Health Benefits of Cupuacu

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on July 14, 2023
3 min read

Cupuaçu (pronounced koo-pwa-soo) is the fruit of the cupuaçu tree, which is native to the Amazon basin in South America. People of Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, and many other South and Central American countries have known and enjoyed cupuaçu for centuries.

Some cupuaçu fans say it tastes like a mix of chocolate and pineapple. This might be because the cupuaçu tree and the cacao tree are close relatives. People often use cupuaçu in blended drinks, ice cream, and other snacks. It can even be a great alternative to chocolate.

It's also become a popular ingredient in cosmetics. Its seeds, which have high amounts of fat, can be pressed into an oil that can help rehydrate the skin and offer other benefits. 

Cupuaçu is rich in antioxidants, which help keep our bodies healthy against hazards like pollution, cigarette smoke, herbicides, and more.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may be good for:

Brain health. Cupuaçu has epicatechin, an antioxidant that’s also in cocoa and berries. Studies have found that epicatechin can improve blood flow, especially around the brain. Though more research is needed, this may have a number of benefits for cognitive health, especially in terms of memory and processing speed. 

Heart and blood vessel health. A plant pigment in cupuaçu called quercetin is known to trigger the destruction of fat cells in the human body. It also prevents new fat cells from building up, and blocks the body’s absorption of glucose in a beneficial way. These qualities may lower the risk for coronary heart disease. 

Immune system. Quercetin is also known for its antibacterial and antiviral effects. It's effective against most bacterial strains, particularly bacteria that target the skin, lungs, and digestive tract. It can also prevent some relatively common viruses, like herpes simplex or adenoviruses, which are common causes of coughs, sore throats, and pink eye

Other possible benefits. Like green tea and dark chocolate, cupuaçu has epicatechin, another antioxidant with many health benefits. Among these is the ability to reduce the kind of inflammation that may play a role in cancer. 

Skin moisturizer. People in South America use butter made from cupuaçu seed (manteiga de cupuaçu) as a popular skin moisturizer. Researchers consider cupuaçu a “super-moisturizer,” superior to shea butter or lanolin, for its ability to carry water deep into the skin and restore elasticity. 

Good for the hair. One study that looked at the use of cupuaçu butter as a hair conditioner found that it had a protective effect on damaged hair when used in a controlled setting.

Promotes weight loss. The fiber in cupuaçu might help you feel full faster and fight food cravings.

Cupuaçu is a well-known snack in its native countries, but until recently it hasn't been a common export. Now, you might be able to find it at specialty food stores in larger cities.

You can use it as a cooking fat or a baking ingredient. You can also smash it into a pulp to use in juice. You may find it in powder form to add to drinks, smoothies, or desserts. It's also become a popular ingredient in some energy bars, drinks, and similar snacks. You can even enjoy it as a substitute for chocolate since it has a similar flavor and high-fat content.

It can also be used for the skin. Cupuaçu is often in a wide range of cosmetics, including soaps, body butters, lotions, lip balms, and hair products.