What exactly are superfoods?
These are nutritionally rich foods that have a positive outcome on our health.
With its centuries-old agricultural and culinary heritage, Peru is home to quite a few superfoods. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of them.
Cacao is the dried seeds obtained from the fruits of an Amazonian tree. The same cacao beans are used to manufacture cocoa, but the method of processing is different. It’s the raw cacao powder or cacao nibs that are considered a superfood.
The first use of the plant goes back to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations, thousands of years back. Later, the significance of the plant was discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors.
This tree is also the source of all chocolate products. The cacao nibs are added with sugar and blended to form chocolate.
Let’s look at some of the most important benefits of cacao
- As a food item, Cacao is one of the largest suppliers of antioxidants. Generally, the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) unit is used to measure the capacity of antioxidants. Cacao has a super high ORAC score of 98,000 per 100g. So it can prevent cell and tissue damage to a large extent.
- It’s one of the best plant-based sources of iron. The iron content in cacao is 7.3mg per 100g. Iron is essential for overall health and blood production.
- Cacao is also rich in magnesium and calcium which are extremely important for various bodily functions including preserving heart health.
- With various neurotransmitters present in it, cacao is a proven mood booster. Consuming it’s one of the best natural ways to overcome depression and feel happy.
Without a doubt, maca is one of the most popular Peruvian superfoods you will come across.
The maca plant belongs to the mustard family and is grown in extremely high altitudes in the Peruvian Andes. The ancient American Civilizations discovered the significance of maca roots in terms of supplying energy and boosting fertility.
The beneficial effects of the maca root were also recorded by the Spanish explorers who began to realize the positive effects of maca. But it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that maca gained large-scale popularity.
Here are some of the proven benefits of maca.
- Studies have proven that maca contains some compounds that boost energy levels and stamina.
- Maca contains multiple vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, and potassium that have an immensely positive impact on the body.
If you want a taste of this superfood for energy, try our delicious Andean Roasted Potato bowl. It comes with a Double Avocado Maca dressing.
Looking for a healthier food grain that has high protein content? Then Quinoa should be your go-to.
It’s often called the supergrain of Peru and its edible seeds are considered a substitute for rice. Records show that Quinoa cultivation was prevalent in Peru even 5000 years ago.
Quinoa cultivation went into decline after the 16th century, but it has bounced back again. Presently, its popularity is on the rise in North America and Europe.
Quinoa has numerous health benefits that make it a great dietary choice.
- Quinoa is gluten-free and contains a whole range of minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, iron, and others.
- It contains two important antioxidants, quercetin, and kaempferol. These have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-viral properties.
- Quinoa is completely gluten-free and is a great option for individuals with gluten intolerance.
- It contains all 9 essential amino acids and is considered one of the best sources of plant protein.
- A bowl of quinoa salad can help in reducing blood sugar and triglyceride levels. It can also help in raising metabolism levels and reducing weight.
You'll be able to find quinoa in our Spicy Shroomama bowl.
Lucuma is a superfood from the Andes that has a mythological origin story. The delicious lucuma fruit is native to Peru and Ecuador, and was nicknamed the gold of the Incas.
It’s mostly consumed fresh but you’ll also find lucuma juice in almost every corner of Peru. Other than that it’s also used in the form of a powder.
Considering the various health benefits of lucuma, we have already decided to make it a part of the dressing in one of our upcoming dishes.
Here are some of the health benefits of lucuma.
- Lucuma contains 75% less sugar than normal table sugar and comes with a rich fiber content. In addition, it contains multiple short-chain fatty acids that promote gut health.
- It’s rich in antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids, which help in preventing heart diseases and cancer.
- Lucuma contains high amounts of calcium and beta-carotene. It also contains all 14 essential trace minerals.
- Some evidence shows that lucuma can provide protection against type 2 diabetes. Its action can be similar to the mechanism of antidiabetic drugs.
Camu camu is a berry that’s native to the Amazon rainforest and is found abundantly in Peru. The dark purple and reddish fruit has been a staple food for Native American tribes for thousands of years due to its various health benefits.
Today, camu camu is a popular fruit in the USA and Europe and is grown in many tropical countries. Due to its sour taste, the fruit is often used in the form of a powder and combined with other dishes and salads.
There are multiple health benefits of the fruit that make it easy to classify it as a superfruit.
- Camu camu has one of the highest Vitamin C content among fruits. These levels can be incredibly high and rise up to 3 grams of Vitamin C in 100 grams of the fruit.
- Camu camu is rich in flavonoids which act as powerful antioxidants. As a result, it can reduce the damage done by free radicals on the cells.
- Some research suggests that fruit can also help in reducing inflammation in the body. However further research is required to confirm the results.
- It has antimicrobial properties and can reduce the growth rates of some harmful bacteria in the body.
- Research has also indicated the camu camu can be effective in decreasing blood pressure levels. More research is required to determine the exact effects of the fruit.
Peru has an abundance of superfoods because of its diverse microclimates and agricultural practices. Most of these ingredients are readily available at your local health food store or, you can try some of these superfoods in our everyday salads and warm bowls.