From maca to chia to quinoa to acaí, you may think you've seen it all when it comes to South American superfoods. But think again, because you're about to get schooled on lucuma, the latest and greatest addition to your diet. If you're thinking "what the heck is lucuma?" right now, then listen up!
What Is It?
It's a fruit! In the somewhat unlikely but extremely interesting event that a sweet potato and an avocado had a baby, they would name it lucuma, and it would live in South America. The Peruvian Andes, specifically. This mild, subtropical fruit has been called "Incan Gold," and is used in ice creams, milkshakes, juices, and dulce de leche desserts in Peru and Chile. The Incans cherished lucuma and referred to the lucuma tree as the "tree of life" – and rightfully so. You'll see why in a moment.
What Does It Taste Like?
Lucuma fruit has a unique flavor that has been likened to a mix of either maple or caramel with a sweet potato (think: candied yams, yum).
What Makes It Healthy?
Lucuma, in fruit or powdered form, can be used as a sweetener – and it's got a low glycemic index (2 grams of natural sugar for every 11g of carbohydrates), which is great news if you're trying to lose weight or are specifically on a low-GI diet. Additionally, lucuma is called a superfood for a reason: it is absolutely packed with antioxidants (which have a bevy of benefits on their own), zinc, iron, beta carotene, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and niacin (B3). As you may know, B3 (which can help with depression and anxiety) is a tough vitamin to find outside of meats, which makes lucuma especially great for vegetarians and vegans.
Since it's pretty new to the superfood scene, not too much research has been done (i.e., no FDA confirmation yet), but Incans and Peruvians have been using lucuma for its medicinal properties for centuries. A 2010 study mentioned that it's an anti-inflammatory and can help with skin regeneration, and thus may eventually have a greater use within medicine and skin care.
Oh, and if you're wondering, yes: it's gluten free!
How Do You Eat It?
It's tough to find fresh lucuma outside of South America, since its delicate nature makes it difficult to export. Hence, in the US, you can find it in powder form. It's supereasy to incorporate this into your diet as a hypernutritious additive. You can use lucuma powder as a natural sugar substitute and sweetener for traditional or raw desserts (anything from custard to ice cream to cake), in your favorite smoothies or protein shake, or even in homemade juices.