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Nutrition

This Delicious Peruvian Superfood Tastes Like Maple-Caramel-Pumpkin and Sends Metabolism Soaring

Social media influencers are abuzz about the total-body health perks of a versatile South American fruit called lucuma. Usually sold as a powder in the U.S., this superfood promises to be the next big thing. Indeed, natural health foodies are busy whipping up lucuma lattes and adding it to smoothies and even baking with it. But what exactly is this superfood, and what can it do for you? We asked a nutritionist to weigh in — and it turns out lucuma could be the sweet add-in that diabetics have been waiting for as well as being a fantastic blood-sugar balancer for the rest of us. Read on to see what else it can do for you.

What is lucuma?

Lucuma (pronounced loo-koo-ma) is a Peruvian fruit that’s known for its creamy citrus flavor marked by hints of maple and a dash of pumpkin. But its unique taste isn’t the only thing of note: In ancient Peru, the fruit was referred to as the “Gold of the Incas” for its health-boosting abilities. Today, the fruit still captivates locals. It’s one of the most popular ice cream flavors in Peru, and can be found in everything from smoothies to puddings to cakes — even savory dishes like pasta and gnocchi. And the fruit’s popularity is spreading worldwide.

Lucuma
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Nutritionist Vanessa King, RDN, says lucuma is now grown throughout the Andes region of South America, and it’s widely consumed throughout Latin America. In recent years, farmers have started growing the fruit in southern Spain, too. However, King notes that the raw fruit is not typically imported into the United States. Instead, you can find this superfood in its powdered form at health food stores and online. One to try: Terrasoul Superfoods Lucuma Powder (Buy from Amazon.com, $14.99).

Lucuma powder
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How lucuma keeps your blood sugar in check

Nutrient-dense lucuma brims with antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and its rich in soluble and insoluble fiber as well as several key minerals. What’s more, it contains more complex carbohydrates like starch and fiber than it does simple carbohydrates like sugars. This makes it low-glycemic food. But what does that mean when it comes to keeping your blood sugar steady?

Baked goods and desserts are often laden with sugar, which can spike blood sugar (especially for diabetics) and cause energy dips and mood swings. However, lucuma-sweetened treats don’t have the same effect. “Being lower glycemic, lucuma can be a great sugar alternative,” King reveals. You can get the hint of sweetness you crave without sending your blood sugar soaring. (Click for more Low-Glycemic Fruits to Consider Adding to Your Diet — Even If You Suffer from Diabetes.)

And when your blood sugar is in balance, your risk of feeling fatigued drops by as much as 90%, according to research in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal. Plus, steady blood sugar optimizes your metabolism. That’s something a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals can speed weight loss by 42%. (Lucuma isn’t the only blood-sugar balancer to keep on your radar. Click through to see how a sweetener known as allulose can speed weight loss.)

More ways this superfood improves your health

Lucuma can do more ward off blood sugar spikes and dips. Because it’s packed with nutrients and fiber, it safeguards your heart, memory, sight and more.

Lucuma keeps your heart strong

When it comes to keeping your ticker healthy, lucuma is a heart-smart choice. “It has antioxidant properties that fight inflammation,” King notes. She explains that reducing inflammation in the body helps ward off chronic illnesses such as heart disease.

Credit goes in part to its concentration of beta-carotene, the antioxidant that gives the fruit’s flesh it’s bright orange hue. This key compound helps block heart-harming cellular damage. In fact, a Harvard University study suggests that increasing your intake of antioxidants such as beta-carotene reduces your risk of an ischemic stroke (the most common kind of stroke in which blood flow to the brain is blocked) by as much as 68%. (Click through to our sister publication to see the best stroke prevention strategies — and why aspirin may not be one of them.)

Lucuma improves gut health and eases constipation

Everything from using antibiotics to stress to aging can hamper gut function. The good news: King says lucuma is a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can nourish your gut’s microbiome. “Soluble fiber provides prebiotics,” explains King. “Prebiotics feed healthy bacteria in your gut, while insoluble fiber promotes bowel regularity.”

