There’s no doubt that fruit and vegetables are powerhouses of the health food industry, but the produce you’re used to seeing on your local supermarket shelves can vary a lot from what you’d find in other countries.
Globalisation has meant that increasingly, we’re able to access brilliant ingredients from all around the world and adopt them into our diets.
One such ingredient is lucuma, a fruit native to the valleys of Peru and Ecuador.
Lucuma, and the powdered form of it, is increasingly available through health food retailers.
So what is it, what is it used for and just how healthy is it?
Let’s take a look.
What is Lucuma Powder?
The lucuma is the fruit of the Pouteria Lucuma tree, found only in a few remote valleys in South America.
It’s outer shell is hard and green, and the inside is orange.
The texture is dry and the flavour is sweet – not dissimilar to a sweet potato and butterscotch mix.
It can be eaten raw but it’s not easy to find in the UK, as it has to travel so far and spoils quickly so is found more commonly in powdered form.
The powder is made by drying out the fruit and milling it.
Lucuma powder is used as a sweetener primarily, but also as a healthy supplement to add to other food and drink.
Sometimes nicknamed ‘The Gold of the Incas’, it’s been touted as a superfood and consumed for its health benefits for thousands of years in South America.
What Are The Benefits of Lucuma Powder?
1. It’s Super Nutritious!
Lucuma powder is a particularly nutritious sweetener.
One tablespoon measure (just under 8g) of lucuma powder contains 30 calories, 6g of carbohydrates, 1.5g of sugar and 2g of fibre.
That’s about half the carbohydrate content and less than 25% of the sugar content of normal table sugar.
There’s also Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Niacin in lucuma powder, but only in small amounts.
These are all beneficial though and can help ‘top up’ the amount of these you consume everyday anyway.
2. Lucuma is High in Fibre
The high fibre content of lucuma powder is particularly beneficial, as it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre – which are rarely found in other sweeteners.
Insoluble fibre helps food move through your gut smoothly, avoiding constipation.
Soluble fibre feeds your beneficial gut bacteria, encouraging it to produce SCFAs (Short Chain Fatty Acids).
SCFAs are anti-inflammatories and have been clinically proven to help reduce the symptoms of several gut issues, including Crohn’s Disease, IBS and Ulcerative Colitis.
3. Lucuma is Loaded with Antioxidants
Lucuma powder also contains lots of antioxidants, which provide protection for the cells in your body from antioxidants.
A diet rich in antioxidants is considered extremely healthy.
Lucuma powder contains a range of antioxidants, but most prominently polyphenols and carotenoids.
What’s more, polyphenols are considered to be extremely beneficial to those at risk of or already living with diabetes and heart disease.
The type of carotenoids in lucuma powder are known as xanthophylls (pronounced ‘zan-th-oh-fills’).
These give the fruit its bright colour and when consumed have been proven to help improve eye health and even vision!
4. Lucuma May Have a Positive Effect on Blood Sugar Levels
Test tube trials of lucuma powder’s effect on blood sugar have delivered particularly interesting results.
Lucuma powder blocks the alpha-glucosidase enzyme from working; and this enzyme in particular is responsible for spikes in blood sugar.
In vitro testing using lucuma powder to lower blood sugar levels pitted it against antidiabetic drugs – and found it just as powerful in doing so!
5. Lucuma Is Good for Heart Health
There’s also reason to believe that lucuma powder can help promote good heart health because of another enzyme it blocks.
The ACE (Angiotension l-Converting Enzyme) regulates blood pressure and preliminary research indicates that lucuma powder blocks it and may therefore lower blood pressure to a healthy level.
More research needs to be carried out on this, but the initial results look positive.
It’s likely that as lucuma powder grows more popular, further studies will take place into the fruit and we’ll begin to understand more about the power within that thick green skin!
Does Lucuma Powder Have Any Side Effects?
There are no known common side effects of lucuma powder, but the health benefits it promotes may not be suitable for everyone.
If you already have a health issue that you’re on medication for, it’s important to stay on that medication and not substitute it for the powder – and seek advice if you have reason to believe it may interfere with your prescription.
If you have diabetes, blood sugar problems, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, it’s advisable for you to speak to your GP before you start taking lucuma powder.
It can make a great substitute for sugar in your diet but you may find your healthcare professional doesn’t want you to cut out the white stuff entirely, so have a discussion and work out what’s right best for you.
As a sweetener, lucuma powder is often used in baking as a substitute for sugar.
However, the ratio of it to sugar isn’t always easily calculated and so it won’t work well for some recipes.
You may need to play around with amounts and re-work your usual recipes to suit. It’s often easier, therefore, to simply use it as a sweetener to recipes that don’t need baking: such as oats, yoghurts and smoothies.
There’s no doubt about it: lucuma powder is powerful stuff!
Its exotic and remote home means that it’s not the easiest sweetener to get hold of, but if you can, you should.
A natural powerhouse of antioxidants and assorted vitamins and minerals, it tastes as good as it does, and we look forward to future studies revealing even more of its brilliant benefits.
Lucuma powder can be found in Nutribuddy’s nutritious health drink, HotSlim along with several other awesome superfoods.