Lucuma is a nutritious South American superfruit that benefits the gut, skin and more.
Summer is on the horizon, time to start experimenting with some delicious smoothies! The star of which today, is the South American superfruit, lucuma.
🌳What is lucuma?
Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma) – pronounced ‘luke-mah’ – is a common, sub-tropical evergreen fruit tree from the Andean region.
The lucuma tree is a bit of a stunner, with hard fruits that look a little like golden-green persimmons. The pulp of the fruit is relatively dry like pumpkin, bright yellow-orange, typically blended into other foods – think smoothies, shakes, cakes and puddings.
And the taste? Maple syrup-esque. Creamy, and I’m going to say, with even a slight citrusy note. Divine.
Despite its South American origins, it can actually be grown here in New Zealand! Particularly so in the upper parts of the northern island.
Lucuma fruit are unusual in that they’re fairly solid – and rich in complex carbohydrates. The ripe pulp can be dried and milled into a flour. Nutritious, rich, satisfying and versatile.
Lucuma has been enjoyed for millennia, regarded as one of the ‘lost crops of the Incas’, alongside roots and tubers such as maca and yacon, grains such as quinoa and kaniwa, and fruits such as cherimoya and goldenberry.
While most of these crops pre-date the beginning of the Inca Empire, 1400 AD, the Incas were responsible for cultivating and spreading these plants throughout the Andean region (National Research Council, 1989).
There is very little research on this beautiful fruit, but we do know a little about its nutritional content, and potential use as a functional food.
1. Nutritious – rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Lucuma is considered a good source of complex carbs, dietary fibre, alkalizing minerals, niacin (vitamin B3), carotendoids and phenolic compounds (both containing antioxidants) [1, 2, 3].
2. Supports gut health. Lucuma contains both soluble and (mostly) insoluble fibres , helping to add bulk to the stool, attract water and soften for easy bowel motions, relieving constipation.
3. May help lower blood glucose. A water-based extract of lucuma fruit pulp was found to have a high alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity .
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors are drugs used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, they delay the absorption of carbohydrates in the gut, therefore lowering the blood glucose and insulin spikes that would occur after a meal .
Lucuma then, as a natural alpha-glucosidase inhibitor, without the side effects, is an attractive dietary approach to diabetic care worthy of further research. Watch this space!
4. May help lower blood pressure. Polyphenols, of which lucuma is rich in, are preventative of hypertension and help normalise blood pressure.
An in vitro (test-tube) study found the fruit had ACE inhibitory activity , another exciting area of research to explore.
5. Wound-healing and skin regeneration effects. Though the seed of the lucuma fruit is inedible, its oil is sought after in the beauty industry for its regenerative effects.
Lucuma nut oil has been found it to exert anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects .
Its fatty acid profile includes linoleic acid, oleic acid, and gamma-linoleic acid, the latter of which has shown to support skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis – this star fatty acid is also found evening primrose and borage.
6. Natural, low GI sweetener. Lucuma powder tastes creamy and sweet, like maple syrup. It’s a much healthier substitute to sugar, depending on the recipe.
I don’t think the glycemic index (GI) of lucuma has actually been measured anywhere, but we can make an educated guess it’s sitting on the lower side given its rich in complex carbohydrates and natural alpha-glucosidase inhibitors .
7. A great addition to desserts. Traditionally, lucuma is mainly consumed in desserts, smoothies, shakes and baked goods. Lucuma ice cream is a South American favourite.
I adore it by the heaping tablespoon, added to my smoothies, have a play with this recipe – it’s delicious:
Blue Lucuma Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tablespoon lucuma powder
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 1 tablespoon almond or cashew butter
- pinch of cinnamon powder
- pinch of fine pink Himalayan rock salt
- water from one whole young coconut about 1 cup’s worth
- Blend everything well, enjoy.
- If using fresh blueberries, add ice
- Recipe yields one smoothie
- Nutrition panel is based on one serve - one smoothie
🍦A few more ways to enjoy it
- Add it to bliss balls
- Blend into nut milks
- Sweeten your smoothies, shakes and hot drinks
- Use to sweeten raw cakes
- Stir into yoghurt
- Stir into overnight oats
That’s all today, something new for you to try? Let me know what you think,