lucuma is entirely natural and comes packed with useful nutrients.
Because lucuma powder contains so much fiber, it can help promote a healthy digestive system especially if it is used as a natural alternative sweetener to your regular unhealthy sugar.
Increasing your fiber intake is important in order to protect against constipation and bloating and despite the constant reminders, the majority of people still do not get sufficient amounts of fiber in their diets.
Heart Health and Diabetes
So it tastes great and is an excellent healthy alternative to regular sugar but lucuma may even help keep our hearts strong and healthy. One of the few studies conducted on the efficacy of lucuma found that it had ACE inhibitory properties which could potentially help reduce blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. (2)
The same study published in 2009 found that as well as its beneficial effects on blood pressure, lucuma could also help control diabetes.
How to use Lucuma powder
Being blessed with such a delicious and sweet flavor, lucuma powder allows you to indulge without guilt or concern that you are damaging your health. For those of us that enjoy a sweet treat, you can simply substitute your normal sugar for lucuma in any recipes that require you to use sugar.
Feel free to ad lucuma powder to your hot cup of coffee, your shakes or your smoothies or sprinkle a little onto your oatmeal or breakfast cereal. If you are a more adventurous cook, there are numerous lucuma powder recipes to be found online.
Do you use lucuma powder or have you ever eaten the fruit?
Let us know how you use it and if you feel there are any major benefits.