What Is Lucuma Fruit? Benefits and More
You’ve probably never heard of lucuma, but people throughout Latin America know this delicious and nutritious fruit extremely well.
Lucuma is packed with important vitamins and nutrients like potassium, vitamin B3, vitamin B1, and many more that your body needs on a daily basis.
Although it has a super sweet flavor, lucuma has a low glycemic index and low sugar content.
Read on to learn more about the amazing lucuma benefits and how to add it to your diet.
What is Lucuma?
Lucuma fruit grows locally throughout South America – particularly in Ecuador and Peru in the Andean valleys. Lucuma fruit grows on a tree that can reach over 65-feet tall.
Lucuma is far from new: indigenous people of Peru, the Moshe, carved images of lucuma into burial vases dating back to as early as 100 AD.
Peruvians call lucuma fruit “gold of the Incas” thanks to its brilliant yellow-orange hue and ancient history.
Locally, Andean populations use lucuma today for its sweet flavor. It’s either consumed in milkshakes, ice cream, juice, or eaten as-is. Some cultures whip lucuma into a meringue to eat as a beautiful and tasty dessert.
Most people describe the flavor of lucuma as a combination of maple syrup, sweet potato, mango, and butterscotch – so you can see why it makes such a popular dessert.
Despite its sweet flavor, lucuma has a naturally low glycemic index which makes it a perfect addition to almost any diet. In fact, lucuma only has 1.5g of sugar per serving so it’s an excellent replacement for table sugar or syrup in your favorite recipes.
The Nutrient Profile of Lucuma Fruit
Lucuma fruit or powder doesn’t have a robust nutrient profile but it does pack a powerful punch.
You may be surprised to find out that lucuma has a fairly high protein content as far as fruits go. One 100g serving will provide you with 7g of muscle-building protein. It’s also surprising that one serving of this modest fruit contains 14% of your recommended daily amount (RDA) of iron: 2.5mg.
Lucuma fruit also contains solid levels of potassium: 470mg, or 10% of your RDA.
With each serving of lucuma fruit or powder, you also get a nice dose of B vitamins – particularly vitamin B3 aka. niacin (13% of your RDA) and B1 aka. thiamine (12% of your RDA).
Lucuma provides a nice serving of soluble and insoluble fiber as well to help avoid constipation and assist digestion.
With every serving of lucuma, you get a wide variety of powerful antioxidants, too, including polyphenols and carotenoids such as xanthophylls – all of which help defend your body against oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Finally, lucuma fruit provides a modest amount of vitamin C and a hefty water content along with several other trace minerals like calcium to keep you hydrated and healthy.
Keep in mind that the nutrition content of lucuma varies depending on the soil and location it’s grown.
Lucuma Powder Health Benefits
It’s no surprise that lucuma benefits are far-reaching and affect the body on several levels. From balancing blood sugar levels and assisting muscle recovery to reduce inflammation and defending against aging, lucuma is a safe addition to almost any diet.
1. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Nearly 200 million Americans live with their prediabetes or full-blown diabetes – that’s almost two-thirds of the entire population. (1)
While this number is sobering, many foods – like lucuma – can help manage blood sugar levels. Studies show that lucuma is on-par with many diabetes drugs in terms of its ability to lower blood sugar. (2)
Studies suggest that this is because lucuma prevents the body from converting carbohydrates into sugar. (3)
2. It’s a Good Source of Vitamin B3 for Energy and Cognitive Function
Literally every cell in the body needs niacin – also known as vitamin B3 – to function properly.
Low levels of niacin will leave you feeling depressed, tired, and unable to focus. Poor levels of vitamin B3 can also lead to headaches, diarrhea, and even skin problems.
Adding lucuma to your diet is a tasty way to keep your energy, focus, and mental health on-track.
3. Helps Support the Immune System
Lucuma powder provides a decent source of vitamin C – especially when added to smoothies mixed with citrus fruits and leafy greens.
To top it off, lucuma powder contains important antioxidants to protect the immune system and ward away free radical damage.
