Have you tried Lucuma (Pouteria Lucuma)? It’s one of the many superfoods that initiated in Peru and has been cultivated since 200 AD. It grows at an altitude of between 4,500-10,000ft. This means that despite growing in a tropical area, the altitude in which it flourishes means it’s considered a sub-tropical fruit.
The Lucuma fruit was termed Egg fruit, by the Europeans who discovered it in the 1500’s. The reason for this is that the yellow-orange flesh has the texture of a hard-boiled egg yolk. It’s a sweet fruit that’s said to have a similar taste to that of maple and sweet potato, while its high carbohydrate content and firm texture differentiate it from other typical fruits. I personally think it tastes like a tropical mango crossed with apricot. It’s a really nice, subtle taste to add to smoothies, cereals and baking.
Lucuma Powder is generally the form available outside of Peru – as it’s considered too precious in South America to be exported whole. This drying process also increases the shelf life of Lucuma.
Lucuma is valued both nutritionally and as a symbol of fertility by the Peruvian people. It’s also used by the poor communities of the area as a significant component of their basic diet. Despite it taking 5 years for the first fruit, once this time has passed, one tree can bear up to 500 fruit per season! This has meant that at times, when other crops do not survive, Lucuma has been known to be the sole food for certain periods of time. These communities therefore refer to Lucuma as the ‘tree of life’, so precious that it has 26 villages named after it.
When first learning about Lucuma, I was slightly dubious of its superfood title and wanted to know why it is claimed to be the ‘Gold of the Incas’.
To me, it seemed as though this was a fruit that had been discovered in Peru, the home of many superfoods. It appeared as though marketing companies may have jumped on this fact to promote its health benefits. Initially, I could not find much research to prove any of the health claims I read about and this fruit. However, as I dug deeper, I realised that there may be little research conducted into the benefits of Lucuma because it is still fairly new and not yet well known.
After searching for the reason that this fruit has been termed a superfood, I think I may have found the answer.
Benefits of Lucuma
- High in carotene, which is an antioxidant that rejuvenates and reduces the effect of aging. It’s also great for eyesight.
- Sweet. It can provide a sweet, unique flavour to foods without causing the spike in blood sugar that most other sweet foods cause.
- High in iron, which increases energy levels through improving the transportation of oxygen to cells.
- High in Niacin (Vitamin B3) which is generally found in meat, making Lucuma a great source of Niacin for vegetarians and vegans.
- High in fibre, therefore assisting the digestive processes.
- Anti-inflammatory – The State University of New Jersey reported a study that evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of Lucuma extract on wound healing and skin aging. The study found that Lucuma significantly increased wound closure and promoted tissue regeneration. The report went on to conclude that Lucuma may have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and skin-repair effects on human skin. Using Lucuma in place of sugar means you reduce your chance of suffering from all the health problems that sugar contributes towards. See my post on sugar to learn more about this.
While Lucuma is not as spectacular as many of the other superfoods as it’s not overflowing with numerous nutrients, antioxidants and other health promoting agents, I can now see why it’s cherished so much.
Lucuma is a sweetener that comes with lots of nutrition – a rare quality for sweeteners. It’s much better than using pure sugar – which causes blood sugar spikes, contains no nutrients and robs the body of its existing nutrients in order to process it!
How To Use Lucuma
Use Lucuma to sweeten foods in place of sugar! Add it to:
- Smoothies – with banana, milk, Cacao and Maca
- Baby food
- Mix into yoghurt
- Sprinkle onto cereals
- Desserts – such as a raw Chia pudding
- Soups – such as coconut and kumara
- Raw chocolate – with Cacao and Goji Berries
- Flavour ice-cream or milk
I am very intrigued by this fruit and feel there’s still much more to be uncovered about it. I personally feel that when a single fruit is the only food source for a whole family for certain periods of the year, without leading to illness, then there must be a great deal of value to it.