Imagine a fruit that looks eerily similar to a ripe avocado and has similar health benefits — but it leaves your mouth tasting of maple syrup. That fruit does exist, and it may be the most powerful superfood you’ve never heard of. Lucuma is a delicious fruit native to South America that’s been gaining attention stateside for years — and it’s only becoming more popular. While it may be difficult to find the fresh fruit in US supermarkets, lucuma powder boasts similar benefits. But what is lucuma powder and how can it enhance your health? Read on to learn what nutrition experts say about lucuma powder benefits.
What is lucuma?
Lucuma (pronounced loo-koo-ma) is a fleshy fruit from the Pouteria lucuma tree, which is native to the Andes Mountain regions of South America. It has a unique, sweet flavor that is often compared to maple, caramel, sweet potato and butterscotch. The powerful health benefits gained it the nickname “Gold of the Incas” in ancient Peru. (Click through to learn about another South American superfood, acai.) And it’s still an important flavor in Peru, notes Manuel Villacorta MS, RD, founder and owner of MV Nutrition and author of Peruvian Power Foods. “We usually use lucuma for desserts because of its maple flavor,” he says, noting that lucuma-flavored ice cream is often considered the national dessert of Peru.
But the delicate fruit ripens quickly, making it difficult to import to the United States, explains Villacorta. That’s why you’ll seldom find the bright yellow fruit in your average supermarket. The next best option? Lucuma powder, which is often frozen at the peak of freshness to preserve nutrients and then made into a powder. Plus, it can be used as a replacement for sugar with about half the carbs and 75% less sugar. One to try: Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Lucuma Powder (Buy from Amazon, $14.99).
Why lucuma powder benefits diabetics
“Lucuma powder is a good alternative to using natural sugar,” says Villacorta. Why? Lucuma powder has a far lower glycemic impact than sugar. That means the sweetener is far less likely to spike blood sugar, thanks to more complex carbohydrates like fiber and fewer simple carbohydrates like sugar in the powder. What’s more, research in the Journal of Food Medicine revealed the fruit can lower levels of carbohydrate-digesting enzymes to further ward off sugar swings. (Click through for a list of more low-glycemic fruits.)
But that’s not just a benefit for diabetics. Better blood sugar control can help any woman feel more energized and reduce appetite, regardless of if you have the condition or not. Indeed, studies show fatigue can drop as much as 90% and weight loss can speed up by 42% when blood sugar is balanced.
Related: ‘Glucose Goddess’: 4 Brilliant Hacks That Dramatically Improve Blood Sugar
Lucuma powder is also rich in gut-healthy fiber that help the body better process carbohydrates. “Fiber is very beneficial for glucose metabolism,” confirms Villacorta. Indeed, studies show that increasing fiber intake can notably lower your risk of developing diabetes. A tablespoon of lucuma has about 2 grams of fiber. While that may not sound like much, that’s significantly more of the nutrient than you’ll find in sugar and other alternative sweeteners. Plus, Villacorta adds that you may need more than just a tablespoon. “I’ve used about half a cup to get the right taste of sweetness,” he says. Not only will you get more delicious flavor, but you’ll also get an extra punch of lucuma powder’s healthful nutrients!
Related: Top Doctor: *This* Sweetener Dials Down Blood Sugar to Make Weight Loss Effortless
Other lucuma powder benefits
Lucuma brims with health nutrients, antioxidants and minerals that can be a major boon for your overall health. Keep reading to discover what else this superfood can do for your health.
1. Lucuma powder prevents menopausal weight gain
When estrogen drops during menopause, we tend to accumulate more belly fat. The hormone helps to regulate metabolism and reduce inflammation. So when our levels of estrogen dip, we’re more likely to accumulate fat, especially in the midsection. “The microbiome is also affected when women go through menopause,” adds Villacorta. Research in the International Journal of Women’s Health confirms that when we reach menopause, we have less diversity of healthy bugs in our guts. But Villacorta says the prebiotic fiber in lucuma can mitigate that, helping to increase microbiome diversity and ease fat-packing inflammation. (Click through to learn how green smoothies can help melt menopausal belly fat.)
2. Lucuma powder protects heart health
Inflammation-taming antioxidants in lucuma are key for preventing chronic illnesses like heart disease, notes Villacorta. One of those key antioxidants: beta-carotene, the pigment that gives the fruit’s flesh its bright orange color and is also found in carrots and sweet potatoes. Harvard University research suggests that increasing levels of beta carotene can slash stroke risk, while a study in the American Journal of Public Health asserts the nutrient can protect against heart disease. (Click through for more on the health benefits of sweet potatoes.)
The heart-healthy benefits don’t end there. Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found the fruit works similar to anti-hypertensive drugs like ACE inhibitors. They found that lucuma can lead to notable reductions in blood pressure by reducing the activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase (ACE). In high concentrations, this enzyme narrows blood vessels to drive up blood pressure.
3. Lucuma powder safeguards vision
Your eyes can benefit from lucuma powder, since it contains anthophylls, a group of plant nutrients that includes the vision-protecting nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. According to scientists from the University of Wisconsin, getting a daily dose of these vitamins can lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 46%. (Click through for other nutrients that may prevent macular degeneration.)
4. Lucuma powder promotes younger skin
When it comes making your skin look younger and healthier, lucuma powder is a good choice. Credit goes to antioxidants like vitamin C, calcium, potassium and other phytonutrients found in the fruit, which are essential for skin health. Indeed, research from Rutgers University revealed that lucuma boosted skin regeneration and boasts anti-aging properties.
What’s more, the beta-carotene in lucuma helps with skin health, says Villacorta. Boosting your levels of this healthful nutrients can protect your skin against UV damage, according to researchers from the University of Arizona. Beta-carotene also has antioxidant properties that reduce free radicals — damaging compounds that can speed up skin aging.
5. Lucuma powder supports the immune system
Our immune systems rely on a variety of nutrients to power virus-fighting white blood cells and keep us cold- and flu-free. Thankfully, “the high content of phytonutrients and bioactive compounds in lucuma support the immune system,” says Villacorta. For instance, its immune-boosting vitamin C may reduce the severity and duration of colds, and its calcium and potassium act as electrolytes that reduce inflammation that can make illness worse and encourage virus-fighting T-cell activity. (Click though to learn about another immunity-booster, star anise.)
6. Lucuma powder keeps memory sharp
Nutrients like beta-carotene and B vitamins are key for warding off memory blips. Thankfully, you can get a dose from lucuma to help nourish the brain. In fact, researchers in Cochrane Reviews say keeping levels of these vitamins in a healthy range may stave off memory loss for years to come.
Related: The 7 Best Ways To Reverse Brain Aging & Strengthen Memory, According to Scientists
The best ways to get lucuma powder benefits
Lucuma is a versatile sweetener that can replace sugar in any recipe and add a touchy of maple flavor, though it is less sweet than sugar. Villacorta likes using it to make ice cream, smoothies and even in cheesecake! “While It can be used to sweeten foods, lucuma powder is not as sweet as sugar and should be doubled in recipes if replacing sugar,” explains nutritionist Vanessa King, RDN. “Or you can use lucuma in combination with sugar to give more flavor to food with less sugar.” (Click through for 3 delicious smoothie recipes using lucuma.) Sprinkling the powder over yogurt or oatmeal or blending it into coffee drinks are other popular uses. But regardless of how you enjoy the superfood, don’t skip out on the powerful benefits of lucuma powder!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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