4. Lucuma Has Potential Wound Healing Properties
If you can find lucuma nut oil, keep a bottle handy in your medicine cabinet as a natural first aid remedy to speed up healing from minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. (4)
Studies show that oil made from lucuma nut (the pit found inside lucuma fruit) has powerful fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and accelerate healing wounds when applied topically.
5. May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. (5)
The antioxidants inside lucuma powder make it an excellent way to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular wellness as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The heart-healthy lucuma benefits come from its high concentration of polyphenols and carotenoids. (6)
6. Improves Skin and Ward Away Signs of Aging
Unfortunately, our environments are filled with toxins and pollutants that accelerate the aging process by subjecting our skin to oxidative stress and free radical damage.
The wide variety of antioxidants – including vitamin C – found inside lucuma make it an excellent solution for defending the body against free radicals and oxidative stress.
7. Assists Muscle Recovery
When you think of foods to improve muscle mass and assist workout recovery, fruits typically don’t come to mind (except for bananas perhaps due to its potassium contents).
Lucuma, however, is an incredible fruit for fitness enthusiasts. Lucuma benefits muscle growth and function thanks to its high potassium levels and protein content. Remember that each serving of lucuma provides anywhere from 2.5 to 7 grams of protein depending on the product.
8. Lucuma May Reduce Inflammation
Lucuma reduces inflammation in a unique way. Yes, it contains potent antioxidants which fight inflammation.
However, the fiber in lucuma also plays an important role in reducing inflammation.
The soluble fiber in lucuma benefits your important gut bacteria. When your gut bacteria feeds on fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids which not only defend against inflammation but also keep your digestive system healthy.
Using Lucuma as a Natural Sweetener
Lucuma makes an excellent natural sweetener for a variety of recipes. You may want to avoid using lucuma powder as a sweetener for your coffee since it has a fruity flavor.
To enjoy lucuma benefits, mix the powder into your baked goods, juices, smoothies, yogurts, and milk for a low-glycemic alternative to table sugar with a syrupy-mango taste.
Lucuma Fruit vs. Lucuma Powder
Unless you live in Latin America, you probably won’t be able to find fresh lucuma fruit in your local grocery store or even your specialized health food store.
Lucuma fruit ripens very quickly and it’s extremely delicate. Both of these qualities make it difficult for lucuma to handle the voyage to western countries. If you live in California or Hawaii, look for local farmers attempting to grow lucuma.
The rest of us, however, will have to settle for the powder to reap the lucuma benefits.
However, there’s an upside to choosing lucuma powder. You’ll be able to read the nutritional content on the product you buy so you’ll know exactly which nutrients are inside and their specific amounts.
Plus, lucuma powder is highly concentrated so you can enjoy as many nutrients as possible.
The Best Ways to Use Lucuma Powder
Since it has a nice maple mango flavor, lucuma is extremely versatile. Try using lucuma powder as a flavoring or sweetener in different recipes to see which you like best.
- Mix a scoop of lucuma powder into your yogurt.
- Swap out bananas in your favorite smoothie recipes for lucuma powder.
- Use cashews and almond or coconut milk to make lucuma ice cream.
- Use lucuma powder instead of sugar in quick bread and muffins. It pairs perfectly with coconut, orange, and mango.
- Add a scoop of lucuma powder to your iced tea for a sweet and fruity kick.
- Mix lucuma powder into your facial or body cleanser and moisturizer to defend against aging.
Lucuma Side Effects and Interactions
Fresh lucuma, as well as lucuma powder, have no known side effects or interactions so feel free to eat up.
Remember to stick within the recommended doses on your packages of lucuma powder to avoid consuming too much of any single vitamin or nutrient.
The Bottom Line
Lucuma is a tasty fruit found naturally in the valleys of the Andes Mountains. While you probably won’t find fresh lucuma at your local grocery store, you can enjoy the benefits of lucuma powder.
Lucuma powder is still packed with iron, protein, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients that your body needs to consume every day for optimal health. Grab a back and start enjoying the several lucuma benefits today.