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Natural and Exotic Sweetener Lucuma
Our culture has a large appetite for all things sweet. As more and more people are gaining a deeper understanding of the many consequences of a high carbohydrate diet on health and well-being, many are seeking out healthier choices. The Peruvian superfruit, lucuma is a healthy superfood that offers a low-glycemic alternative to conventional sweeteners. A member of the Sapotaceae family, lucuma is an evergreen tree native to the highlands of Peru, Ecuador and Chile. Prized for centuries, it was a part of the pre-hispanic indigenous diet. There is evidence from the ceramic art discovered from the Moche civilization of northern Peru, which flourished from approximately 100 AD to 800 AD that lucuma was a highly revered food.
Lucuma has recently gained attention as a new, emerging superfruit. Over 80 percent of the lucuma grown comes from Peru. Lucuma is extremely popular in Peru and is used to make drinks, ice cream, preserves, yogurt and numerous pastries and desserts. Lucuma resembles a greenish-yellow melon. The pulp has an orange-yellow colour and the taste is pleasantly sweet and instantly recognizable with notes of maple, citrus and custard.
In terms of nutrition, what makes this sweetener so beneficial is the combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. This unique fruit contains calcium, phosphorus, potassium iron, zinc, niacin, vitamin C, beta-carotene and fibre, mainly in the form of insoluble fibre. Antioxidants in lucuma contribute to its potential as a free radical scavenging superfruit. Vitamin C is beneficial on many fronts from enhancing immune function to maintaining bone, cartilage and connective tissue formation, enhancing wound healing and contributing to beautiful skin through the restoration of the collagen matrix. In one in vitro study, a water extract of lucuma was shown to have a high alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity, thereby showing its potential as a dietary adjunct in the management of hyperglycemia and hypertension related to type 2 diabetes.
The inside of the lucuma fruit is a sweet, starchy and fleshy pulp reminiscent of pumpkin, low in water content. While most lucuma is sold as a frozen puree, a whole-fruit lucuma powder is the most desirable form. It has the most versatility when it comes to the kitchen. The superfood company Organic Traditions offers a lucuma powder that can be added to drinks, nut and seed milks, smoothies, water bottles, yogurt, cereals and it can be mixed in with fresh berries with a drizzle of coconut cream or Organic Traditions yacon syrup. It works well in most baking applications, but is particularly suited to exotic raw desserts, ice creams, puddings and superfood truffles.
Beta-carotene is the pigment found in foods such as carrots and squash that gives them their orange colour. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, which is required for optimal immune function, healthy skin, mucous membranes and eyes. Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble phytonutrient. In order to fully absorb the beta-carotene in lucuma, be sure to add some beneficial fat to whatever recipe you are making in order to ensure optimal assimilation and absorption of this important compound.
While lucuma may not have as sweet a taste as honey or maple syrup, it is a wonderful novel food that imparts an incredibly exotic, sweet flavour to all recipes with the bonus of additional nutritional benefits. Next time you have the urge to reach for sugar, experiment with this exotic superfruit and discover the many benefits that lucuma has to offer.
Renita’s Decadent, Lucuma, Coconut Milk Recipe
This creamy, silky milk is a delicious variation on plain, homemade coconut milk. Lucuma adds a fresh element with notes of custard that makes for a delicious combination with coconut. Portion some off in order to top up your favorite hot beverage such as a cacao drink or coffee or simply enjoy as is hot or cold. Although the coconut meat is naturally fatty, one could add additional coconut oil. For more energy add red and black-purple maca.
16 oz. of water
1/2 cup of coconut meat (from a mature coconut)
2 tbsp. of Natural Traditions lucuma powder
1/2 tsp. of Organic Traditions vanilla powder
1-3 tsp. of Organic Traditions yacon syrup (depending on the sweetness desired)
1 tsp. of Organic Traditions maca X-6 powder
1 tsp. of Organic Traditions raw coconut oil
A pinch of Organic Traditions full spectrum cinnamon powder
Option One for a thicker, more fibrous drink:
Carefully remove the meat from one mature coconut. In a powerful, high-speed blender simply blend all ingredients with water to achieve the desired consistency.
Option Two for a silkier, smoother version:
Carefully remove the meat from one mature coconut. In a powerful, high-speed blender blend only the coconut meal with the water two times. Strain the liquid through a very fine sieve. Squeeze out the remaining coconut pulp for any remaining milk. Re-blend the strained milk with the other ingredients and enjoy!
Renita Rietz is a health and nutrition writer and speaker who educates on the phytotherapeutic potential of indigenous foods and plants for prevention and regeneration. [email protected]
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