With so much controversy surrounding healthy sugar substitutes and all the conflicting opinions about agave nectar, it is hard to know what is the best natural sweetener, especially when trying to avoid the nutrient-devoid, highly toxic and addictive white sugar. Whether you use maple syrup, honey, stevia or molasses, you may still feel unsure about what’s the best sweet source for you.
But I am here to share that there is a natural sweetener that not only tastes delicious but also provides significant health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties while being vegan/diabetic/raw foodie friendly. Can you guess?
Lucuma (pronounced Loo-koo-mah) is a subtropical superfruit found in the Andean regions of South America. Known as the “Gold of the Incas,” it grows at an altitude of 4,500-1,000ft on the Pouteria lucuma tree.
The lucuma fruit is ovally round with green skin, a bright, fibrous orange-yellow flesh and a large seed similar to that of an avocado. The exotic, slightly sweet pulp tastes incredibly unique, combining the tastes of toffee, butterscotch, caramel and pumpkin. It is creamy and custardy and often used in South America as a baby’s first food.
The Inca Empire revered lucuma as a symbol of fertility and creation, honoring it both as a spiritual gift and culinary delight. The fruit has been celebrated in Incan art, pottery, and textiles and long been recognized for its health benefits and medicinal properties. Today, it is still frequently used in South America, usually as the most popular flavor of ice cream!
Because we don’t live in South America, unfortunately we do not have access to the fresh and delicate lucuma fruit. But to receive the amazing benefits, lucuma can be consumed in a powder form. When it is carefully milled, all of the nutrients and minerals are preserved retaining the integrity or lucuma’s numerous health benefits. The powder is mostly used as a raw, organic sweetener with a strong fragrance and a full-bodied creamy texture that imparts a subtle maple flavor. Be mindful that when you purchase lucuma, it must be completely pure and free of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, solvents and additives. Make sure to reseal bag after opening or store in a glass mason jar (like me!) and keep in cool, dry place.
Lucuma is relatively new on the superfood scene so there hasn’t been much research conducted on this superfruit. But after digging around and investigating, I found that lucuma has immense benefits, such as:
Lucuma is high in vitamins, especially niacin (Vitamin B3) which is generally found in meat, making this a great source of niacin for vegetarians and vegans.
Lucuma is high in antioxidants, especially carotene, which is an antioxidant that rejuvenates and reduces the effect of aging and is also great for eyesight.
It’s high fiber, which greatly promotes a healthy and effective digestive system.
Lucuma provides 14 essential trace elements, including a considerable amount of potassium, sodium, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.
Lucuma is said to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and protect against some forms of cancer. It has natural antibiotic, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties.
With a subtly, sweet taste, lucuma is an amazing low glycemic sweetener that doesn’t cause the spike in blood sugar that most other sweet cause. Safe for diabetics too!
Results of the study done by Rutgers University determined that lucuma significantly increased wound closure and tissue regeneration therefore having anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and skin-repair effects on human skin.
It stabilizes blood sugar, curbs both cravings and appetite and is believed to aid in fertility.
How to use Lucuma
Lucuma’s gentle, sweet flavor makes it extremely versatile for many types of dishes both sweet and savory. Lucuma makes an incredible ice cream flavor (see recipe below) and smoothie ingredient. Lucuma can be used as a thickening agent in raw food dishes, custards and puddings. Try using it with coconut or root veggies to make a superfood soup or stew.
Add lucuma powder to yogurt, fresh fruit, oatmeal, cookies or any kind of dessert like mousse, puddings, fudge or parfaits! Lucuma powder can also replace agave nectar or can be easily substituted for brown sugar in a 2:1 ratio. (For every 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, substitute 2 tablespoons of lucuma powder for optimal results.) Mix into tea for a creamy texture and sweet, rich flavor. Sprinkle on top of your favorite granola. Lucuma also makes healthy baby food. As with any food supplement, always consult with your doctor before altering your diet.
Want to make the most delicious, raw and vegan lucuma ice cream ever? Try this!
- 1/2 Cup Lucuma Powder
- 1 Cup cashews
- 1 Tbsp vanilla powder or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Palm Sugar
- 1 Cup Pure Water
- Pinch Himalayan Salt (optional)
- 1 – Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
- 2 – Pour into a container and put in the freezer overnight.
- 3 – Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!
Have you tried lucuma? What is your favorite ways to enjoy it?