It’s so effective, researchers reporting in the journal Nutrients found that folks who upped in their intake of soluble fiber strengthened their intestinal lining by 90%. This can help ward off conditions such as leaky gut, which is when toxins leak from the intestines into the blood stream and cause body-wide inflammation. (Click through to learn simple swaps that help heal a leaky gut — and revitalize your energy and metabolism.)

And because insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, it can help stimulate bowel movements and speed digestion. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found it improved both stool frequency and consistency within four weeks without the bothersome symptoms of laxatives.

Lucuma safeguards your sight

The yellowish hue of lucuma powder comes from its rich stores of xanthophylls, a group of plant compounds 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 more ways to prevent age-related macular degeneration).

Lucuma keeps vision sharp
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Lucuma keeps your memory sharp

Lucuma powder is a good source of memory-enhancing beta-carotene and B vitamins. And keeping levels of these vitamins in a healthy range is key for maintaining a sharp memory for years to come. That’s the word from researchers reporting in Cochrane Reviews, who found that folks with higher levels of these key vitamins had a lower risk of memory loss.

The best ways to add lucuma to your daily diet

Ready to reap the rewards of this savoring this Peruvian fruit? Lucuma’s nuanced maple, pumpkin and caramel-like flavor notes can add a dimension to baked goods and desserts. King advises making note of the conversions for the sake of balance: lucuma powder is not as sweet as table sugar, honey, or stevia. “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,” King says. “Or you can use lucuma in combination with sugar to give more flavor to food with less sugar.”

Its versatility means it makes for a great addition to smoothies, ice cream, pancakes, and oatmeal. Plus, it’s delicious sprinkled on yogurt or blended into a pumpkin latte or homemade snack bars. Tip: King recommends thoroughly mixing the powder into drinks or fully combined it into baked goods to avoid a lumpy consistency. While smoothies are by far the most popular way to enjoy this superfood, it also works well in pancakes. Read on for some of our favorite recipes.

Banana-Spice Smoothie

The cinnamon in this smoothie adds extra warmth to the pumpkin-maple notes of lucuma.

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 Tbs. lucuma powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup almond milk

Add all ingredients to a blender; blitz until smooth. Serves 2.

Banana lucuma smoothie
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Berry-Beet Smoothie

Prefer something fruitier? The berries in this sipper bring out lucuma’s citrus flavor notes.

  • 4 cups frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cup cooked beets, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. lucuma powder
  • 1 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 cup almond milk

Add all ingredients to a blender; blitz until smooth. Serves 2.

Lucuma beet smoothie
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Mango-Carrot Smoothie

The mix of mango and coconut in this lucuma smoothie makes for a tropical escape.

  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 Tbs. lucuma powder
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 cup coconut water

Add all ingredients to a blender; blitz until smooth. Serves 2.

Carrot lucuma smoothie
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Pumpkin-Lucuma Pancakes

Supercharge your pumpkin pancakes with a scoop of lucuma powder. The maple flavor paired with creamy pumpkin will tickle your tastebuds.

  • Pumpkin Pancakes with Lucama Powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tbs. lucama powder

In bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spice, baking soda and salt. In separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin and lucuma powder. Stir in flour mixture and 1 Tbs. water. Coat griddle with cooking spray. Heat over medium-low heat. Drop batter by ¼ cupfuls on griddle. Cook until bubbles appear, about 2 minutes; flip. Cook 1-2 minutes.

Lucuma pancakes
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Read on for more ways nature’s top superfoods can boost your health:

Top Doc Calls It ‘One of The Worlds Most Powerful Superfoods’— Science Says It Can Help You Lose Weight Without Trying

What Is Acai? How It’s Pronounced and Superfood Benefits

What Is Maca Root? 9 Benefits of the Superfood for Women Over 50

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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