What Is Sacha Inchi and Should You Add It to Your Diet?
Are you on a vegan or vegetarian diet?
If so, you need to know about sacha inchi: an underrated superfood from the Amazon that resembles the humble peanut in appearance and flavor.
Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and countless other nutrients, sacha inchi packs a powerful punch despite its small size.
Today, we’ll shine a light on sacha inchi and explain everything you need to know about this little seed – yes, it’s technically a seed but you can call it a nut if that makes you more comfortable.
What Is Sacha Inchi?
Sacha inchi is a seed that grows in unique pods in regions throughout the Amazon like Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
Although this seed may seem new to you, indigenous populations throughout the Amazon have enjoyed sacha inchi and its numerous health benefits for centuries.
Scientifically, this plant goes by Plukenetia Volubilis and has a handful of street names such as Inca peanuts, mountain peanut, sacha peanut, and sacha inchi.
You can snack on sacha inchi seeds or look for other varieties such as oil or powder.
Nutrient Profile of Sacha Inchi
Sacha inchi has a robust nutrient profile. Vegans and vegetarians can rejoice: this seed is a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. One ounce contains about eight grams of protein which is much higher than other seeds or nuts you might snack on.
Not only that, but sacha inchi also contains the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in any plant. In fact, it boasts about a 17-times higher omega-3 content than beloved salmon.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for cognitive and mental health, heart health, reducing inflammation, defending against cancer, and several other bodily functions.
While they’re vital for wellness, omega-3s aren’t exactly easy to find in food sources so sacha inchi is a gold mine.
Top Health Benefits of Sacha Inchi
Thanks to its hefty nutritional contents, sacha inchi can help the body in several ways. From heart health and cholesterol to free radical protection and inflammation, there’s no reason to skip out on including sacha inchi to your diet.
1. Perfect for Building Muscle and Losing Weight
Since sacha inchi is a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, it’s perfect for supporting healthy muscle growth and development.
Thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids, sacha inchi will keep you feeling satisfied and full. It’s excellent for reducing food cravings throughout the day.
2. May Help Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a major contributing factor for cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Unfortunately, over 100 million Americans have high cholesterol levels – that’s about a third of the entire population. (1)
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. However, they’re even more powerful for lowering triglyceride levels: studies show that omega-3s can reduce triglycerides anywhere from 15 to 30%. (2, 3)
3. Could Help Lower Blood Pressure
Unfortunately, a third of Americans also suffer from high blood pressure which puts them at risk for heart attacks, stroke, and other dangerous complications.
Here’s some good news: studies show that omega-3s can help lower blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure. (4)
Stock up on your sacha inchis.
4. Protection Against Free Radical
Damage and Environmental Toxins
Sacha inchi also contains nice levels of vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant found in many nuts and seeds.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E defends against free radical damage from environmental toxins like cigarette smoke and smog.
Smokers need more vitamin E than non-smokers because smoking depletes your vitamin E levels. Studies show that supplementing vitamin E and vitamin C together can reduce the risk of lung disease in smokers. (5)
5. Extends Cell Life
Free radical damage and oxidative stress are the two main factors associated with aging. (6)
Free radicals prey on healthy cells but vitamin E can extend the life of cells.
For this reason, the vitamin E-rich sacha inchi seeds are effective for protecting against aging and associated diseases.
6. Defends Against Cardiovascular Diseases
You already know now that omega fatty acids and other healthy fats are excellent for reducing bad cholesterol levels but they’re also great for preventing the buildup of plaque in your arteries. (7)
For added protection, sacha inchi also contains a substance called alpha-linolenic acid. High intake of this fatty acid can reduce your risk of a first heart attack by a whopping 59% in both men and women.
7. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation rears its ugly head in different places throughout the entire body. From acne and joint pain to cancer and heart disease, inflammation is the unwanted gift that keeps on giving.
To reduce inflammation, you can start by removing high-salt, high-sugar, and high-fat foods from your diet (aside from foods with healthy fats, of course).
You can also consume omega-3-rich sacha inchi seeds to improve your body’s inflammatory response. (8)
8. Glowing Skin
Healthy fats and fatty acids are crucial for beautiful glowing skin. You’ll often find vitamin E in skin care products because it’s so effective for protecting skin cells against free radicals and the negative effects of aging.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play their part by locking in hydration and regulating your skin’s oil production. (9)
How to Find Sacha Inchi
Sacha inchi seeds are easy to find if you know where to look. You can find them at your local health food store. Plenty of chain stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market sell these Amazonian seeds.
You can also find sacha inchi seeds online through major nut and trail mix distributor websites and even Amazon.
Sacha Inchi Oil
Sacha inchi oil is an essential oil made from the sacha inchi seed. In most cases, you’ll want to use your sacha inchi oil for topical applications: mix it with your skincare products or apply it to your hair for luscious locks.
Unless your sacha inchi oil is clearly labeled as food-grade or safe for internal use, don’t consume it. Many essential oils are powerful and not meant to be consumed.
Just because you can consume the sacha inchi seed does not mean the oil you’ve purchased is edible. Always check the label.
Sacha Inchi Powder
Sacha inchi powder, on the other hand, is specifically manufactured to consume orally. Sacha inchi powder is simply the seeds ground into a fine powder.
This powder is a perfect addition to your post-workout protein shake. Not only does sacha inchi contain antioxidants and vitamin E, but it also contains all of your essential amino acids along with a nice dose of protein – so it’s perfect for supporting healthy muscle growth and recovery after an intense workout.
However, sacha inchi powder may not have quite as much protein as you would like so make sure to add it to your other protein powder to reap the most benefits.
Sacha Inchi Seeds (aka. Nuts)
Although they have the nickname Inca peanut, sacha inchi nuts aren’t nuts – they’re actually seeds. Truth be told, peanuts aren’t classified as nuts either – they’re legumes and closely related to beans.
You can see the sacha inchi seed-like qualities when you look at their pods prior to harvesting. While the seeds are big, it’s clear that they grow in the same fashion as other seeds rather than nuts.
Can You Eat Sacha Inchi if You Have a Peanut Allergy?
Yes, you can.
Experts have not found any instances of people developing allergies to sacha inchi. Fortunately, the name Inca peanut is just a nickname – they are in no way related to actual peanuts. (9)
If you have a peanut allergy, you can safely enjoy sacha inchis. In fact, if you have a tree nut allergy you also shouldn’t have to worry about sacha inchi because they’re not nuts – they’re seeds.
This is all great news for vegans or vegetarians with peanut allergies – you can enjoy the protein, amino acids, and antioxidants of sacha inchi without worrying about any potential allergic reactions.
Although sacha inchi allergies are unheard of at this time, this doesn’t mean they aren’t possible. If you’re prone to unusual or frequent allergies, take special care with adding any new foods to your diet.
Potential Interactions and Side Effects of Sacha Inchi
Do not – under any circumstances – consume raw sacha inchi seeds. In their natural state, sacha inchi seeds contain dangerous phytotoxins.
However, these phytotoxins are safely destroyed during the roasting or heating process so any powder, oil, or seeds you purchase at the store should be perfectly safe for consumption.
Some people report that sacha inchi produces a little nausea – especially in large amounts – so gently ease this new ingredient into your diet.
You should also take special care if you’re on any mood-altering medications as sacha inchi has a powerful effect on emotions due to its high levels of tryptophan.
The Bottom Line
Sacha inchi is a safe way for vegans, vegetarians, and all health-conscious folks support healthy muscles thanks to its prestigious complete protein status.
Since sacha inchi is in no way related to the peanut, you can safely consume this seed for its numerous benefits without worrying about potential allergies.