Superfood Superstar Focus: Lucuma

Renée Naturally Qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist & Western Medical Herbalist

Ok, so first things first, I want to clear a little something up before I dive into the “superfood” Lucuma. The health world has been abuzz with the term “superfoods” for some time now. We’ve all been exposed to new hero-worshiped foods many of us in the Western world likely had never heard of twenty years ago; Maca, acai, goji berries, moringa, cacao…the list goes on. While yes, these do all provide some super wonderful health benefits, they can be too much on the pricier side to add regularly to most of our food budgets. So before we get started, I just want to let you know of some foods this nutritionist deems to be “super” that are more price accessible for most… spinach, garlic, eggs, oats, sardines, berries, dark chocolate and more! Now we’ve got that super clear, let’s take a look at a lesser-known superfood that is rising in status, Lucuma. More importantly, let’s discuss why its status has recently been elevated to superstar status!

Lucuma (also spelled “lúcuma” and pronounced loo-koo-ma) ) is a fruit native to South America – particularly Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. It is sometimes referred to as the “Gold of the Incas” due to its historical importance in Incan culture. While a relative newcomer to many nations, it has been cherished for centuries in South America, both as a staple healthy food source and also as a religious offering associated with fertility. The whole fruit is round, with green or yellow-brown skin and sweet yellow-orange flesh. It is known for its unique flavor, which is often described as a mix between caramel, sweet potato, and maple.

You would be very hard-pressed to find a lucuma in your local fruit store or supermarket, so how is one to access this fruit in New Zealand? Local lucuma lovers buy it in a fine powder form after it has been carefully dehydrated at low temperatures to retain its nutritional qualities. Wondering if you should give this wonder fruit a whirl? Below are 5 reasons you may want to…

  1. The lucuma is rich in antioxidants, so including the fruit or powder in your diet can help your body to fight damaging free-radicals.
  2. Lucuma is a good alternative to refined sugar. Lucuma powder can be used as a natural, low-GI sweetener. As a general guide, it can be substituted for regular sugar at a 2:1 ratio (ie. 2 teaspoons of Lucuma for every 1 teaspoon of sugar).  
  3. The fruit (or powdered fruit) can help to support healthy digestion: Lucuma is a good source of dietary fiber, which can help promote regular bowel movements and support a healthy digestive system.
  4. Rich in Vitamin C: Lucuma is rich in Vitamin C, meaning that it can help to boost the immune system to help protect against viruses and infections.
  1. Lucuma is a good source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin, as well as promoting healthy vision and a strong immune system.

With fresh accessibility to this revered fruit an issue for us Kiwis, we aren’t going to be dicing fresh lucuma into our fruit salads anytime soon! So it’s good to know that the powdered form is available at health food stores, online, and in some supermarkets is the way to go! Here are 5 ideas for how you could include Lacuma into your diet in a healthy way…

  1. It is delicious when used as a sweetener in your chai, cuppa or morning coffee. Some describe it as having a maple-like, caramel taste, so it works well in place of brown sugar or coconut sugar.
  2. Adding it to smoothies is a simple and tasty way to enjoy lucuma. It works particularly well in chocolate smoothies (think sweet childhood chocolate milkshake vibes!), and is also a great addition to super green smoothies (the ones that can otherwise be a bit bitter thanks to all the green goodness)….the fruity, maple-like sweetness helps cut through the bitterness to give them a tasty and nutritious boost!
  3. Lucuma can be used in baking, and you’ll also find a tonne of healthy recipes on Pinterest. Some of my favourites include lucuma raw fudge and raw Lacuma citrus cheesecake. Keeping the powder raw is the best way to ensure the nutrient value stays as high as possible!
  4. Given that lucuma-flavoured ice cream is the most popular flavor of ice cream in Peru, naturally, you can make ice cream from it! There are some great dairy-free recipes out there too!
  5. Lucuma powder is my go-to sweetener when I’m making chia puddings (which in our family, we often eat for breakfast as they are so nutrient-dense!)

If you’re considering adding the lucuma superfood powder to your diet, remember, everything good in moderation…as while super, it is sweet! A little can go a long way (which also helps keep a check on blowing out the budget in fancy superfoods!) Enjoy your good ol’ superfoods and maybe mix things up now and then with a little lucuma gold in your morning beverage alongside your trusty porridge. 

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